Sometimes, I look down at the city from above and it truly blows my mind. Each and every window – the ones in sight and the ones too far away to be clearly distinguished from one another – is a window into someone’s life. Inside of each window is a person with a family and friends and dreams and a story and even a favorite food. Some of them wake up alone, some of them wake up surrounded by love, and some of them don’t want to wake up. One window contains so much that we can’t see. Each curtain, each set of blinds, blinds us from a secret world. I can’t help but wonder how we’d all feel if we knew about each other.
In just one scan of the city’s horizon from the balcony of my friend’s apartment, my eyes are able to graze over thousands of people. And yet somehow, so many of us feel alone, and feel as though our experiences are unique to ourselves – that no one can relate to us. It’s like passing by a field in your car and glancing out the window for just a moment – your eyes land on millions of blades of grass, but of course, all you see is a bed of green.
When a gust of wind blows, each blade of grass is moved at the same time. People are the same. When the wind blows, all of us pull our coats tighter around ourselves. And yet it rarely occurs to us that we may have more in common to one another. We pass by dozens of doors and windows on our way to the supermarket and we don’t think about the people inside. They close their curtains, and then in our mind, they don’t exist. We plug headphones into our ears, and in one more sense of the word, we have shut out the world.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m listening to the same song as the person next to me on the bus, but for some reason, I never ask. I wonder who my neighbors are, but I’ve never knocked on their doors. From high up on a balcony, I can easily acknowledge the number of people within my line of vision alone, and a desire to know these people burns inside of me, but maybe that’s only from far away. I’m just as guilty of anyone else when it comes to feeling alone.
It’s easy to say that the solution to loneliness is easy – just don’t be alone. But we all know deep down that loneliness can exist when you’re standing in a crowd of people. It should be easy to forge connections with others, but so many of struggle to do this. Where do we even start? I’ve recently learned that it really helps to simply begin by strengthening the relationships that we are already a part of.
Family is something that is given to us, and sometimes they are a gift, but sometimes they are a responsibility. Most of the time, they can feel like a bit of both – even immediate family fits into this description, sometimes more than anyone else, since we usually interact with them more than we do with distant relatives. Even a husband or wife can feel like both a gift and a responsibility!
However, in the best marriage, the kind many people aspire towards, you’re not always thinking about responsibility consciously, because you’re good friends with your husband or wife – you’re just having having fun and loving each other and fulfilling that responsibility so well that it doesn’t feel like one at all. Such is the case for any successful familial relationship, whether it’s between a kid and their parent, two siblings, two cousins, two friends, or two lovers.
And this phenomenon of responsibility not feeling like responsibility is always easier with friends than it is with family, since we choose to bring them into our lives. Oddly enough, we take these friends and turn them into a family. When you become close enough to someone, you begin to feel as though they are your family, and start to treat them as such. The challenge is turning familial relationships into friendships.
I’ve heard that we don’t get to choose our families, that they are given to us, and they are, but we can always choose who to add to our families. This means that both friendships and familial relationships are initially lacking in some way. Friends become brothers and sisters. Parents become friends.
All of these transformations are important, but they begin with understanding that the initial void in a relationship, no matter who the relationship is with, is supposed to be there. That’s where the fun of growing with someone comes in! If family and friends are just two sides of the same coin, then life is just one really long coin flip, to say the least. And from experience I can say that some of the most beautiful moments in my life are moments in which I realize that the flip, the transformation, is succeeding – when my friends steal food out of my place or clothes out of my closet without asking, as if we’re family, or my mom shares work stories with me while I’m driving the car, as if we’re friends.