“Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.” – Max Ehrmann
I was in London, I had two friends, and they lived an hour across the city. I was lonely, really lonely. I had moved across the world to a city with more than eight million people and I was lonely. During those early London days I spent more time than I’d like to admit sitting in my room, drinking bottles of wine (slight exaggeration), listening to the Beatles singing, “I look at all the lonely people”. I remember thinking, I can’t believe I’m one of them, and this was not how it was supposed to be. It was definitely not how I envisioned my life would look when I had dreamed of moving to London three years earlier.
Now, after 18 months overseas, I am back in New Zealand. I met a guy for coffee last week and he asked me if I get lonely. It was such a real question to be asked. I surprised myself by not even hesitating in saying “yes”. “Me too,” he said. Usually I’m a bit better at hiding the truth. The truth is I do get lonely, I’m not in a constant state of loneliness, but there are times when I definitely feel lonely. Being single doesn’t help, but I also think you can be in a relationship and still feel alone. You may have company, but you can still be alone, alone in your fears, your pain or maybe even in your dreams.
Admitting you are lonely is such a taboo subject in our society. It’s very uncool. Being popular and busy are extremely valued and many people don’t know how to respond to loneliness. I can’t tell you how many people I met in London who were lonely. It’s proof that too often the society that we live in can be isolating.
I’ve lived in six different cities and I’m 26 years old. I’ve had to start from scratch by myself many times over and now I’m doing it again. This is how I’ve got through the lonely moments of my life.
It’s ok to feel alone
As it turns out, we’re human. We feel. With the amazing highs in life, also come the painful lows. You are allowed to feel alone. We often feel bad for feeling the way we do, with someone always on hand to remind us that someone is worse off. Yes, someone will have it worse than you, but that doesn’t take away from your pain. Pain is just pain. You are allowed to feel the way you do. We live in a suck-it-up society, even more so if you are a guy. This mentality only makes people hide their pain. Often we don’t need people to provide us with advice, we just need someone to be with us, in our fears and in our pain. Allow yourself to feel. It’s ok.
Learn to like your own company
As much as being alone is looked down on in our society, I believe it’s really important to like your own company. You will spend your whole life with yourself. If you don’t like your own company it’s going to be one long road. Being by yourself allows you time to think about who you are, what you’re doing and process things that happen in your life. Being able to be ok in your own company helps you to grow as a person. I’ve come to some of the biggest realisations while hanging out by myself. Ain’t nothing wrong with a party of one.
This too shall pass
If you do feel lonely, remember it is likely to pass. In life there are many seasons. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. There may be times in your life when you are surrounded by friends, and times when you’re alone a lot, especially if you move a lot. Remember, it is all growing you as a person, helping you to become stronger in who you are, and it will pass.
Get off your butt and meet people
I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when you’re feeling lonely and a bit crap about yourself, but if you do want to meet people you have to do something about it. I know it’s scary to put yourself out there, but it is required. When I moved to London I discovered Meetup.com, which is an online platform of groups that meet all around the world. Meetup saved me from many lonely nights, drinking by myself. At times it was hard going to events by myself, worrying that I would have no one to talk to or look like a fool. But through attending different events I met some amazing people and had some great nights. I met people that became great friends. If you aren’t happy, you have to take action to change things.
Be someone who people want to spend time with
Have you thought about whether you are somebody who others enjoy hanging out with? This is an important part of the equation. The common misconception is that to be liked you have to be interesting, but actually, to be liked you have to be interested. Working as a journalist taught me one of the greatest skills – listening. Are you a good listener? Most people just want to be heard, they want to feel like they are important and what they have to say matters. If you can make people feel like you care about their stories you won’t have a problem making friends.
We all feel lonely at times. The problem is that we often feel isolated in feeling this way, it’s not cool to update your Facebook status with the words, “Feeling lonely”. Know you don’t have to be alone in your loneliness, unless you choose to be. But also know this too shall pass. The parties for one are unlikely to last forever.