With the exception of a standing Tuesday dinner date with my two best girlfriends and perhaps another plan or two each week, I eat most of my meals alone. I’ll bring a newspaper (especially on the WEEKEND hayy) or a laptop to do work, and I actually really like it. It reminds me of how I would take my meals during the summertime or at home, where it is extremely rare that I would eat every single meal with another person or group of people.
It’s been like this since freshman year, and still as a senior I can’t help but feel as though people are looking at me, feeling sorry for me. This feeling is only exacerbated by the inevitable “Do you want to sit with us?” half-Regina George, half-genuine nicety of a nearby diner. Why is it an assumption that I should never want to eat alone? Are we Yalies afraid of being alone?
The dining halls would seem to suggest so, as would that really awkward long table on the concourse level of Bass. This table actually has to be one of the craziest social spaces on campus. There must be thousands of places on campus where you could comfortably spread out your books and have an entire desk or table space all to yourself. So why is this table, where you have someone sitting right in front of you and on both sides of you, always filled? What about this table is even remotely conducive to studying? The people! We love the people! We NEED the people!
During the first session of the VAAD, a discussion group designed for students to “explore the timeless Jewish model of character refinement, ethics and psychology,” a few weeks ago, Rabbi H. told the group a story of a school where the students were instructed to take a daily, hour-long walk. One student in the school never took the walk until forced to one day by his teacher. When he came back 10 minutes later, the teacher asked if he had seen something scary, something unfamiliar. The student said “No,” but the teacher said, “Yes you did, you finally saw yourself.”
My interpretation is certainly not as powerful as Rabbi H.’s, but the idea is the same: Learning to be alone is scary, but it’s important nonetheless. I think it’s wonderful to be able to wander into the dining hall and just find someone to sit down with. These random meetings and conversations are part of what makes our community so vibrant and wonderful, and part of me wishes that I was the type of person that felt comfortable enough to do such a thing. But I’m realizing as a senior that being alone will soon become a bigger part of my life, and I better get used to it. As I prepare to leave the life of suites, common rooms and dining halls behind to join the workforce, I want to be sure that I am someone I could enjoy spending time with. I want to be sure I could spend a hundred nights alone in my apartment painting my nails — and luv it. There will even be nights at Yale where you will be alone (gasp), and those shouldn’t necessarily be “bad” nights.
So the next time you find yourself with a little alone time in the d-hall, fill up on the Cocoa Puffs and curly fries, cuddle up in a corner with your laptop, and start making friends with yourself — you’ve both got a long road ahead.