What is solitude? 

Solitude is defined as the quality or state of being alone or remote from society. For some, it is physical, in the sense that they are by themselves. For others, solitude is a mental state of being, where they may be around people yet feel alone.

In my life, solitude is something I have dealt with for as long as I can remember. I remember feeling the need to change the person I was so I could complete this idea of what I thought was fitting in. This sentiment of being an outsider stemmed from my differences. Whether it was the way I looked, talked, dressed — I never felt like I truly belonged. My sense of belonging was something I questioned often, but as I have gotten older I’ve realized I am not the only person who experiences this. 

As terrible as the year 2020 was, the silver lining for me was being able to venture into things I was already interested in, as well as try new things I hadn’t before. Entering these different worlds allowed me to truly find out who I am as a person. 

My time in Santa Cruz has shown me that you can be who you want to be. My home town, Richmond, a city in the Bay Area, shaped the way I am. Moving to Santa Cruz took me out of my comfort zone. Never in my life did I think I would hammock in the woods, go surfing, skateboard, or even enjoy different types of music. I learned to embrace this solitude, as it meant that what I am feeling is also something that is felt by others. Even solitude, ironically, can be a shared experience.  

The sunset at West Cliff Drive is fundamentally Santa Cruz. A staple of the town, I often find myself looking at the neverending ocean. Whenever I see the infinity of crashing waves below me, I’m always reminded that in a world so big, it’s easy to feel so small.

Very often in society, we are told to focus on one thing and stick with it. Depending on your environment, it’s almost as if there are restrictions on the type of person you can be. 

People are constantly worried about how they are perceived, and one of the worst things that someone can do to their being is put themselves in a box. So many of us just want to fit in, to the point that we are willing to limit who we are. 

I wanted to encapsulate the many different aspects of life that make us unique. That no matter how niche or different your interests are, there are always people who are like you. That there is no such thing as not belonging. 

My lack of experience in activities in Santa Cruz didn’t stop me from finding so many great, kind people. That’s my advice to anyone reading: step out of the box you, or someone, or something, has set you in. 

The feelings you have are not exclusive to you.

Go against the grain, not with.

Luka Embry is a friend of mine who found a community in his passion for skating. No matter where he is in life, he finds solace in the fact that skating will always be a place he belongs.

Persistent injuries mean that he doesn’t skate as often as he used to, but that hasn’t stopped him from his love of the sport.

When Riksean Rosholt and I met in the little room on the ground floor of the Angela Davis building in John R. Lewis College, we were strangers — that is, until I sat down and became captivated by the songs he played. For two strangers who knew absolutely nothing about each other, we were able to bond over something so simple such as keys being pressed on a piano. Though I’m not a piano player myself, I still enjoy the sounds and melodies while listening to others play.

In the empty and bleak printmaking studio located in the Baskin Visual Arts Center, student Sage Withers’ special demeanor splashes the room with color and personality. Working on a new project for class, they’re implementing different hues and textures onto paper.

Players of Belegarth, a sport where participants fight with homemade medieval weapons while wearing foam pads for added safety, prepare to battle on the OPERS field. In Belegarth, Santa Cruz is called the Realm of Tolaria.