“The Art of Solitude” by Lauren Mottel

“The Art of Solitude” by Lauren Mottel

For as long as I can remember, I have had this underlying feeling of curiosity in my bones, an itching to create—in whatever form it may take—and a large part of that feeling came from school. I read any book in sight and tried to pick up on storytelling. I would peer at the dance of light on a fruit bowl and transfer that to still lifes for middle school art class. I analyzed iambic pentameter in English class and composed my own poems with their own heartbeat of a  rhythm. Constructed stories out of Spotify music playlists, tried my hand at photography—quite literally anything. However, as I grew older, my class schedules left less room for the arts in exchange for a looming tower of labs and lectures. Yes, I will admit, the standard essay for English 110 and colloquium or lab reports may do the trick sometimes, yet other times I can’t help but feel creatively stifled, and over time this feeling can build quite dangerously. 

There’s a certain restlessness with being idle for too long, now more than ever in this quarantine; it’s a very acute feeling, as if your fingertips tremble with the ghost of a twitch. By the same token, there are times where you can’t help but feel the weight of this quarantine as loneliness. As someone who has danced along the precipice of burnout more frequently than preferred in my very young life thus far, the desire to be productive being blocked by such a weight can be very debilitating. Yet with the two together, restlessness and curiosity, one can begin to reframe that loneliness as quiet solitude. To me, there’s a drastic difference between the two. From my perspective, loneliness has always been something that grew from insecurities and relentlessly ate at my mental health, draining color from life, whereas solitude is isolation willingly taken up, a time for self-reflection and expression when you have the time to notice the different shades of green in the garden, the rhythm of your breathing, or the way branches dance in the wind—life’s colors become brighter. The difference between the two is awareness—awareness of the life around you—and with restlessness and curiosity, it stimulates a desire to create something that can imitate and immortalize that life in whatever form necessary.

During this quarantine, it’s important to maintain that awareness and to check in on yourself, especially when feeling overwhelmed by the transition to online learning and the news. It is important to remain aware of when that restlessness sets in and to make something of it, reseeding any weighing thoughts of isolation or loneliness into a zen garden of the mind. This can take shape in many forms. A perfectly curated Spotify playlist (you know, the ones with the satisfying song transitions). New artwork for your dorm or apartment next semester.  A beginning draft of a poem or story (it is National Poetry Month after all!) A collage that puts your middle school Pinterest board to shame. Honestly, even TikToks will do the trick. As long as a product you are satisfied with is achieved, the catharsis and joy will follow. Now more than ever it is the best time to take something up and try your hand at. Personally, I have tried to get back into the reading and sketching groove of my high school (who am I kidding, even middle school) days, as well as investing in a recorder for old times sake – oh the glory days of third grade music class, am I right? (Aside: my roommates and family can confirm that there is indeed a max number of times to play Hot Cross Buns or attempt Star Wars theme songs before it gets annoying, and that number may as well be one). 

Nonetheless, creating art, in whatever form that may take, allows the mind to settle and regroup by focusing on the details of the task in front of you. The tension will seep out of you and onto the page, the canvas, and the keyboard, and your shoulders will drop, your jaw will unclench, and your eyebrows will unfurrow. In addition, sharing your work with other fellow creators eases the tensions of the mind, and interaction and collaboration (whether virtual or not) serve as reminders that we are never truly alone. So, I encourage you during these difficult times to take up something you’ve never done before, to fulfill the passion project you’ve kept on hold for so long, especially when the walls of your home just seem like anything but comforting. Everyone has the power to create something, as everyone has a desire to leave their mark in this world. All creators are in pursuit of immortalizing life as they know it to be through how they perceive it to be, and once you discover your own perspective and knack for it, I assure you, the world becomes a much brighter place to live in. So what are you waiting for? 

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