There are going to be times — maybe a birthday, a holiday, or simply a special moment that you thought would be shared with everyone you love most — when you realize that few people you considered friends are actually that close to you. You may be wondering where everyone is, why so few deemed it important enough to show up, why everything else was more pressing to them than the friendship you considered a real priority. You will begin to understand that the good friends, the ones you can count on to be there when it’s truly important, are as rare as they are wonderful. And while you make a resolution to treat the real friends with more care, for at least the moment when you realize so many others haven’t made the effort, you’ll feel terribly lonely. And that’s okay.
Someone is going to break your heart. They are going to leave you sobbing into your pillow for days on end and make you question whether you’ll ever be able to care about someone again. You’ll see their face in every store window you pass and torture yourself with the possibility that they may be coming back some day — even though you know, on some deep level, that they won’t. You are going to be surrounded by people from all throughout your life who want to help, who want to explain why it’s going to be okay, who want to get you out of bed and make you go have fun again. And despite their efforts, you will want nothing to do with them. They won’t be the person you love, and therefore their words will mean nothing. No matter how many people are coming to your sides, you’ll still feel incredibly lonely. And that’s okay.
Perhaps we put too high a social premium on what the company of others can give us, or perhaps their presence provides, at least temporarily, a feeling of immortality. As long as we are surrounded by well-wishers and party-goers, we can drown out the noise of our own fundamental loneliness. But to be by ourselves, particularly in our most dark, disappointing moments, is something that everyone must prepare themselves to do. No matter how full our social calendars or exciting our love lives, there are going to come moments when we realize how few people we can depend on in life.
And sometimes loneliness is a feeling that’s comfortable, even strangely pleasant. It can be, if you allow it, a time to reconnect with yourself — to remind yourself that you are capable of enjoying your own company. In loneliness, we are forced to know ourselves in a way which doesn’t depend on the presence of others for validation. If we think about just how much of our personalities, our schedules, and our self-worth stems from the quick-changing whims of everyone around us, it can be much more deeply upsetting than relatively simple loneliness. Loneliness is a clearly identifiable problem, needing other people to make you feel real is something we don’t even want to admit can happen to us. It stands to reason the truest loneliness, in fact, lies in being surrounded by people who ultimately do nothing for us, who serve only as warm bodies to stave off a feeling of having only one’s own company.
There are going to be periods of loneliness, and everyone experiences them. Though the first response of those around us is often one of “oh, come on, you have so many friends,” there is no reason that we need to force that feeling of solitude away. There is strength and growth in loneliness, and it can often bring up the questions we are often afraid to look at head-on. Who are our real friends? What are we looking for when we go out? Are we ready to love other people? Do we even love ourselves? And what is often dismissively interpreted as moping can be quiet self-care, or the taking of a much-needed breather from forced socialization. Loneliness can and will be painful, but to pretend as though anyone who is truly healthy or happy doesn’t experience it is ludicrous.
We live in a world which teaches us to always be happy, always be around our friends, always be looking for love, always triumphantly rising again when it fails us. But denying our periods of deep loneliness — or the ultimate aloneness that we face in life — doesn’t make us a more fulfilled human being. It doesn’t mean we have attained some higher plane of existence. It only means that we’re trying to cover a deep, complex wound that needs to bleed, and hurt, and even be temporarily ugly, if it’s ever going to heal.