This is the story of how I decided seeking solitude in isolation was a good idea.
UVA has been doing Break Days for students’ mental health and because we no longer have a week of spring break off from school due to the pandemic. For my break days, I told myself that I would not want to do work or make it a catch up day. It’s tempting to use the day off as a way to get back on track with classes or even get ahead, for overachievers. But the way I see it – these break days are few and in between. I want to use them wisely and maybe challenge myself in how I spend my free time.
On Tuesday March 9, 2021, it was a break day! I shifted my meetings around – my COVID testing appointment, my meeting with my scholarship advisor, even a meeting I was running because it was time to try something new.
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Most ways we choose to relax are simple. Watching Netflix, playing games with friends, eating good food and scrolling TikTok. And while these options are easy and accessible, I wonder if we ever feel rejuvenated. I love a good NEtflix binge. I’m pretty sure I spent two weeks of my winter break parked in front of the tv watching Vampire Diaries. Great show, but wow, that was a time. As much as I loved it, (it was a lowkey addiction with all those clinghangers), I never walked away feeling refreshed. I actually went to bed most nights with a ginormous headache.
Examine your methods of relaxation
Do you feel relaxed when you scroll or watch Netflix? Try to figure out what is exhausting or refreshing about it. Just take some time and examine your methods and its effect on your mood.
So yes, back to March 9. A group of friends and I piled into cars to head off to a farm. We were all able to just spread out and have time in solitude. I didn’t have a plan on how I was going to spend my 6 hours of solitude, but I knew I just wanted to be outside, enjoying the amazing Virginia weather that doesn’t seem to last long (I write this under gloomy skies).
Walking. It’s just so good. I’m not an athletic person and all of my attempts to become one have failed, but I do love a good long walk. There’s something good about the deliberate move of your body without a load on your back that’s freeing. It doesn’t take a lot of effort but your mind gets to wander and dwell where it wants to in the midst of your motion. I was told of a path by a river and that was the goal that I set out for.
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Note to self: Sometimes you have no idea how to execute a plan until you’re in the midst of failing to execute the plan.
I walked towards the woods thinking I saw a path and a little brook that could lead to a river, but I just ended up getting lost in the tangled forest. Trusting your instincts is the way to go, especially if you’re from the city like me, and you have no idea what to expect in the woods. I doubled back a little disappointed, but I did come across a little path. It was very short but this is what happens when you try seeking solitude in isolation.
The path was nice but then I decided to turn back to where I initially began my journey. An incredible thing happened. I saw sheep! Not too sure if sheep and lambs are all that different… Just did some research and words are cool – lamb refers to a young sheep but also its meat. We learn new things everyday. So yes, I sat down and decided to read Word by Word by Marilyn McEntyre. I skipped around in it but I thoroughly enjoyed reading for reading’s sake – not for an assignment or to say I did it, but because it’s a way to rest.
Think back to when you were younger. What did you do for fun? Is that a way you could relax?
I went back and forth between reading and just letting the warmth of the sun fall over me as the cool wind swept in and out. It was the perfect weather for the outdoors. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
The essence of time is forgotten in the right place. You forget to check your watch when you’re with your friends, or it’s game night with the family or you are jamming to a new song. When you find the place, you forget to look at the time, that’s a good place to remember. We shouldn’t be so tied to getting a million things done or trying to fit in every activity. Instead, we should just live. Because we have life. So why not?
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After lunch, I wanted to go back to the path I was on earlier – the short but pretty path. My feet led me elsewhere. I saw a different path marked by gravel where a car would drive and decided to head down that way. It was a way better path. The path was marked with signs and arrows and eventually, I got to the place where the gravel/cement gave way to sand and the river flowed! Such beauty! I was so in awe that I snapped a few pictures even though I tried not to be on my phone for my soul sabbath. When we try to force our own paths, we end up frustrated and disappointed but when we follow where our curiosity calls us, we end up with beautiful surprises.
Unfortunately for me, my curiosity didn’t stop there.
Wow, that sounded really ominous. I promise I’m okay guys.
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So I continued following the path on the beach and it led up into the woods. It was a singular path but it didn’t have a lot of room. Luckily (or unluckily considering what transpired), I’m a 5 ft gal who has no problem getting into tiny places. I climbed to the top of the hill. It was gorgeous. I was surrounded by trees on every side.
Then I heard a sound.
I looked around and then I saw something jump and two figures start running. So naturally I started running. I slipped down the path back to the beach trying to look behind me to see if I was being chased. Not a smart move, given what happens in horror movies, but still. I reached the beach safely, but man, I was paranoid.
My first thought: mountain lions!
Something growling and jumping in the woods, atop what very much felt like a mini mountain. I definitely felt worried about it. But then I did some research. After my soul sabbath I found that, yes, mountain lions do exist in the woods, but it would be way more likely for me to have seen coyotes, running around, possibly chasing me. I’ll never know but I’m going with the one that has a likelier probability.
Anyways, after that scary incident, I realized that while curiosity is great, it can (and will) lead you astray.
So why was I seeking solitude in isolation?
We’re all so alone and needing company. Why remove myself from company? Even in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s easy to scroll and get lost in the opinions and thoughts of others. At a university, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of doing work, forgetting what the goal of my time here even is. Seeking solitude in isolation allowed the parts of myself that I neglected listening to get some air time. I had to wrestle with ideas I put off and reevaluate a proper course of action.
You can’t know what’s worth letting in to your life if you haven’t tried to live without it.
And there you have it, folks. My soul sabbath laid out for you. I hope you make some space to allow time for solitude in your own life, and do some seeking solitude in isolation.