How to Build Your Fortress of Solitude – 101
One of these days, I happened to pull an all-nighter; it was the first one I pulled in Manipal. Before you start judging – I wasn’t studying all night. I won’t lie, I did start with that intention in mind. What I really did do, however, was have a conversation about life, the universe, and everything else with one of my closest friends. It was the type of a conversation that didn’t end even after we both decided to call it a day and go to sleep at 4 am. It was the type that continued playing on my mind, and I felt like sleep had given up on me.
I decided to watch the first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine instead. The first led to the next and then the one after that, and so on and so forth. Before I knew it, it was 6 am. I don’t remember why or how, but I set my laptop aside, wore my shoes and was out of the block in a matter of minutes. It was still quite dark outside.
I took a few steps at first, and then ran out and stood with my arms open and my eyes closed. At that time of the day, there was no one around to judge me. I felt the cool morning breeze wash over my face, contouring it. I instantly felt the tiredness get sucked out of my limbs. The staleness of the previous day was replaced by the vigour of a new dawn. A video-call home was long overdue. I saw my parents’ face fill the screen on my phone as I walked through Temple Run. I passed the Food Court and the running track, talking to them the whole time.
Clueless as to what I could do next to kill time, I wandered aimlessly in the general direction of Block 14. I could hear Sting sing “I dream of rain, I dream of gardens in the desert sand”. It was as though Spotify knew what I wanted to hear at that very moment. Drifting about, I discovered a tiny path between the security outpost and Block 14. Trudging down the beaten path, I chanced a look to my left and stopped dead in my tracks. I caught a tiny glimpse, of something incredibly beautiful; I just had to get a better view.
Slightly wary, I looked around and walked into Block 14. As if on autopilot, I walked straight past the guard and made a beeline for the elevator. As soon as I reached the eleventh floor, I ran to the extreme end of the block.
The sun was just lifting its head from the horizon. The intense fog left over from the night before still hung lazily over the mountains. The tall trees were barely visible, their heads just breaking through the surface of the smooth, continuous endlessness of white blanket. The 16th and 17th blocks seemed much smaller from my vantage point. The view was worth it. It was worth all the tiredness and waiting. I would be lying if I said the view hadn’t left me speechless. It was just me in the stairwell; breathing in the stale smell of Block 14, feasting on the magnificent view. I watched the sun slowly ascend into the clear sky.
After what may have been twenty minutes, I decided to head back outside. The bracing chill in the air hit me harder than I expected. I decided to take the long way to the Food Court. I walked down the slope, passed the 16th and 17th blocks and then made my way to Temple Run. Throughout the walk, I only reflected upon what life was and all the events that led up to that morning. Everything from writing the online entrance exam back in May to meeting new people and exploring new horizons (quite literally), I was replaying it all in my head. The only thing to give me company was a set of classic rock songs that Spotify thought I’d like to hear.
One heavy breakfast later, I returned to my room and simply crashed. The four hours of sleep that followed reset my mind.
That day I realized how much I needed this walk of introspection. Everything had been going smoothly, but its speed had left me dizzy. I didn’t know it, but I really needed to take a moment to breathe and ponder.
All said and done, I guess I am glad that things worked out the way they did. Maybe that’s what introspection is about.
Think about how many times a day you think to yourself. Think hard about it. Chances are, if you haven’t reached this sentence you’re probably thinking already. Our mind wanders away hundreds of times during a day without our knowledge, and subconsciously we build connections in our head that ultimately lead us pondering over something completely unexpected, a place not associated to where we started.
But this isn’t merely introspection. Down the path of pondering, you realize that you’re reflecting on your life, analyzing all your little quips and anything that’s made you happy or unhappy. No one knows you better than you do in that instance when you pause to think about yourself. It becomes second nature to you when you’re in a moment of crisis, or sometimes when you’re in a jam-packed room and just need some peace of mind.
You zone out in the most beautiful way possible. You’re by yourself, with your thoughts. It’s a journey of self-reflection, a path to discovering a new you.
You put on your favourite happy song, you sing, dance and do whatever while you’re listening. You smile, you nod your head, you orchestrate the entire song and then you look around. You’re alone, but you’re okay. It’s you and your favourite song – the perfect couple. You just know you’re happy.
Certain other times you put on your favorite sad song, you sing to it and slowly lose yourself in it as you listen to the lyrics. You empathize with the artist. You stop whatever you’re doing, look up and think. Think about every single emotion you’ve felt— all the good times and the bad. Even though the lyrics might be heart-breaking, you smile. Your song makes you feel multiple things through the course of just three or four minutes. This song, it can put you in a mood. You start to reminisce and then you think about the future and make plans for yourself.
The amazing part is, these plans are almost always followed through. Late nights and early mornings bring out the best in you. They give you thoughts that you’d never think during the day when you’re in a crowded place surrounded by the constant voices of people all around, talking about things that don’t really matter. This noise doesn’t allow you to get in touch with your inner self. While the world moves, you stay still and one day you’ll move twice as fast as the rest of them. Introspection is your escape from the world’s chaos, your mind palace.
Late nights and early mornings are “you” times. You can be whoever you want to be, nobody’s watching. You realize that you’re the creator of your own destiny and you can follow every single dream you’ve ever had and make all your wishes come true. When you dream, you begin achieving.
Take a walk as the sun rises. Jog a little while the sun sets. And never, ever forget to love yourself through the day. Before you know it, you will have built yourself your very own fortress of solitude.
– Karthika Venugopal and Tushar Machavolu for MTTN
– Photographs by Tushar Machavolu