Lessons from Being Lonely

I spent this summer in a constant state of loneliness. The kind of loneliness that consumes you, that makes you feel alone no matter who you are with. Even in groups of people I felt isolated and separate, like a glass wall was in between me and everyone else, unable to fully break through and free from the thought of having no one. 

I logically know that I have people to turn to-I have friends, I have a great family- but even when something is logical, if you are so deeply entrenched in your emotions, you cannot see it. I hate New York in the summer. I love it during the year because there’s always something new and exciting to do. But in the summer when your friends aren’t around, there is too much to do and no one to do it with. The city is too big and grand in the summer, and like the humid sticky air, it suffocates me. I get lost in the haze of days going by and being unable to motivate myself to do anything. I reach out to random connections, people I kind of know, people I know through someone else. Maybe I meet up with them a couple of times or maybe they are confused as to why I am reaching out at all but either way it does not soothe the ache of isolation. People that are not or have never been lonely do not understand the feeling. They do not get how crushing the emotion is. The word itself is heavy, it sounds shameful when you hear it. It is something you have always known you do not want to be, but until you are, you do not fully comprehend why. I would rather be sad than lonely. When you are lonely, you constantly have an underlying sadness inside you, but when you are sad, you do not have to be lonely as well. Sadness I can manage better, I can sit with the feeling knowing it will pass or I can find ways to make myself feel better. Loneliness seems never-ending and I cannot cheer myself up the way I can when I am sad. The more alone you feel the more alone you make yourself. When you feel like no one is there you push anyone that is there away and then you really are alone. 

I spent most of the summer looking at this loneliness as a curse, as a suspended state of emptiness, but I encourage people to try to appreciate the times they feel lonely. I cannot lie and say that by the end of the summer I was happy with feeling lonely, because I was not. However, the inward inspection that loneliness produces taught me more about myself than others ever could. I have always looked at loneliness as purely negative, something to wish away, but I do not think loneliness is shameful or something to fear. Loneliness is different to me now. It is when it starts to pour buckets of water from the sky as I am walking home without an umbrella. I am annoyed I forgot an umbrella, upset that I am soaked, and angry that it is raining at all, but as I continue to walk, I start to smile. I start to laugh at myself for never having an umbrella when I need it and start to breathe in the damp air and the cool wet pavement. I am never ecstatic about the fact that I got stuck in the rain, but I am grateful that it reminded me to stop and laugh at life, thankful to be reminded of how the ground smells when freshly soaked. 

I will never long for loneliness, but I can now see that it brings me more than just the negatives that I used to associate with it. I learned this summer to be more in tune with myself, to have a good time even when no one else is there to experience it. I learned what I want from friendships and what I deserve from people close to me. I learned that if someone cannot be there when you need them, then they are not a connection to cling onto. I learned to let go, that time will pass and life will continue to change, so let it. I know that it is hard to feel anything positive when in the dark pit of being alone, but the beauty of loneliness is learning to not need people to come running in with flashlights, to instead illuminate the pit on your own.