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Society and Solitude: An Open Letter to the Students of the World

Nicholas Benjung, Staff Writer

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I sit down to draft this letter fresh off the heels of yet another standardized test, another five hours spent locked in a classroom bubbling answers with the weight of my entire future crushing my shoulders. To say that I am in the midst of arguably the most important time period of my life would be nothing shy of an understatement; However, I’m not alone. As a matter of fact, every high school student around the world, and every student reading this letter, is more likely than not feeling the same burdens and stress as I do. Whether we be classmates, teammates, fellow club members, we all experience the highs and lows of student life as friends and peers. Trouble is, the game of life can prove to be extremely hard, fast paced, and exhausting at times. Stress itself comes in countless forms, academically, socially, athletically, etc, and it’s easy to lose one’s sense of self in the hectic and chaotic mess that is life as a high school student. When we attempt the great juggling act of balancing our social lives, our academics, our clubs, and our sports, our schedules become filled to the brim, and we find ourselves spending almost every hour of the day busy doing things with other people. We spend all of our time with our friends and family, living high profile lives filled with anxiety yet neglect the most important people in our lives: ourselves. Our teenage years are period of time in which we are exposed to countless new ideas and ways of thinking and looking at life. If we don’t take time out of our lives for ourselves, we risk making critical decisions such as where to go to college, what classes to take and how to budget our time without even consulting ourselves. That is the main reason why I am here writing this letter, this open letter addressed to any and all students willing to hear what I have to say on why we should all budget some solitude for thought into our daily schedule.

Before I get to the main focus of this letter, we must first establish the definition of solitude. Solitude is a state of voluntary loneliness, when one separates himself from society and from the people around him for a brief period of time to either reflect, heal, or improve one’s mental state. Being adolescents, with extremely busy and stressful lives, we often forget and even neglect to set aside time to reflect and make important decisions about our lives. By paying too much attention to the people and events around us, we run the risk of not paying enough attention to ourselves and our developing psyches, and as a result we could very well miss out on the crucial personal development that takes place during these years of our lives. When we spend all of our time with others, we fall into the herd mentality and begin to ignore ourselves and our ideas. As Nietzsche said, “I go into solitude so as not to drink out of everybody’s cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think I really think. After a time it always seems as if they want to banish myself from myself and rob me of my soul”.

Psychologists and philosophers alike agree on the fact that voluntary solitude can help improve and restore mental health, especially Matthew Bowker, a psychoanalytic political theorist at Medaille College. In an article titled “The Virtues of Isolation”, Bowker went on the record to say that  “It might take a little bit of work before it turns into a pleasant experience. But once it does it becomes maybe the most important relationship anybody ever has, the relationship you have with yourself”. The key to mental health and wellness is understanding yourself and your wants/needs, and that understanding can be greatly improved with even a little introspection. Dr. Jackie Black, Ph.D, wrote in her article “The Difference Between Solitude and Loneliness”, “Solitude is the ability to enjoy inward quietness. Times of solitude are frequently enriching and refreshing if we use them wisely. When we choose times of limited seclusion we often experience new perspectives that help us know more fully the things that really matter. Solitude is the prerequisite for creativity and the place in which we can discover the treasure chest of tranquility and serenity and all their benefits”. Both the realms of science and  philosophy agree with this idea of voluntary solitude, and it is something I myself practice frequently in my life.

As often as I can, I try to take walks around the neighborhood, or lay down in my room to just ponder my life and think about what I’m doing, to refresh my perspective and plan out what I’m going to do and what choices I’m going to make in the coming days. From personal experience, I can assure you that the process has been very fulfilling and has born fruit. People around me have even remarked that I’ve become a more cool, calm, and collected person in times of stress and drama. They’ve told me of how much I’ve grown as a person in the past year, and how better I’ve learned to handle myself and my emotions. This I contribute solely to my daily ritual of “me time”, and it is because of this that I have written this letter. This letter is first and foremost an argument for solitude but it is also a plea, a plea for everyone reading this letter to hear what I have to say on the subject.

For sanity’s sake, and for the sake of your mental health, I strongly recommend that you set aside a certain part of your schedule to engage in solitude and reflect on yourself and your life. Take a walk, lie down, sit down and think, engage in the arts, write literature, whatever you want to do, just make sure you’re doing it with only you and you only. You will be surprised how much thinking and decision making you can get done in even half an hour alone, I guarantee you. As your fellow student, your peer, and your friend, my only wish that you take my advice to heart and take a break from your busy lives once in a while to sit down with yourselves, to think about your life and what choices you should make for your futures.

 

Sincerely,

Nicholas Benjung

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Society and Solitude: An Open Letter to the Students of the World