On Being Alone

Some realizations and learning outcomes of the Covering Europe experience: J-Term 2016 with Columbia College Chicago


I spend a lot of time on my own. I’m not saying that to get pity, or as a statement of “I don’t have friends,” because I do. I sure do. I have some of the best friends in the world. The only thing is, they’re scattered around the United States, or in even worse cases, across the globe. When I registered for this trip, the last thought on my mind was how close I’d get with this group of strangers; but at the same time, I didn’t think about how valuable I’d find walking around in a foreign country by myself. I’ve always treasured the times I’m around people I love — that’s why I make a point to go to Georgia every year for New Years. I never realized how much I treasure some of the times where I’m alone, too.

Maybe this is crazy, but we live in a world where romance is overly-romanticized. There’s an entire film franchise for it, there’s a holiday for it, and one of the online communities I frequent (Tumblr), has an entire section of blogs dedicated to wishful quotes and pictures of couples doing random things together. If you’re not careful, it’s pretty easy to slip into a mindset that the only thing that matters is companionship. Likes on your Instagram pictures; followers on Twitter; photos of you and your life companion splashed across Facebook.

I think I always knew deep down that that’s not all that life is about. Since starting my drum corps career, I’ve been a big believer in doing all you can to make yourself happy — if you’re involved in things you love, you’ll find the person you’re supposed to love, right?

2015 Spirit of Atlanta

But going into year four of drum corps, still being as single as I was the day I landed in Atlanta for the very first time, the loneliness started to wear me down. Always working, always pushing to make all of these incredible opportunities happen, and not one single person I could go to with everything. I found myself spending 2015 neck-deep in my Business degree and other academics; I hardly touched the reason I moved to Chicago, and that also started to wear me down.

So when the opportunity to immerse myself in radio again, to do it in a country I’ve been wanting to visit for ages, I couldn’t help but jump.

And man, am I glad I did.

Class outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral 

Not only did I get to forget for two weeks what it was like to spend a Saturday night eerily alone in our apartment on the Southwest side of Chicago, watching those dumb romcom movies that made me feel like I was doing everything wrong. I got to step away from the American culture of constantly being buried in a cell phone or answering a buzzing text from a friend who lives in the Southeast or a boy who also lives just too far away. I got to talk with runners from around the world who are accomplishing amazing things, and explore record stores in both Dublin and London.

F<(mily love with Orin & Simi in London

I didn’t realize how much the time I spent on my own around Dublin meant to me until I found myself in a similar situation to my norm — sitting alone at The Bleeding Horse, late on the eve of flying back to the States, making requests to the live music to cover some of the musicians and songs that mean the most. Bob Dylan and Prince for my Minnesota Roots; “Georgia on my Mind” for the deltas I was clinging to around my neck in my slightly-fuzzy state; and hearing some other gems that are equally as jam-worthy.

As I sat there, finishing off my last legal drink until June, I watched my newfound Irish friends (who were on a re-kindling first date together), and let it all soak in. All of the sights I’ve seen, from Dublin to Belfast to London; the people I’ve spent the time with, from the used-to-be strangers that came from departments all over the school I find myself standing in every day, to my UK f<(mily; the smell of the clean Irish air stepping out of the airport for the first time; and the things I experienced and saw while venturing out alone. The chai latte from the tiniest coffee shop I’ve ever been in, the Reckless Records in London (the sister store to those that are in Chicago), chatting with some members and coaches from the Crusaders Athletic Club, and so many other things that made me realize something I’ve been needing to learn for so long:

Treasure the times you’re in feel-good situations, whether you’re surrounded by 19 other people or 149; but also treasure the times you’re alone. It’ll make stories that nobody else can tell, and that’s one thing that makes us all unique. Our stories.

[Featured Photo Credit: Alexis Lastomirsky | Belfast, UK]

Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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