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March 20, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-03-20

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 // The Staterent


The solitude games
by Jennifer Calfas

ann arbor affairs: good news by isabellamoliterno

Really, the key here is education, not necessarily prevention.
I think the article pointed this out pretty well (without actual-
ly saying it). This abuse is going to happen and it's going to go
mostly undetected, so college students need to know the actu-
al risks. It just so happens that usually they aren't that great:
heart palpitations, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep - sounds
like a day in the life of a sober student. The real consequences
come when stimulants like adderall are combined with alcohol
or antidepressants. Serotonin Syndrome is very real, and very
very unpleasant.
- USER: Michael

Relationships are never easy, m
especially when half the world
thinks that you're not committed cc
enough and the other half thinks e
that you are in love with someone v'
who will never love you back. TV
I've been in this relationship a o
long time - since I was 13 years st
old - but I've never been able to at
stand up for it until I came to the
University. Like romantic relation- tf
ships, maybe holding onto one's
faith is difficult because everyone
on the outside feels like they
have the right to judge
you for who you
Even though l
I grew up in
Grand Rapids,
Mich. - where
there is a
church on every
street corner - I
was afraid to be open
about my religion; I'm always cau-
tious of stepping on other people's
toes. I was nervous that if I was
open about my faith, people might
receive it as an attempt to convert
or condemn them. I've always
prided myself on being an inde- ti
pendent thinker, and I didn't want a
people to think I had been brain- cc
washed by Bible pushers, leaving n
me unable to think and reason for I
l se
+ tE

ayself anymore. nearly comfortable enough with
This was a primary concern myself to do anything like that.
oming to the University, where Iended up joining that a cap-
very opinion and thought is pella group - called Good News
oiced and heard. ButI have found - butI was still uncomfortable
y voice here, too. In the heart telling people that I was in a
f liberalism, I have been able to Christian a cappella group. Gradu-
trengthen my own faith and the ally, however, I started to see how
bility to express it. passionate other members of the
Everyone I came in contact with group were about being in Good
hought for News. They were also proud of
their faith and excited to celebrate
it. Seeing this slowly encouraged
me to be openly passionate about
my personal relationship with
God, and gave me the confidence
[ to voice whatI had known since
I was young but what I had just
come to understand.
Now when we sing, I'm the
girl in front telling people
that we're there because
of our shared belief
in God. Though I've
been judged more
for beinga Christian
than I have for my
piercings and tattoo,
my relationship with God
has surfaced as an integral
part of who I am and how others
hemselves identify me. I don't feel the need
nd had solid positions on politi- to push my beliefs on others, and
al and social issues that I had they shouldn't feel the need to
ever thought about before, and push theirs on me. We're all free to
wanted to fit in. As I struggled love who we want to without the
'ith this, I was intent on joining a fear of being judged because of the
iusical group upon my arrival. So, relationships we choose to enter
aturally I went to a cappella rush into. We all have different ways of
the first few weeks of my first expressing religion, and mine is
emester. When the Christian a to love.

Iheard rustling in the bushes behind me.
A bear.
I immediately jumped to my feet,
armed with merely the journal and penI held
in my hands. I approached the bushes slow-
ly, thinking for some reason a quick glance
would alleviate my fears. More rustling, this
time louder.
I flew backwards, smacking to the ground,
subsequently engulfing my entire body in a
cloud of dust and dirt. All those hours scrub-
bing my body with a bandana for nothing, I
Just as I rose back to my feet, it appeared.
A marmot.
The furry, gopher-like creature sat there
admiring me. We exchanged looks for what
seemed to be twenty minutes, the longest
staring contest I've ever had. Suddenly, it
flinched - I won. Within seconds, it disap-
Asa final rite of passage out of high school,
my school offers a three-week-long back-
packing trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
in California. Each senior class views this
trip as an obligatory tradition. Placed at the
end of May, it's the last activity we have as a
class before graduation.
Divided into groups of eight to 10 students
with two instructors, we hiked nearly 80
miles throughout the mountains with back-
packs filled to the brim.
Months before the trip, I daydreamed
about what might happen. Bear attacks, mos-
quito bites, fatigue, coldness and insomnia
filled my mind. (OK, well the probability of a
bear actually attacking me was little to none,
but the other options were actually quite
I shook off the fears almost immediately
when I remembered that my older sister went
on the trip. If my girly-girl, sister - known
for her singing and dancing - could survive,
so could I.
That's when I realized I forgot the most
nerve-wracking, possibly traumatizing part
of the trip: the mandatory four-day-longasolo.
We sat in a circle around our licked-dry
pots and pans the night before we would
depart on our solos. Day 14. Thus far, the trip
had been incredible; I grew extremely close
with the others and adapted pretty easily to
a life without cellphones, wireless Internet,
showers and the other luxuries of civiliza-
"We will be separating each of you into
your quadrants tomorrow morning," Kenzie,
one of my instructors, told us. "By the looks
of it, none of you will be able to see or hear
each other."
That's when the overwhelming indubi-
table grasp of loneliness hit me. Four days.
Three nights. No communication. I felt like I

