Notes on Solitude
I live alone in a tiny apartment in a quiet neighborhood on a side of the city I haven’t been rooted in long. Moving here was an exercise in breaking clean. I sang in a band. I dated an artist. I lived in a full house. None of these things are true anymore. My packed possessions required only three pairs of helping hands and two hours on a hot and stuffy afternoon last June. Everything I owned fit neatly in the back of a pick-up truck. The weight I carried sat differently on my body and spirit. I let go of more than I once thought was possible. Trading in one house key for another was an end and a beginning, space I haven’t explored and embraced yet.
I don several hats and hold down two part-time gigs. One gives me energy the other requires. Though rewarding work, neither grant much disposable income, but the money sacrificed I gain in solitude and a semblance of clarity. However, I can’t keep some of the comforts of better wages or communal living. I don’t have internet at home anymore. The rising cost of the cheapest option is a bill I had to forgo to stretch meager but steady paychecks each month. I pop in and duck out online between short periods of public wifi access.
Instead, I walk the scenic route to my job and back home with one headphone tuned to Emily King and the other ear cataloging the sounds of my block. I listen to podcasts downloaded at the local coffee shop, nursing my usual beverage for all its dollar and a half’s worth. And dance barefoot on the worn carpet in my bedroom to music unearthed on public radio and bookmarked for a party of one. And read the stories and scholarship of Black women aloud as if in chatty conversation with the vintage wallpaper, pacing my kitchen while a second pot of tea steeps. And scribble random musings and wordy journal entries and the bones of essays to flesh out before deadline in notebook after notebook. I sleep when my eyes begin to burn, heavy from a day and night’s work and play, and loosen my muscles and chakras saluting the sun in the mornings. My solitude grows sweeter every day.
I’ve never been accustomed to spending time with myself. Binge watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, eating buttered toast when I’m not hungry and can’t afford to snack, and scrolling aimlessly on social media are activities I enjoy when I’m alone or wish to be. But haphazard consumption when no one else is around is a world apart from intentional respite and self-reflection. Six months ago, cocooned in the middle of my bed, I let slip an utterance half laughing and weeping upon realizing I didn’t know the person I was, and never did until I landed in this apartment, set apart from longtime friends, another failed relationship, and my home of two years.
It’s in the quiet moments, completely disconnected from welcome distractions, seated at my desk for hours on end with nothing more than my favorite ballpoint, naked paper, and fresh-brewed tea at my fingertips, that I finally let myself think through and fully feel the reverberations of my mountaintops and molehills. I’m a few short years from thirty, naming and facing decades of festered harm and hurt begetting emotional disconnect into adulthood. I’m not the first or the last to develop severely delayed self-awareness. Philosophers, thinkers, and creatives of past and present maintain relatively few people strive for authentic self-actualization in the midst of compounded social ills taking their toll up front and over and over and over again. This is especially true for people of marginalized identities. It’s far easier to reinvent reality than confront and reimagine the deepest, darkest parts of our beings. We’re all in various stages of pretending or trying not to. I know this ease terribly well. I’m a sincere and deeply flawed performer writing for my own salvation, writing liberation into existence.
Recovering myself is a painful, continual process demanding seclusion. I feel lonely sometimes, but I love my company. I owe no one an explanation for my hurried exit from a life I wanted at one time. I wouldn’t have found my voice singing in a band. I wouldn’t be my own woman in a broken relationship. I wouldn’t know silence living in a full house.
In my apartment, I am home. In solitude, I have joy. In quiet, I am becoming.
Elle Roberts is a musician and writer based in Indianapolis. She is the founder of shehive, a grassroots gender equity project.