By Rebecca Sirull, inside columnist

I am sitting in the shade of a beech tree, surrounded by its tiny white flowers, resting on palms dirtied by the damp ground and gazing at the distant top of the Prudential Center. A little girl in a pink dress and velcro sneakers runs, laughing, ahead of her parents while an old woman tightly grips the ends of three leashes, each restraining a yapping bichon frise. The sun drops lower and lower in the sky, and the population of the park continues to shift. Now, a group of teenagers eats ice cream on the grass. Now, a tourist snaps photos of the swan boats. Now, two pigeons fight over a pizza crust. I sit and watch it all unfold. I haven’t spoken with anyone in hours and, yet, I’ve never felt more connected to the world around me.

Somewhere along the constantly evolving norms that define human communication, it was decided that people are meant to prefer being with others to being alone. We pity the girl eating lunch by herself on the bench, wonder why the guy in the movie theater is buying only one ticket and choose the photo to post of ourselves surrounded by people at a party as if to prove to the world – “look, I have friends. I’m normal.” Often, we are so preoccupied with appearing to be having a great time with others that we forget how beautiful it can be to spend time with ourselves.

Imagine how much potential there is to interact with people in a day unobstructed by commitments. Countless city streets just waiting to be explored, cafés to be discovered and patches of grass longing to tickle someone’s toes, all too often ignored in favor of repeating the same words in a different order to someone who may or may not be listening.

But, take away the need to listen, process and formulate a response, and your brain is left with space to converse with itself, exploring new ideas and reorganizing old ones in a way that makes more sense. Rather than checking for confirmation on thoughts or decisions, alone you are free to roam through the possibilities unhindered, turning over stones you may have previously never noticed.

By spending time with our thoughts, not only can we discover new ideas and gather inspiration, but we can learn more about who we are as individuals. We focus so much on maintaining our relationships with family, friends and co-workers, but neglect our relationships with ourselves. When you’re focusing on a problem, notice the paths your mind takes to find the solution. Which connections are drawn? Which topics do you lean towards? Which ones do you avoid? As we learn more about ourselves, we become better able to connect with others by recognizing bits of ourselves within them.

We’re not all as unique as we think, and it can be shocking how much we have in common with someone who seems so different. Sometimes, all it takes is to step away from the foggy muddle of the person you are expected to be, or are accustomed to being, in order to learn who you really are. Most people would love the chance to get inside someone else’s head, but why not first take the chance to get inside your own?


-Rebecca Sirull can be reached at