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On Being Alone
August 1, 2014 - 9:03am

It's been almost a full week that I've been home alone, without the family. We've also just moved, so I don't have many friends I can hang out with after work, either. And as most of my friends who are relatively close by are academics, they're mostly away, during the last bit of calm before the storm of the semester starts. 

And I'm miserable. 

I've had a couple of people tell me that I must be doing it wrong. I have two small kids, a husband, a dog, and the house, sorry apartment, gets chaotic to say the least. I should be enjoying the peace and quiet. 

Thing is, I love the chaos; it feels like home. It's one thing to go to a hotel room and enjoy being away for a weekend during a conference, but it's another entirely to spend a week alone in an empty house. 

I grew up in a "quiet" house. I envied my friends whose houses I would visit, where they were full of friends and family and noise. I loved the houses where I was made to feel like I was welcome, where lots of people were welcome. I always vowed that my home was going to be that kind of home. 

Although I was a swimmer, a solitary and silent sport if there ever was one, at least when looking at it from the outside, what I enjoyed the most about swimming was my teammates. We were a big, boisterous, noisy, overly-physical family. The pools were giant echo chambers, filled with the sounds of swimming: splashing water, whistles, yelling, cheering, whistles, laughter. The deal silence right before a race started, broken by the starter's pistol and the explosion of teammates cheering. It was all so loud, you could hear it under water. 

Moving away to university, while I had my own room, I shared a kitchen and bathroom facilities with about 30 other people. While I could close my door to be alone if I needed to be, usually my door was always open. People knew they could come in and borrow my frying pan, or get some milk, or check their email on my computer (remember, this was the mid-1990s). When I finally moved out of residence, I moved into an apartment with two roommates. Nothing made me happier than waking up on a Saturday or Sunday "morning" after a night out to make giant pots of mac and cheese for my roommates and for any number of friends who had crashed on our couch. The summers when I stayed in town to work while my roommates and other friends left were the hardest. At least then, I was a part of a larger community, so I could go to my favorite restaurant or bar and never really be alone. 

This really hasn't changed at all for me. I want my kids to have their friends over, to feel like they can bring anyone over, really. There is always an extra seat at the table for you to eat, an extra bed (or couch) for you to crash on if you need a place to sleep. And not just because we want to be hospitable, but because I really do think: the more, the merrier. There are time, yes, where I need some space for myself to get work or writing done, but I don't really crave solitude or quiet or time alone. 

So let me know if you're ever nearby in Kentucky. You're welcome to come over for dinner. 


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