LINNE HALPERN '18
There are nights we return home to our empty rooms with fluorescent lights and meager windows, and Facebook feeds. And we are restless. We pace around the eight square feet of space that is our dorms, opening and closing, and reopening and closing the mini-fridge, hoping each try will yield a different result, unsure of what we are searching for, besides something to quench our thirst…our longing. We lie in narrow beds, cold and trembling, begging for sleep that won’t come, convinced that the heat of a warm body next to ours is the cure.
It’s what we’ve been told for years. Right? We’ve grown up on mantras like, “Happiness is only real when shared,” and “Happily ever after” can only end in a kiss. And I don’t doubt that either of those things can be true, quite the opposite actually. I’m the first person to defend the concept of love, reliance on another as a romantic notion. Hell, I’m an avid watcher of The Bachelor, and only half-ironically. But even I have come to realize that the amount of time I’ve spent staring at the empty side of the bed is stupid and dramatic and a waste. I’ve gone so far as to dream up someone next to me, only to burst into tears upon awaking and finding that extra pillow as untouched as I’d left it. And why this masochism? Is it possibly because I get into bed alone at night and turn on the TV to find even Carrie Bradshaw, Miss Single Sex-Queen Extraordinaire, happily-ever-after in bed next to her Mr. Big? We can’t help but feel lonely, alone.
There are days that are long, nights that turn into three in the morning, brain hurting, eyes hurting from work and productivity and exhaustion. Yet I still don’t feel whole enough, fulfilled enough, still don’t feel enough to close my eyes, to brace for and surrender to the dark. In her new memoir, Not that Kind of Girl, even Lena Dunham writes, “You remember how hard it was, that moment between wakefulness and sleep. How the moment of settling down was almost physically painful. He settles that. He tells you that your day was rich enough and now it is time to wind down. He helps you sleep. People need sleep.” This sentiment comes at the end of an essay arguing the necessity of cultivating things/people to fill our days with that we have absolutely zero urge to run away from. I like that idea. I like it a lot. But, I think it needs to be applied to ourselves and to our spaces in a way that acknowledges the inherent wholeness of the self.
As much as I can wish for someone to lie next to me at night, to hold me as I fall asleep, I think I’m in a place in my life where I’m mature enough to realize that it is not the answer. I think I know myself well enough to realize that I requested a single room for a reason, that there is something about coming home to my own quiet space at the end of the day that is a necessary calm. I was always the child at the sleepover calling home around midnight, asking to be picked up, citing the idea that I would feel so much better in the morning having woken up in my own bed. Bed-sharing, even with platonic friends, has only ever left me feeling confused and not altogether in the morning. I am still that girl, only mature and self-aware enough now to realize, that even under the allusion of the rom-com, someone in my bed would only leave me feeling equally as restless and unfulfilled.
At the end of each day, my rituals have come to create an understanding of myself in a way that is constant, never changing between my bedroom at home or my dorm room. I have my dim candles, my book which never leaves my nightstand, my lavender balm I rub on my temples and nose, my Sex and the City playing on the TV in the background. This is how I reclaim myself from the day’s exertions – with space to breathe, uninhibited, bra off, hair on top of my head – I give my head back to my body, my soul, readying her for another day. In those minutes before sleep, I am most myself, aware of every breathe. There will be time for beds to be shared. That time is not right now. I accept that. I fall asleep warm, my blanket tucked in all sides around me, in this tiny bed, in this tiny room, in this tiny town, covered in snow. And it is mine. I feel whole. And I sleep so soundly.