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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Razavi: A Case for Solitude

The author writes in favor of spending time alone, arguing that it encourages personal and intellectual exploration

This article is featured in the 2024 Green Key Edition special issue.

Quiet moments have a tendency to be my favorite. I am entirely enamored with my tranquil morning walks to class or the stillness of sitting by the river on a warm spring day. There are people around me, sunning on the docks or riding their bikes wherever Dartmouth takes them, but I am alone. In these moments I find myself at my most creative, clear-headed and calm. This is not to say that I do not enjoy commotion or the connections that are formed over large dinners, with stomach-cramping laughter and people screaming over each other. The value of finding joy in the chaos and excitement of friendship is not to be understated. However, I often wish that spending time alone as a way of fostering intellectual curiosity was just as appreciated as spending time with others. 

I have frequently been told by family members that we are not able to savor the beauty of time spent with loved ones in the moment. Instead, we will only be able to appreciate the vignettes created through love once those times have passed. As Dartmouth students, we’re lucky to be surrounded by a variety of people who all have their own stories to tell. As a result of our physical proximity, I often feel like there’s pressure to spend all our time with others — eating, studying and engaging in hobbies surrounded by the same people all the time. While I find — as does science — that spending time with others has immeasurable benefits for one’s health and mental state, there’s also value in being alone. 

From a health standpoint, spending time by oneself yields numerous positive impacts, including increased creativity, independence, self-reflection and self-regulation. But from a more holistic perspective, intentionally taking time for ourselves can make us feel grounded. Having days to myself — when I choose to lounge by the river with a book or head to the jewelry studio to work on a new ring — is rejuvenating and necessary, especially in a high-stress environment like Dartmouth’s. There’s liberation in not having to compromise with others, in not feeling the need to speak or present yourself in any specific way. Sitting with ourselves and our thoughts is the only way to get to know ourselves — something I recently learned I’ve been lacking. And so I’ve been spending time alone, going on solo woccoms, watching the sunrise from the observatory, re-learning how to sew in the Cable Makerspace, taking myself out for a coffee and falling in love with reading again. It’s in these instances that I have started to really learn who I am now and who I want to be in the future. It’s such a transient and abstract idea, getting to know ourselves, but I now know that it’s a journey that has to occur alone. 

Especially due to the current unrest in our lives, spending time alone is necessary. After the pro-Palestinian protest on May 1, the only way that I could fully process what I had watched unfold with my own eyes was to take some moments for myself. Without outside influence or any other noise taking up room in my head, I was finally able to discern what I was feeling: the remnants of chaos and disillusionment. It wasn’t easy to reach this recognition. As a matter of fact, I struggled to carve time out for self-reflection, especially because of the stigma that surrounds spending time alone and loneliness — two things that have frequently been conflated. This confusion can be best described by York University psychology professor Ami Rokach in a Now Toronto interview. She said it can feel like “if I’m alone, that means no one wants to be with me, and if no one wants to be with me, that’s because I’m not lovable.” This stigma perpetuates the idea that people are never alone by choice but rather by default. As someone who has recently pushed herself to be alone more often, I can firmly say this idea is not true. I never felt lonely in my recent moments of solitude — quite the opposite, actually. I got to think about all of the reasons that I adore the relationships in my life. I got to savor the beauty of spending time with my loved ones through reflecting on all the fulfilling times we spent together. It’s because of spending time alone that I know, on my deathbed, I won’t be wondering if I took the people in my life for granted. I will know that I loved them in my sacred moments alone, when I got to feel how they changed me. 

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.