I always walk the same path every day after my morning class. Exiting out the doors of Goldwin Smith, crossing past the statue of Ezra Cornell, stepping onto the Arts Quad. I’m always greeted with the same sight— the guy in plaid lying on the grass, the girl reading a book at the foot of the statue, and the hundreds, thousands of students chatting away. Happy, abundant, coexisting.
But I feel alone.
I feel completely, utterly alone. And the feeling follows me throughout the day. I feel alone at the dining hall. I feel alone at the library. I feel alone at a club meeting. It’s a peculiar feeling, unsettling and frustrating and confusing.
At this point, you probably think I’m sort of unpopular cat lady, never attending parties and morbidly cursing the existence of life. But on the contrary, my life is filled with an abundance of love — Cornell has given me a family more than anything. It has given me new friends, more people to cherish than I can count. I’m not trying to say I alone in my room, holding a quart of ice cream in one hand and tissues in another, crying over the fact that one is available to accompany me. Well, maybe during finals week, but that’s beyond the point.
The point is, this confusing feeling of loneliness amidst an outpouring of love confused me in freshman year. And to all those entering Cornell this year, it will confuse you too. It will make you ask yourself why you feel like there’s a hole inside of you, even when you’re surrounded by human faces. It will make you seek a cure, and realizing the answer isn’t adding more people in your life — that only makes the problem worse. It will make you feel ashamed, frustrated, angry.
But that’s okay, because we all feel it too.
You will inevitably feel like a thousand lives just entered your own, but you’re not a part of any of theirs. No matter how badly you want to be the most popular guy in class, you will feel loneliness. No matter how much you want to be the party girl of the dorm floor, you will feel loneliness. You will feel loneliness no matter who you are and how many friends you have. That was the toughest part of entering college — learning to embrace the staunch, simple reminders of my singular existence, and coming to peace with it.
Because at the end of the day, feeling alone doesn’t mean being unaccomplished, or that you’ve failed life in some way. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful of what’s in front of you, unable to accept the love given to you. The media has patronized the idea of being alone, that a moment not spent in the presence of others is a moment wasted. But sometimes the moments alone are reminders that we can always open up our world, bring more people into our lives. We just have further to go. Loneliness is a humbling reminder that we control our own existence to some degree, and in crucial moments, we may only have ourselves.
It took me a year to reconcile with this terrifying feeling. It took me a year to embrace the fact that more friends will never be enough, and I will inevitably face to the reality of being alone at some point again. It took me a year to realize everyone else feels the same thing, and that in our moments of solitude, we are actually in solidarity.
And it will take you a year too.
In the next few months, you will join a club and call it your community. You will sled with friends on an air mattress down Libe Slope. You will fight for the last slice of pizza in a Collegetown shop, laughing with a group of classmates from an insanely hard biology class.
But even among all of this, you will feel alone. And that’s nothing to be afraid of.
Because at the same time, you will also sit in White Library, reading books until you realize the sun is rising. You will hike Beebe Lake on a Sunday morning with only the birds by your side. You will walk the same path down the Arts Quad, you will see the same faces after your morning classes, and you will feel lonely. But most importantly, you will realize that while you may be alone, you will be okay.
Kelly Song is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Songbird Sings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.