Bianca Brock 
21 April 2021

My eyes stared hazily at the mirage of tiny pixels that rolled by, creating some image or another. The grainy ridges of my thumb imprinted a sticky pattern on the glass of the screen– pressing down and releasing again and again and again. The clock read 4:00 a.m. when it finally felt like my brain had numbed itself of any arrangement of authentic thought. And in this state of detachment, I laid comfortably, only to wake up in eight hours and probably do it all over again.

It had been a month into my bedroom isolation at this point – when the nights started to get really restless and the days morphed into one big question mark. For months now I had been alone, separated from anyone. But when alone lying on my bed with a phone in one hand and air in the other, faced with solitude, I couldn’t fathom it. While my screen scrolled, I, me, myself, froze.

The thing is that solitude used to be a friendly face. Solitude and I used to go down into the canyon behind my backyard together and draw circles in the mud under the shade of the eucalyptus tree. We would dig into the costume bin on the concrete floor in my old garage during the heat of the summer and put on black bobbed wigs and paint my eyelids blue with makeup. Dressing up into exactly what I wanted, how I wanted. Uncensored.

But at 4:00 am, staring at my phone in the same sweats I had been wearing for days, I wondered where did she– the one who knew solitude as well as she knew her costume bin– go? Did I leave her to collect dust under the shade of that old eucalyptus tree? Did I lose her somewhere pressed behind the sharp words of a scolding teacher, or in the dim-lit whispers of a sweaty hallway? Did I escape my 9-year old flesh, only to be colored by despondent screens? And if I pinched my calloused fingers to touch, could I still pull her out and remember how to draw the curls in her flowing hair, untethered by shoulds and should nots.

Instead of leaning into myself when I was alone, I chose to consume myself with whatever piece of external fulfillment I could latch onto. I filled my stomach with bowl of cereal after bowl of cereal every evening until I felt sick. I dragged my thumb across that screen until my night overtook my day. I searched for something to fill in the gaps. Every post an unknowing effort to remind the world that I am still out here, calling: please see me, because if you don’t, I might have to navigate myself by myself. I clung onto the shiny glass mirror of a world I once knew until the line between what I wanted to wear, or to draw, or to be no longer came from within.

But relearning how to redraw the fine and skewed lines of my core was more daunting than glazing over tiny pixels of colored light. Maybe I felt muddled by old memorabilia I would find shoved away in an unfamiliar bedroom of a house I no longer lived in– a crown from homecoming, a few old pieces of clothing, an old sketchbook, an old photo album. Like I should be this strange person that I found in old possessions. And, yes, the old stuff tells a unique story.
But they omit the intangible: who you are when you soak in the state of being alone. The old stuff does not remind you how you used to dress yourself up, or dress yourself all down. The old stuff does not tell you what happens when you peel those seeking eyes away from a screen and try to remember who you are when you are just you– untethered by shoulds and should nots, post and don’t post, the question of whether to please or to disappoint.

I had not been alone with myself for years. The constant flurry of day-to-day life before 2020 was not normal, and it shouldn’t be. Pervading pressures to constantly excel in academics, earn money, purchase the trendiest top, created an easy way to intentional separation from the self. And being alone was easier than solitude. I opted for it. But in that tradeoff, I gave up a sense of identity intricately rooted in me. What shirt would I pick out if I wasn’t getting ads everyday on Instagram, and posting every time I went out, and constantly being around others running in a similar field. What if I spent more time with myself, in solitude, in a state of being alone? Would I find the girl in the costume bin all over again? What would she wear, say, do?

It’s almost funny how growing older just feels like a feeble attempt to shuffle through a cluttered drawer just to get her back. She knew how to just be. And in the state of just being, alone with myself, I am finding her again.