Viaggio a Roma: The Gift of Being Alone

by Katie Rich


Two and a half years ago, I stood in the Minneapolis airport security line, chomping on my lip as if the ensuing teeth marks would keep my welling tears from spilling down my cheeks. I was downright terrified to fly by myself to Boston for freshmen orientation, despite the fact that I had a friendly face on the other end waiting to greet me. How is it, then, that this past weekend I sauntered onto an airplane and flew to Budapest, completely alone? Your guess is as good as mine.

I was called crazy by friends, family, and acquaintances alike, if not to my face, then certainly behind my back. In the hours before my flight, I seriously second guessed my decision, but the money had been paid, so I knew I was going.


It only took about an hour of breathing the Hungarian air for me to realize how unfounded my fears were. As a fully functioning twenty year old, I knew I was capable of reading a map and finding my way around. I strolled down the classy Andrassy Street, wandered through the city park, peeked in at the steamy thermal baths, only to determine they were not for me, and skipped across the Danube, humming Strauss’s waltz under my breath. In my head, I compiled a short list of things I was learning.


1) When you are alone, you can actually do what you want, and the results can be wonderful. This is not meant in a self-loving way, but rather a self-refueling way. As college students, our lives are intertwined so closely with those of our friends and roommates, that sometimes we forget they are separate entities. In order to operate at our full potential, I learned that it is necessary to take a step back once in a while and re-fuel. Take half an hour to sit on the edge of a pond and watch ducks swim around in front of you, even if you have better things to do or more talkative companions to spend time with. I did, and I don’t regret a minute of it.


2) It is said that when a man loses one of his senses, the other four are heightened to compensate for the lack. I came to realize that the same is true when you are on your own. Without a companion, I felt completely in-tune with my surroundings to a degree I am not usually. I heard the fallen leaves crunching under each step I took, felt my nose grow colder with each passing minute, and smelled the crisp fall air mixing with the scents of the city. But, surprisingly enough, what did I see and hear besides the ducks swimming and quacking? People.


I saw them happy, sad, lost, in love, alone, discouraged, content, obedient. I saw them talking, hoping, laughing, dreaming, hugging, crying, screaming, whispering. I saw them in flocks, in pairs, and alone. I saw them skipping, standing, running, sitting. I heard their stories, their daily grinds, their touristy excitement. And yet, it was only after I waved goodbye to four middle-aged women I befriended with horrible New Jersey accents and a Rick Steve’s book, that I remembered C.S. Lewis’ tiny masterpiece, The Weight of Glory. At the end of his sermon, Lewis concludes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”


Take some time one of these weekends to be alone. You don’t have to go to Budapest to make it happen. As a BC student, the MBTA puts all of Boston at your disposal. So hop on a train – to Kenmore or New York or Budapest – and spend the day refueling and reflecting. Remember that you are not a man walking among men, but an immortal walking among those who are little less than gods. Above all, know that in your alone time you are not truly alone, for God, in His infinite love, is always with you.


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