“You’ll never be lonely if you learn to befriend yourself.”
I used to live religiously by this adage. Now, I’m not so sure I believe it’s wholly true.
I find comfort in solitude. I thrive in moments of self-reflection. I don’t mind going to concerts, movies, and dinner solo. I am an independent woman to the core. But as at ease as I am and empowered as I feel when I have myself as company, I don’t desire going through life completely alone. I believe you need conversation, laughter, and shared experiences with people in order to feel fulfilled, content, and alive.
I like to think I’m good at making friends. And I am also someone who craves a deep connection with people, so I try my best to be a good friend by striving to spend quality time with them and to better understand the essence of who they are. But relationships take time to develop, and as much as I try, try, and try again to reach out to people I want to get to know better, sometimes it feels like I’m just grasping at straws.
Because life gets in the way. There’s no time. There’s never any time. Or at least that’s what people have conditioned themselves to think. And I get it. I really do, especially since I am guilty of pulling the “I’m so swamped” card on social invitations when life gets too hectic to handle. But I think we’re all perpetuating something potentially harmful in the process.
When it comes to prioritizing our day-to-day lives, we tend to put our education and our jobs first, sacrificing our friends in the process. We have faith that our bonds with our loved ones are so strong that they will understand why we’re distant and will always be there. And in turn, you’ll always be there for them too. But do they know all that?
We never mean to make our friends feel sad, but we unintentionally do this every time we say, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy right now. Let’s hang out in a couple weeks?” We are trying to be considerate, but what a person may interpret from such a response is that they aren’t worthy of your time. They feel shut out, so they shut off, and that’s the place where the loneliness grows.
Loneliness plagues us all. You are one in seven billion. So why on earth do we feel so lonely when there are so many people to connect with? What is stopping us from taking that first step towards developing a new friendship? I think it’s that same fear of being shut out. When one already comes in feeling insignificant and inferior, and feeling that you are disturbing the other person, the possibility of rejection is paralyzing. Self-doubt kills the chance for deep connection. Social isolation and loneliness can have devastating effects on a person, and it’s a phenomenon we should all be taking way more seriously.
I wish there was a simple solution to loneliness, but there isn’t. It’s a permanent problem that will persist as we navigate through every stage of our lives, so long as we have human emotions and needs.
We just want people to be right there with us, in the moment, by our side, seeing and experiencing life as we see and experience it. I believe there are little things we can do every day to remind others that they are noticed and appreciated. The next time a friend reaches out to you, honour their thoughtful intent to spend time with you. Message an old friend who you haven’t seen in ages and schedule a catch-up meet-up, or set-up a Skype chat if they live far away (you can spare thirty minutes of your time, easy peasy). Follow up with that new acquaintance you clicked with at that party you went to last weekend and continue the engrossing conversation you had. And is there someone you know of who you want to know know? Say hello first. Because maybe, just maybe, you might find the one person who will change your life (and vice versa).
In this age when communication is so fleeting, be the one to initiate the interaction. It has more of an impact (on them, and on you) than you’d think.
Photography by Seda Arslan.