Fortresses of Solitude

By: Education in Ireland and UCC Student Ambassador Elena Montes

Each of us, no matter how strong or independent, sometimes find ourselves in times of hardship. Stress, sorrow, and self-doubt catch up to us and beg to be attended to. In times such as these, we must determine a place of comfort ­ a fortress of solitude, if you will ­ in which to ponder our paths ahead and persevere.

Superman found his solace in a palace of ice crystals.


Here are the places where I find mine.*
*with suggestions for specific versions to visit in Cork.

  1. A comforting coffee shop. My coping mechanism for stress can often be found in a good latte. It’s not a caffeine dependency. ­ I can stop whenever I want, I swear. Seriously, though, something about independent coffee shops with beautiful atmospheres can focus my mind. Even looking around these homely places themselves reminds me of what other people have done with their unique combinations of hard work, creativity, and perseverance. After all, with global chains like Starbucks taking over the world, it does take a heck of a lot of work to make one of these beautiful places into a must-see spot in their home cities.

    My suggestion in Cork: The Bookshelf. The comfiest couch and armchairs known to man, a perfect latte every time, and always fresh raspberry scones to die for. My only qualms are the giant “bookshelf” that’s really a piece of wallpaper and the floor-to-ceiling mirror that tricks naive first-timers into trying to look for a free table in the “other room” (Who, me? Nah).


  2. In nature. I’m not exactly what you would call the outdoorsy type, but I do enjoy some fresh air every once in a while. I find a change of scenery is just what I need after hours of staring at a computer screen, trying to debug a particularly annoying program or finish a particularly difficult essay. A picnic, a leisurely walk: perfect.

    My suggestion in Cork: along the River Lee. Most students would tell you that the best way to get from one end of campus to the other is through the amphitheater, past the quad and out the other side. I disagree. I find the rarely-used path from behind the Gluck (art museum) along the river to be much calmer and pretty serene.

  3. A bookstore. This one seems obvious. ­ Bookstores, frequented as they are by a very narrow cross-section of clientele, are sort of sacred. As in, all the customers know not to raise their voices above a whisper, as to do so would be to disturb the near-holy browsing experience being shared by all who have experienced the traumatic event of a favorite bookstore closing. These safe havens are a dying breed. We must cherish those little nooks that haven’t yet bit the dust.

    My suggestion in Cork: I know it seems counterintuitive that my favorite place is just one of a chain: Waterstones. But something about it draws me in. The ever-present “buy one, get one half off” tables are addictive to browse, and they regularly make me forget that both my wallet and my baggage allowance home cannot afford a new member of my collection. But for some reason, all of the Irish (British) editions of books on my wish list are so much more aesthetically pleasing than their American counterparts. So I have to bring them back, right?


    Glasses = automatic nerd-disguise


  4. A kitchen. (Cue the sexist jokes) But really, I find it super comforting to bake some cookies when having a rough day. ­ I type this at the very same moment as I’m dipping a fresh chocolate chip cookie into my glass of milk. Yep, today was one of those days. Plus, mixing cookie dough by hand while I’m away from our handy Kitchenaid mixer is a killer arm workout. Even making familiar foods can bring up good memories and take your mind off things for a while.

    My suggestion in Cork: Errr, anywhere but my kitchen. Our oven really has only two settings: off and broken. So if you plan on making a soufflé, I would suggest an upgrade. The plus side is that my cookies take just a quarter of the time they normally do before burning to a crisp.


    Me when my cookies burn.


  5. Home, or something resembling it. For me, for now, the closest I can get is my computer monitor, broadcasting whatever Skype call I’m on at the moment ­ our family is currently split into four parts, scattered across the world. Four different time zones don’t make keeping in touch very convenient, to say the least. But we do our best, and my daily contributions to our group message (consisting of the worst puns, links to parodies of future president Donald Trump, and music suggestions to start the day) at least serve as some thread of connection to my nearest furthest and dearest. I know it technically doesn’t fall under “solitude,” but keeping in touch with family is important to keep from becoming a bit too lonely.

    My suggestion in Cork: Well, I’m stuck here; unless your home is actually in the city, I can’t help you. But I can tell you that technology is a beautiful thing, and that a multitude of free international video calling services exist to help you keep in touch, especially if you’re far from home.

  6. My own head. This sounds a bit strange, but bear with me. Sometimes to escape my own thoughts, I have to go deeper into my own head. Push past the cloudy stuff and reach the happy and the creative, that sort of thing. Put on my big over-ear headphones and tune out the world, blasting The Smiths’ entire discography for good measure. Your fortress of solitude doesn’t have to be a place: it can be you.

    My suggestion in Cork: Um. This went from a café review to something much deeper. You’ll have to rely on your own judgment for this one. What gets your mind off things and helps you focus on the future, on the good, and on yourself? Calculus? Music? Writing? Do the thing. Find your solace.


    You vs. everyone’s expectations.

I definitely didn’t use this post as an excuse to browse gifs of Henry Cavill at my leisure.
Definitely not. Carry on.

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