I was sitting in my room recently, doing homework, chores, mundane daily tasks, just marinating in my loneliness for hours on end. I’m sure that any other MSA student can relate to the solitude that seems to take over everything once you lock your dorm room door. It can, at times (at least in my experience), feel like the whole world has disappeared, and it’s just you, a crappy old shower, and a few bunk beds against reality. If this ever happens to you, don’t fret. The last time I felt loneliness creeping into my bones, paralyzing me from grasping onto any rationality, I was lucky enough to be approached by Fire Hydrant Cat.
I had been up in my dorm all day, barely moving, stuck to either a phone screen or a sheet of paper. I attempted for a bit to hold onto my senses, but when I woke from my dissociative state and found myself on a bench outside, with no memory of how I got there, I realized they had left me long ago. This is a realization that should startle a person. However, I was not afraid. The second I resurfaced to the land of the conscious, I caught a glimpse of a small furry creature that found sanctuary under the shade of a fire hydrant. Yes, you guessed it: Fire Hydrant Cat.
It walked right in front of me with such audacity that I was immediately captivated. It was not a big cat at all – its skinny little legs and tiny face looked baby-ish and jovial, but I could tell by the way this feline strutted onto campus that it had already seen the world. This interested me. It was completely alone, and yet it did not seem scared, desperate for attention, or even remotely bothered. All that I picked up from this cat’s persona was confidence and peace.
The next evening, I came back to the bench. Fire Hydrant Cat returned just as I was halfway finished sketching the trunk of a tree. It was still alone, but still confident and unbothered. At first, I thought it was coming to beg for food, but when it sat in the same spot as the day before, in a patch of sun that warmed a perfectly soft blanket of grass, I realized it really was just coming to chill out. I appreciated this observation that I had made. It made me feel less obligated to give it something in return for its company.
When I am lonely now, rotting in the stench of my solitude, I always return to my little bench, and I wait until Fire Hydrant Cat inevitably comes to sit in its sun patch. Sometimes I draw it. Sometimes I just watch. Sometimes I acknowledge its presence, and it acknowledges mine, and then I proceed to doing different tasks — writing, reading, doing homework, etc. — until I feel relieved enough to go back to my room.
I learned some valuable lessons from Fire Hydrant Cat. First, I learned that I don’t need to feel guilty about being in someone’s company. I don’t have to pay them back for their time or feel indebted to them. Second, I learned to be alone with confidence. Alone time and isolation are two completely different things. Isolation is lonely and sad and crushing. I 100% do NOT recommend that. Neither does Fire Hydrant Cat, I’m sure. However, alone time can be beautiful. You can find a cool bench or a tree or a sun patch outside, and just bask in the glory of your own company. You can take a nap in your room and have epic, intricate dreams. You can journal and think and learn and grow. You don’t need anybody else in order to do those things. Just make sure that you don’t drown in the negativity that isolation can induce. If you ever start to do that, and if you’re ever feeling down, my advice is to walk around and find Fire Hydrant Cat. I’m sure it will have some wisdom to share with you.