was headed for an insane asylum.
Solitude. Interminable, copious amounts
of solitude.
A solitude thatcan't be fixed with the buzz
of a cellphone or the clacking taps of a key-
board. A journal, a pen and my mind were the
only activities I had to keep me company for
four days.
It was easy the first fewhours. I drew flow-
ers, wrote about our trip so far and explored
my quadrant. Rocks, a tree and a gently slop-
ing hill constituted my home for the next few
days - I might as well make myself comfort-
able. Then night hit.
Without a watch, I used the sun's cues
to determine my bedtime. The sky slowly

the trees at an open meadow. With a closer
look, I saw a family of deer grazing the fields.
After staring at them for a few minutes, I
began to write.
Writing in a journal seemed tocome natu-
rally. I don't usually keep a journal at home
but the freedom of expression associated
with it enticed me. I wrote endlessly, detail-
ing the important moments of my senior year
(even shamelessly detailing the latest gossip
and my love life). I then drew a large Block
'M' horizontally across one page with my
blue pen. The 'M' was so large it took nearly
20 minutes to shade in. With each stroke of
my pen, my excitement for my future at the
University grew.
I closed my journal. The sun sat directly

next day. I found myself in tears at the end
of each letter I wrote. Not sad tears, but ones
induced by a sense of bewilderment: I would
be living over 2,000 miles away from these
people by the end of the summer. w
Solitude. Interminable, copious amounts
of solitude. In that moment, I heard the mar-
mot for the first time.
Loneliness has always been my great-
est fear. My life-long friend Madelyn would
always laugh as I asked her to walk with me
to our cafeteria to get a snack or walk with
me to the bathroom. I quivered at the idea of
going anywhere alone.
I laid on the rock during my last day on
solo. Gazing up at the cloudless sky, my com-
panions were the dirt, the birds in the trees ,
above me, the marmot that appeared for an
hour each day and my thoughts. My memory
and reflection served as my greatest form
of entertainment and, at this point, I didn't
I didn't let go of my fear of solitude. I
instead relished in it; I thrived in it. My com-
plete separation from human contact, in both
personal and technological forms, granted
me my freedom.
A few days alone in the wilderness
changed me. The feeling of solitude, mysti-
fying bewilderment and a surprisingly lack
of boredom presented the key to my future
well-being. If I could survive alone in the
middle of a forest, I sure as hell could survive
as the only representative of my high school
class in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
With the memories cemented in my mind,
the blue ink marks in my dust-covered jour-
nal and the carefully written letters to my
loved ones, loneliness is no longer an option.
I sat perched on my rock on the last day
of my solo. The birds chirping, a trickle of a
nearby stream and the wind rustling leaves
across the dirt filled the potential silencer
The marmot appeared again, sitting directly
across from me. As I realized that I would
never see my marmot friend again, we made
eye contact.
The crunch of boots in the dirt grew
louder as Kenzie approached me. I shifted
my gaze from the marmot to her. She ges-
tured for me to come with her. I hopped off
my rock, grabbed my backpack and began to
I turned around to take one last look at
my spot as I realized that I will probably
never return to it again. My rock, my trees,''
my meadow, my marmot; my companions
were to live only as a memory from now
on. The thought of never returning did not
bother me, though. My quadrant did its job:
It released me from the constraints of per-
petual solitude.
Jennifer Calfas is an LSA freshman.

appella group began to sing, I was
mazed at how frank they were
bout what, and who, they believe
i. They brought up the name of
esus Christ in the middle of a con-
ert at a public university. Were
hey allowed to do that? I shifted
ncomfortably in my seat, very
ware of the fact that I was not

C^ rett . rot*

turned from blue'to pink to orange as dark-
ness approached. Without any thought, I
slipped into my sleeping bag with hopes that
I'd fall asleep before it turned dark.
The sun leaked through the tarp, first hit-
ting my blue Nalgene bottle above my head.
The reflected light warmed my face, waking
me up.
I immediately grabbed my journal and
read what I wrote the previous afternoon.
I read over each word, even taking time to
correct my own spelling and grammar. This
tedious focus on correction served as a tem-
porary form of entertainment.
I closed the journal. What is there to do
I stepped out of my sleeping bag and head-
ed towards a big, light gray rock. With my
journal and pen in hand, I scaled up the rock,
and sat comfortably in the crevice at the top.
I surveyed my surroundings fromthe highest
point in my quadrant, gazing down through

above my head as I remembered a conversa-
tion my friends had before we departed on
our solos:
"Are you going to write her a letter?"
"Probably. Are you going to write any?"
Letters hadn't even crossed my mind.
With nothing to do for the next few days but
to think and write, this would serve as the
perfect opportunity to create a piece for each
person in my life who motivated me in some
I opened my journal. I began with the
easier, less intimidating letters - the ones for
my friends. I sat with each letter for nearly
an hour, contemplating the perfect memo-
ries to recall and the best way to phrase what
exactly each of them meant to me. I closed
my journal, hesitating to move on to the more
difficult ones: my boyfriend, mom, dad and
two sisters.
Each of these took much longer than I
expected, as my letter writing bled into the

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