Patrick Rochelle: Living alone doesn’t mean you’re alone

“I saw my fate to my great affliction…” Robinson Crusoe explains in Daniel Defoe’s most famous novel when Crusoe finds himself alone. “That I was in an island environ’d every way with the sea, no land to be seen, except some rocks which lay a great way off.”

The theme of isolation is nothing new to our culture – society has wrestled with its implications for centuries. During the Renaissance, for example, to live outside the city walls meant you were an outcast and up to no good – literally living on the fringe of civilization.

So, when I found out last year that my roommate would be going abroad for the spring semester, I realized I was afraid to live by myself. I was terrified that I might turn into a hermit or a recluse.

But the stigma of living alone seems to be changing. According to a Feb. 4 New York Times op-ed, “One’s a Crowd,” 40 percent of all persons living in thriving American cities live alone. The author, Eric Klinenberg, explains how there has never been a time in history before now in which so many people have lived by themselves.

There are a lot of benefits to students who choose to live alone. It gives students more privacy than they would have living in traditional on-campus housing. And to my surprise, I have found that living alone has actually made me more social. Now that I do have a “place of my own,” I actually spend more time hanging out with friends than I ever have before in college.

It’s a shame that the only on-campus housing option entirely dedicated to students who want to live in singles is Mitchell Hall, an old building on the edge of campus that very few students identify as their first choice on housing applications. And who could blame them? Notorious for its worn-out facilities, Mitchell’s communal bath and shower rooms make it unappealing to most. While there are other on-campus dorms that offer singles, the chances of being placed in one are extremely slim. This usually leaves students who want to live alone with one option: moving off campus. But off-campus living can have its drawbacks too, such as dealing with a landlord, monthly rent and building problems that come with renting or owning property.

College life can be pandemonium. So many of us run from class to internships and jobs to clubs and then to the library to do homework. It’s so easy to get caught up in the vortex. It’s as though the things we have no time or space for are ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we all imitate Henry David Thoreau and withdraw from society, rid ourselves of material belongings, forget all debts and responsibilities and retreat to the woods. But I do think there is something to be said for having your own place where you can get away from all the commotion and stress that the day brings.

It’s an idea even Robinson Crusoe came to embrace on the island. “I changed both my sorrows and my joys,” the castaway muses. “My very desires alter’d, my affections changed their gusts, and my delights were perfectly new, from what they were at my first coming.”

Living alone doesn’t have to mean you are alone, and isolation is more often than not a source of clarity.

Patrick Rochelle, a junior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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