Thought Catalog

The Unedited Truth About Feeling Lonely In A Big City

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Namphuong Van
Namphuong Van

The weirdest thing about loneliness is how you always seem to feel it when you’re surrounded by too many people.

You live in a city of millions. It’s famous, it’s loud, it’s kind of disgusting sometimes, but it’s everything you knew you wanted to immerse yourself in.

It’s impossible to feel alone. It’s not a livable, breathable population of people—it’s cramped and occasionally suffocating. But you’re never physically alone. And it’s good—it’s comforting in its own, twisted way. It forces you to adapt quickly to the new environment.

You create routine and lifestyle. Both of which are designed to keep you going and going and going—just to get out of bed and to feign some purpose in your everyday. Your days fill up, you meet so many new people you begin to forget their names and refer to them only by their physical features and where you met them (“Grey striped shirt guy at that bar downtown”). You feel stuffed and numb to anything else.

But then, one day, you feel it.

It seeps into your consciousness. You’ll be doing something random and mundanely ordinary, like trying to choose a bunch of bananas at the Fairway two blocks away from your apartment, and you’ll feel it.

You’re lonely.

It’s unfair. You could know people in the city; not everyone is an unfamiliar face to you. Maybe you grew up with them—all of you raised in the quiet suburban towns on the outskirts of the city limits. Maybe you already knew the city before you moved in—those later suburban years being filled with sneaky trips into the city to explore with friends (read: underage drink).

The city, whether brand new or resoundingly familiar, doesn’t matter. You always feel that loneliness.

It’s a strikingly different loneliness than being physically isolated. It’s more painful and confusing to feel lonely when you’re not actually alone.

And it’s not poetic. This loneliness doesn’t inspire beautiful and transcendent art. It’s dark and debilitating, and doesn’t fuel anything other than a lot of doubts.

And it doesn’t make sense. There are millions of people here, how is it possible to feel like nobody can even see you?

You begin to notice it. The masses of people that surround you regularly—take the same trains as you, drink the same coffee as you—they’re anonymous. And so are you.

It’s an urban isolation. And at first it all feels contradictory, but then you begin to realize it’s just inevitable. TC mark

Essential Poetry For Enlivened Souls

This is for the women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. This — is for you.

“When Janne has a new poem written, I shut my life down to do nothing but read it, and then when I turn my life back on, everything is better.”
James Altucher

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