solace in solitude writer Ally Lozada
Perhaps the most important thing I have gained in my first semester of college is the ability to do things by myself. I’m not talking about things like doing laundry or even making appointments on the phone (“adulting!”). Something as simple as going on a walk by myself, having a meal by myself, or attending an event by myself used to seem daunting, if not just plain sad. While solitude and loneliness can look the same from the outside, I’ve realized that it’s completely up to me to decide what I feel. My actions are valid, even if they’re not shared with anyone else. In true New York style, I no longer have qualms about heading out alone to grab coffee, run errands, or attend a performance. Somehow it all becomes easier while wearing a really cool outfit. Starting school this semester felt like having my life suddenly shook up and then set back down again. All I could do was wait for the dust to settle. When every aspect of my life at home dropped away, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. Everything had changed: my relationships, friendships, surroundings, and lifestyle. In getting through transitional periods and adjusting to completely new circumstances, I’ve learned to be both active and passive. It just takes time, as I’ve heard from countless adults in whom I’ve confided. You just have to wait it out, something inherently passive and, to me, pretty frustrating. Despite the impatience I have had for the seemingly endless cycle of weeks and emotional ups and downs, I’ve finally realized the obvious: getting used to new things takes time. Feeling at home here, however, also took active participation on my part. I forced myself out of my comfort zone to go to club meetings, get a job, speak to people, ask for what I want, and wear what I want. I’ve found that even the toughest day can be brightened by wearing things that just make me feel good. I can remind myself of who I am through deliberate clothing choices, and am able to feel like myself again. The square-neck cropped sweater tank my best friend gave me and then wanted back. My favorite lip color, a sweet, rose-scented balm. My mom’s floral shirt that she wore when she was in college, studying abroad in Italy. My favorite pair of jeans that fit just right, one belt loop ripped off, and in a valiant attempt by my roommate, sewed back on. The black ankle boots with just enough heel that I bought during my first week in New York City. These are pieces of people and reminders of home that carry stories and bring comfort, while also reflecting change and growth. In a sense, my clothes are my armor. Wearing them makes me invincible and gives me the ability to do anything on my own. First semester has been an intense learning curve, most of it outside of the classroom. At first I was completely lost and questioning myself at every turn. Fashion has helped me emerge from that confusion, and I have regained the most important ability of all— the ability to be okay with myself, to be enough for myself, and to move forward.