When I was a young girl, my grandmother introduced me to a book called The Saturdays. The book is about a big family in the mid 20th century, and it opened my eyes to the freedom of the world. The premise of the book is that, every Saturday, the children of this family pool their allowance so that one of them can go out alone and do something new and meaningful with their day. This thought astounded me. I immediately ached to do the same; to capture one of those out-of-body, solo, impassioned experiences. This summer I did just that through a rainbow of experiences; some that I chose and others that I was thrust into. The feeling of being alone can manifest itself in many ways, and each one gave me new insight into my own thoughts and emotions.
I love the city. Always have, always will. And there’s nothing I love more than to explore the city unbridled, which is exactly what I did in San Francisco. On a Monday morning, as the lemon sun lumbered into the sky, I rode the ferry in with my dad. I had set my plan for a day alone, soaking up the culture and the faces of strangers. We parted ways at Market street: him striding off in businesslike focus, me sliding slowly into solitude. The SFMOMA helped me feel the calm of that day, walking silently from piece to piece, allowing my mind to wander as much as my feet. I floated whimsically to random exhibits, uninhibited. The bright colors of the pop art kept me content and threw me into a whirlwind of imagination. Black and white photography allowed me to snap back to reality, analyzing the world as we know it. I broke off from the world and dove into my own head, solo, much as I imagine the children of The Saturdays had. I thought I would be scared, lonely, or at least on edge. But I was happy, I was thoughtful, I was calm. I was yellow.
However, not all of my solo experiences ended up as relaxed. One afternoon in L.A., I felt just as alone as I did in San Francisco, but my senses went on edge because of it.
“What does it say??” said the rushed whisper in my ear. I turned to my friend, as her eyes turned to twins moons, anticipating my response. I almost choked on the words.
“Canceled”, I finally got out, “our flight home is canceled.” The moons squinted to slivers, seeing the answer for themselves on the flight board. We were stuck in L.A., alone. Adrenaline coursed through me, and instincts pushed red into my eyes. Red-fear. Red-canceled. The bustling area warped beneath my own two feet as I strode to the ticket agent, trailed by my friend. We were minors, so I cut the line and forced the fear onto my face. The stream of words bubbled and tipped to a waterfall-
“Excuse me ma’am my friend and I- we’re minors - and alone -were on a flight to Oakland-” a gasp for air “-that was just canceled and we really need some assistance are there any other flights going out soon we just need to get home please help.” The ticket agent looked at me- appropriately- like I was out of my mind. In the end, we got home safe, but I will never forget that experience. The solo feeling that I felt gave me space to focus on my own emotions and how to fix the situation. I was out of my body, I was out of my mind, and I was alone. I was red.
My solo experiences haven’t always been so cut and clear. Sometimes I felt in complete control but then my emotions or the environment got the best of me. I remember this conflict during my time working at a preschool, where I worked alone with strangers and off in a new place. This kind of alone was only metaphorical, because I was physically surrounded. I interned at the 2-3 year old classroom, which was exactly as adorable and difficult as you’d expect. I grew attached to the little rapscallions, reading to them and hoping to dear god they wouldn’t konk heads on the playground. I loved my time there because, as stressful as it felt, I got to be a small part of a child’s personal journey at the very start- new and green like a sprout pushing to the sun. Ultimately, though, as I pushed the heavy door open for the last time and felt one last little devil pull on my shirt a little too hard to say goodbye, devastation hit me. After weeks of caring for these children, lost in my own thoughts, I could finally see just how much I would miss them. While I had enjoyed my experience, when I looked back on my own, I became overwhelmed at the thought of leaving it behind. The torrid green sea frothed in me, simultaneously angry at my emotion and allowing it to run its course. I was conflicted but also content. I was green.
I am so glad my grandmother sparked that fire in me. Who knows if I would’ve become the same person without The Saturdays forever implanted in the back of my mind. I like to think that it played a big part in my awareness of what it means to be alone and my comfort in accepting the space of it. When I’m by myself I feel my own emotions and my surrounding environment more deeply. I feel the rainbow.