The overwhelming feeling of being alone can hit you in the most peculiar places. Sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a steamy cup of tea and looking out the window, watching a couple walk by holding hands, completely enveloped in each other’s loving gazes.
Or sitting on a city bus, raising your head and gazing around at all the people distracted by their phones or tablets or headphones, or lost in an interesting novel.
Maybe you feel lonely when you are at home cooking a meal that reminds you of home or watching your favorite television show that reminds you of your friends. I know how hard it is.
I know what it is like to need a friend, someone to just chat with over coffee or someone to hold you together when you feel like a mirror about to shatter. I know what it is like to want to go check out a new restaurant or new movie with someone but find yourself alone.
Maybe you feel lonely because you are away from you family studying at university and feel like you are being suffocated by essays, readings and projects that pile up and block your oxygen supply. Or maybe you are feeling lonely because you just moved to a new city for a job you always wanted and feel this breathtaking wave of loneliness wash over you when you are exploring new streets. Or maybe you are experiencing a heart wrenching break-up from the person you hoped to be the one, watching your relationship disappear with the minutes ticking by on the clock.
Loneliness is a frustrating emotion. It can make you feel hollow and desolate, wishing for a warm embrace from your long-distance parents. It can make you angry because loneliness is an unwelcome visitor who bangs loudly on your door in the middle of the night to remind you of a connection to a lover that you lost in the past. It can make you feel apprehensive while you board the plane heading to a new and unknown home to start a new life.
But at the end of the day, feeling lonely is a constant ache in the middle of your chest, a painful lump in your throat, a longing for something you cannot express. I hope it never makes you feel like giving up on your decisions. I hope it never makes you change your mind about something that was maybe painful but necessary.
So, here are some suggestions from me to you, that might help you not feel so lonely. Learn to appreciate being alone. For some people being alone is just too much to handle, while others can learn to enjoy the peace and serenity. It really does teach you so much about yourself, it shows you how to handle and react to things without the influence of others. It can leave you time to indulge in your hobbies, interests and passions.
If you like to paint and draw, go nestle down in a city park and enjoy the hustle and bustle around you while sketching or sign up for an art class. If you like live music and want to experience the local music scene, go to a pub when there are local bands playing. You never know who you will meet in these excursions. Be brave and put yourself out there.
Reach out to people in your life with whom you are very close. Pick up the phone and call your parents back home. Send a text message to a new work colleague and ask to go for a coffee or lunch. Or reach out to someone new entirely and sign up somewhere online for a pen pal so you have a weekly letter to look forward to.
It can be so scary, like jumping off a cliff with no visible landing spot, but I hope that you will do it. Pick up the phone when you need to hear a friendly voice. Introduce yourself to a stranger while out and about. These suggestions seem so easy on paper but seem so daunting to do in your day to day life. But give it a try.
Some people say that appreciating being alone is one of the hardest things a person can do. And they aren’t wrong. Humans are social beings, raised by tight-knit families, educated in large classrooms, employed with large groups of co-workers, and connected to countless others online. But sometimes those innate human feelings of needing others around you can become lost and unfulfilled.
On a final note, remember that being lonely is not all bad. If you are away from you family for an extended amount of time, think of all the stories you will have to share.
Think of how precious every minute will be when you finally reunite. If you are moving away from your home for a job you’ve always wanted, think of that dream you’ve held dear in your heart.
Think of how much it means to you and what it will do for your future and your sense of meaning in the world. If you are feeling lonely over a lost relationship, if it ended on a good or bad note, think of your time alone as a time to heal and grow.
Think of all the things you wanted to do but were maybe held back from, think of all the things you learned from that relationship and use those lessons for your future.
Loneliness is not all bad and it’s not all good. But it can teach you so much about who you are and what you are capable of achieving and what you can power through. You never know how strong you are and having extended alone time can teach you just that. However, don’t forget to care for yourself and reach out for help or comfort. Don’t allow yourself to become worn down from loneliness, the hardest lesson will be how to balance your personal needs.