Isolation

My son calls us a lot. When he’s got a few minutes to kill, walking to or from class, on his way to dinner, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. He just calls to say hello and “I love you.” He’s also the only college boy in the history of the world who will hold his dad’s hand walking across campus, too, so… 

Anyway, that’s who he is, he’s secure in who he is. This time he calls while he’s standing in line for a movie just off campus. He’s waiting to buy a ticket to see Parasite. We’d all watched it together at home over Christmas break and enjoyed it, so he wanted to see it again. I ask him who he is seeing it with.

 “No one,” he says. “I’m seeing it by myself.”

“Oh, how come?” I ask him, not sure why I think he needs a reason.

“Bryce couldn’t come after all, he has to study. So, I just decided to come by myself. Oh, we’re going in!”

“Okay. Well, have fun and uh, I’ll be up late, so give me a ring walking home so you can tell me about how different it is the second time.”

“Okay, bye, love you!”

When he’s out at night, I always like to think of ways to tell him to call me when he gets back to his dorm without it sounding like I’m the dad asking him to call me when he gets back to the dorm so I know he’s safe. Even though I know he will and not that he’d care. Like I said, he’s not like most kids.

When he calls me walking home, I ask him how he liked seeing a movie in a theater all by himself.

 “I’ve seen a movie alone before.”

I know he hasn’t.

“Okay, but… so how’d you like this one?”

“I loved it. It’s such a beautiful film, I love Bong Joon Ho as a director. The script is so-“

“No, I mean how’d you like seeing it by yourself?”

“Good. It was good.”

"So you didn’t mind it?”

“No, I like my own company, so it’s easy.”

And man, for some reason this hits me hard, really hard, and I mean in a good way, a melancholy but grateful way. He said it with such ease. Like it was something he’s known all his life and just takes for granted. I’ve heard him say so many things that would never have occurred to me at his age, but I’d never heard him say anything so… I don’t know… I mean- and it throws me back to all the time I spent alone, as a kid, in my 20s, all through life. So much time, slow motion time, empty hours, purposeless days. Sad days and lonely days. But I remember that how I get through hard times or good, it doesn’t matter, depends on whether or not I like my own company. And I usually always do. Always have. 

Even when I question myself or am angry or disappointed in myself, regretful, bored, tired, lonesome, lost, afraid, through self-doubt or self-loathing, I always hold and protect a place for accepting myself, liking myself, as I work, play, cry, laugh, fight, surrender, stumble, fumble, run or coast through it all. I know that my isolation will pass. The aloneness will pass. So I can crave it again and find it again and live in it again. In that isolation. That solitude. My recovery depends on it. My recovery from… all the things I’m still recovering from, which sometimes feels like everything. So, I seek out solitude as a measuring device to reveal how much I like my own company. And I do. But I didn’t know how to articulate it when I was his age. No one taught me that. And I don’t know how I learned it. I’m not sure it can be taught.

And so when my boy said that, it gave me such relief. I’m glad he feels that way. I’m glad he likes himself. It’s going to make his life a lot easier. Still, I hope he’s not alone more than he wants to be. Even though I know he’ll be okay if he is. 

Because he likes his own company when he’s alone.

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