1. After you get off the phone with your parents who live hundreds of miles away.
The walls seem to close in a little and yet the world seems simultaneously bigger, too big for you to be a part of. While listening to the sound of your dad’s voice, with your mom laughing in the background, your childhood felt so close. You can close your eyes and see the old, familiar rooms and hallways that once made up your whole life. You can catch the slightest scent of that smell that was entirely unique to your family and it makes your heart clench in your chest.
2. When you see your ex around town.
You see them in a store maybe, or across the street. Maybe your eyes meet, or maybe they don’t see you at all. It wasn’t a bad break up, exactly, just the casual disintegration of two people whose lives weren’t as cohesive as they had hoped. But there is a place in your heart that lingers for them, for the time you shared and the fleeting happiness you found in one another. Those moments play back to you so fast it leaves you shaken and for an instant your confidence is shattered and you wonder where it, and you, went wrong. And then they are gone, drifting back into their own life while you carefully settle back into yours, reorienting all the delicate little pieces until you are whole again.
3. The first time a close relative dies.
Maybe it’s your grandmother or grandfather, a close aunt or cousin. Someone who used to read you stories and play elaborate imaginary games with you. Someone you thought would always be there, smiling and joking. Their loss may have been sudden, unexpected, and it might have been the first time in your life where you truly started to comprehend the fragile nature of your existence. It’s the moment when you begin to understand that sometimes people just die. That they can be alive and laughing one day and gone forever the next. There is a darkness that wells up inside you with that knowledge and it’s a darkness you will have to battle for the rest of your life; shadows created by the fear of death and of leading a life that isn’t worth living.
4. Spending your first night alone in your own place.
For the first time in your life you aren’t surrounded by the sounds of other people moving behind the walls or shifting in the darkness. The low hum of muffled, familiar voices that had been the soundtrack of your life up until this point, are gone, though they linger strangely in the back of your mind. There are new creaks and whistles and you stay up and listen, trying to attune yourself to the wary creature that is the foreignness of a changing life. Fear and excitement mix and breed and you accommodate yourself to being alone in your own space and in your own mind.
5. That moment when you finally achieve something you feel that you’ve been working your whole life for.
Having what you want, something that at times felt utterly impossible to acquire, is terrifying. Your life felt moved and shaped by this moment for so long you can’t picture your existence without that grinding struggle. A part of you refuses to believe the moment is here at last, that through perseverance and sheer dumb luck you’ve made it. You feel in that moment connected with the whole world but irrefutably alone; apart of the whole but briefly detached and singular for one bright moment.
6. When you realize that sometimes love just isn’t enough.
Realizing that, despite loving someone truly and equally, sometimes relationships and people just don’t work out, is devastating. You question everything. Yourself, the nature of those around you, the purpose and meaning of love and relationships and if anything you’ve ever read, seen, or heard on the subject is true. For a time you feel alone in your misery, isolated and segregated from those happy people on the street, their hands entangled, and you wonder how you could have gotten it so wrong. How you could have wound up so broken and lost.
7. A close friend’s wedding.
Single or not, you watch that friend promise themselves to someone else for the rest of their lives and a knot forms in the pit of your stomach. You try not to consider the statistics; the rate of divorces, the possibility of infidelity, ect. But you can’t help but question the fleeting nature of such heavy promises, of the history behind their creation and wonder if you’ll ever feel like you can make such a promise. You wonder if you will ever be able to honestly swear to love someone every day for the rest of your life, or if it’s all just a desperate gamble to fight off the feeling bubbling up inside you. It’s a feeling of persuasive loneliness you’re sure no ring or spoken vow can overcome.
8. When your friends and acquaintances seem to be moving at a steady, forward pace and you’re left working the same job you have been for at least two years.
You wonder at their drive, their never-ending focus and question everything about yourself. They move on to bigger and better things and you speculate if that moment will ever come for you, or if you’ll be trapped where you are forever, living your life on repeat until you stop looking for the next scene in the play. Until you settle into a life you didn’t really want because time doesn’t ever seem to be on your side. You promise yourself better and you hope for more. You push aside your bitterness and congratulate people when they deserve it and know your day will come soon.
9. Your first day in college in a town where you don’t know a single soul and the campus seems like a massive, maze-like island.
Your classes are huge, full of new people and different ideals and you can’t help but feel like you don’t quite match up to anything. You wonder if you belong here, in this wild sea of new things, and if you will ever feel comfortable and wanted. You make yourself press forward. This is your opportunity to be the person you want to be and you won’t let fear or loneliness hold you back.
10. When that ex you’re not quite over yet is in a new relationship.
You know it’s childish and immature, that you should be above such things, but you can’t help the sensation of injustice. He broke your heart, he doesn’t deserve to find happiness when your mind still wanders toward him not quite everyday but more often than you would like. You don’t want him to be able to move on until you have, until you’ve finally laid him to rest. Until the idea of him holding someone else doesn’t pierce through you despite your best attempts to pretend you’re indifferent. At night, with passing head lights dancing through your blinds across bare walls, you’ll let a few tears slip and allow yourself a few hours of loneliness through bitter remembrance. But tomorrow… tomorrow you promise the feeling will be gone and that you won’t let loneliness hold you back.