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A Breath of Solitude By Sarah Adam

I reach my hand out to touch the wall, and my head slowly comes up above the water. I take a moment to let my whole body relax after finishing a freestyle workout to prepare for my next swim meet. I had the opportunity to become self-aware while I was gliding through the calm water. I reflected upon a major decision in my life: where I would be going to college next year. The silence and solitude of the swim gave me the ability to engage with my thoughts and reasoning.

I concentrated on my breathing and stroke and contemplated where I was being called to go. It was through this peaceful self-awareness that I was able to truly reflect and make this decision, without any distractions or influence of others. I considered the factors that were important, such as proximity to home, a welcoming and supportive community, and network. Seton Hall was the best choice for me, with its welcoming environment, great programs, and countless opportunities.

Even after making that major decision, life at Seton Hall, nevertheless, can often be draining. Many students and administrators often feel overstretched between classes, clubs, work, and other social activities. The busyness of daily life seems to interfere with any time for critical self-reflection. People are occupied balancing their many commitments while maintaining relationships.

Further, the impact of our technology-driven society distracts us from engaging in true reflection. Constantly being distracted takes up time and can negatively impact our own perceptions and aspirations. However, in the brief moments of solitude occupied by something purposeful, one can become emotionally aware. This time can be used for growth and exploration of interests.

Given the benefits that derive from moments of solitude, it prompts the question “how do you spend your time alone?” Some people might enjoy shooting a basketball, baking, or bike riding. Personally, I take my love for swimming and share it with the children I work with in a local YMCA program. In any of these activities, there is an opportunity for self-reflection and the chance to work toward some greater good. Working toward something greater than oneself promotes satisfaction and joy that leaves a lasting impact. God calls us to serve our brothers and sisters who are in need. As proclaimed in Matthew 25, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” This powerful message from the Gospel reminds us that our actions here on earth impact our journey to Heaven.

But it’s not all about reaching beyond yourself to feel fulfilled. In fact, there are several benefits to spending time alone, such as time to process thoughts and feelings and the promotion of self-healing. Unlike loneliness, which is a negative state marked by isolation, solitude is a state of being alone without feeling lonely. Solitude truly allows one to get to know himself or herself and find satisfaction in different leisure activities. Once he or she has found this contentment, positive experiences may derive from the person’s newfound passion.

People tend to look toward their relations with friends and peers in order to learn about themselves. In that, they might completely overlook the ability to discover themselves in solitude. A common experience deriving from solitude is the development of creativity and time to explore values and goals. You learn more about yourself once you find something that you love to do on your own. Why do you like this certain activity, game, or hobby?

The joy that it brings you has the potential to be used in favor of others. It is critical to be attentive while partaking in this activity. Think about why it brings you satisfaction and how it can be used for something greater. This can positively affect your relationships with others once you get to know yourself better from this activity.

Yet, though solitude is very important, it is fruitfulness that never really ends with the self, but inevitably should extend back to your community. With this in mind, how can you re-engage in your community when you emerge from this recreational solitude? God has given each of us unique talents, and we are called to share them. As stated in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I have taken the satisfaction and what I have learned about myself from swimming to create opportunities for others. As I’ve grown as a swimmer, I have learned about my own strength and the success that dedication and hard work produce. Swimming enables me to think about my own life, what I want to accomplish, and how I can become the best version of myself. It elevates my desire to take the endurance and dedication required to make certain times in swimming events and apply this to other areas of my life.

In my own experience, I have been volunteering for a program called Saturdays in Motion at the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, NJ since my junior year of high school. This program is for children with autism and their families. The children, along with volunteers, spend time playing games in the gym and swimming in the pool. I have taken my love for swimming and used it to benefit these children, who never fail to bring the biggest smile to my face. I have taken this leisure activity and used it to re-engage in my community and give back by learning about myself and my passions from swimming.

God has gifted me with this ability, and I can use it to promote the greater good and help these children learn to swim and recognize their own passions. They have also taught me so much about myself, and for this I am so grateful. They enjoy life so much and appreciate everything that they have. How one spends their free time can establish a world of possibilities. You can take your passions and pursue them for the greater good of others by learning about yourself in recreational solitude.

College is a critical time for growth and engagement in purposeful activities. As new windows are opening for our approaching careers, taking time to reflect is very beneficial to our constantly changing lives. At Seton Hall, we are blessed with a large variety of opportunities to be involved in clubs, activities, and service that can ignite these passions within us. From the day I moved onto campus, I was greeted by the Saint Paul’s Outreach ministers. . I went with a large group to the Women’s House off campus, and immediately felt welcomed by everyone. Their ministry inspired me and prompted me to seek other opportunities and programs within Saint Paul’s Outreach.

I joined a small group and have made great friends.Time spent in solitude allowed me to grow in my Faith and ignited a desire within me to share it with others. Here at Seton Hall, students can start clubs and organizations according to their interests. This provides opportunities for other students to explore different things and reflect thereafter. By first finding our passions through solitude and reflection, we can serve as a springboard for others. For truth, within and outside yourself, emerges from the silence.

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