You’re Alone All The Time

You’re alone all the time.

That’s the well-kept secret. When they talk about living independently for the first time, it’s not about doing your own laundry or waking yourself up in the morning or paying your own utilities. Independent is a fancy word for alone, and that’s why so many capable people struggle. People who thought that they were prepared, that they would flourish under this new system because they had been functioning at such a high level for such a long time. Nobody mentioned that the challenge isn’t functioning. The challenge is doing anything other than functioning. The challenge is to transcend being and start living again.

And maybe it sounds easy because all your basic needs are still being met, and many elements of your former life are still around in one form or another. Look, there’s a soccer game over there, here’s a band you can play in, here’s where you can drink coffee, here’s a camera you can use. It’s all the same, really. What do you mean there’s nothing to take pictures of? There’s buildings and trees and people. Just point and shoot.

So you arrive, after months of waiting and longing, arrive thinking that your new life will be your old life but better, knowing that specifics from your past won’t transfer but hoping that all the important things carry over. And maybe you get lucky. Maybe some do. But maybe nothing feels like home. And that brings us back to the thesis:

You’re alone all the time. At first it’s unbearable and agonizing and physically painful, the sense that you no matter what you do, you will do it in solitude. At first you die a little more every hour on the hour, you cringe whenever something reminds you of the past, which of course happens every moment. But slowly, you adjust. Soon, it’s only the mornings that hurt, when you wake up and realize you’re still alone, and the evenings when you’re tired and you spent all day winding yourself up and you don’t have any more energy to cope. And then, soon enough, the mornings and evenings are bearable too. You learn to use any human interaction as energy to get you through the day, or you learn to survive in isolation, maybe even embrace it. You become more and more comfortable spending hours or entire days without speaking to anyone. Sometimes, when you absolutely cannot take it anymore, you call your mother, or chat with someone who suddenly means more to you than they ever did before. But you function. You make it through. You have good days and bad days, like any other person. Sometimes you laugh at a joke, and then immediately marvel at the miracle of someone making you laugh, of someone else bringing you joy again. Every once in a while, someone might hug you, and it’s the best thing, even if you don’t know why.

So that’s the plateau. Where you’re fine. Where you smile through the good days and wade your way through the bad. And sometimes you feel great, and you chastise yourself for feeling over-dramatic earlier, and your confidence in your new life swells. And sometimes you break, and you consider flying or driving home right that second because you cannot handle another hour of the emptiness gnawing inside you. Gradually, your highs get a little bit higher, and your lows get less frequent, and you start describing life as “good” instead of “fine” and you generally mean it. You’re doing well. Sometimes you even feel alive.

But then your sister comes to visit, or your boyfriend, or some pal from high school. And you remember what it’s like to not just know people but understand them, to know their habits and their preferences, to recognize their shirts, to touch them without thinking about it. You remember how good it feels not being alone, and you try to soak up every moment and absorb enough energy to last the long winter. Often it’s awkward because you have nothing in common but memories and mutual affection, so you spend a lot of time staring at each other and wishing you could think of something more interesting to do, some way to better appreciate your visitors, to better make use of your time. You don’t want to waste this. But maybe you do.

And then they leave, and you break again, and your “good” drops to “fine” and then to “okay, I guess.” But soon enough you trick yourself into forgetting how it feels to see love in someone’s eyes, and you adjust back to solitude.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m assuming it gets better. I keep reading the same Bukowski poem, the one that goes:

There are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
too late.

I try to believe him, but it’s hard when you’re alone all the time. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Richa Kashelkar

    This is so painful and sad :(

  • Cal Roberts

    The fact no one realizes this fact, accepts it, and learns to live with it is why our generation is full of weak people.

  • 80daysand80nights

    Reblogged this on 80daysand80nights and commented:
    Thought Catalog is just really hitting the right spot today. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Being twenty something is so much different than I expected…

  • Only L<3Ve @

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • 1

    Feeling the isolation is what made me break down in a hedge on halloween, hoping beyond hope for someone to just talk to me.

  • Medina

    This articulates everything perfectly.

    I went to send it to someone and had no idea who to send it to.

  • Bryan

    I just moved into a new city 6 months ago and nothing has hit closer to the way I feel than this.

  • David McClane

    Come visit me, and end both our summer solitudes

  • Holly

    “You become more and more comfortable spending hours or entire days without speaking to anyone.”

    THIS. I’m going to (now) make it my mission to meet people at the neighborhood bar.

  • Hanna

    this is so true

  • foxandbrie

    Then one day you reach the point when you are fine, if not better than fine. And when people come to visit you feel overjoyed, then crowded, then overwhelmed. There’s a moment when you realize that alone isn’t lonely, after the people have left and you can finally do any weird little thing you want to do without worrying about anyone’s needs but your own. I hope that moment comes for you soon.

    • scintillatebrightly

      Oh god yes. I love living on my own.

    • seashell

      i struggled with this problem when i first moved out on my own at seventeen. now that i’m 22 ive realized that what foxandbrie says is exactly true, the loneliness will pass in time :)

    • Deanna

      perfectly said.

  • Renee

    I was just thinking how much I want to move out… Not so sure now. Does having a dog make it any better?

    • brianna

      yes. yes! a million times yes.

    • Julia

      but then: with a dog it’s more difficult to find a flat (at least in Europe), you can’t be that spontaneus (the dog needs to get out a few times a day), travelling with a dog is no fun, etc.

      • Tom

        Yeah, Julia nailed it. Having a dog kills your spontaneity and can really tie you down. Not easy to admit, but I regret getting mine now.

      • Justin

        The idea of needing to get a dog is just a way of coping with your loneliness, but it doesnt actually solve the problem. Instead you need to go through the struggle and accept it and then once you truly feel you are happy being alone then you can go get a dog and know you did it for the right reasons!

  • natalieasaurus

    you nailed it on the head. no way to sugar-coat it. being alone sucks.

    • Justin

      It doesnt, not if you accept it fully and wholeheartedly. Loneliness is just a feeling associated with being insecure. There are always people around you who you can interact with and be friends with but if you are relying on that to make you happy then you can never truly be yourself. So many human beings rely on others to make themselves happy, but once you can be yourself without caring about what others think, then you can truly be the happiest you can be.

  • H

    This is basically how I spent my final 2 years at college. Alone in my apartment for 5 days a week, watching tv and eating Doritos.

  • Alex

    It gets better never the same but Different and amazing and life surprises you.

  • Daniel Robert Gruber

    Thank you for this. This is exactly how I feel a lot of the time. I could not have articulated it better myself.

  • laurel

    i feel like this all the time. i wish there was some non-awkward, non-forced way to rally the lonely people and fight it together.

    and also, “The challenge is to transcend being and start living again.” – this sentence makes the last several years of my life make sense to me.

  • lynfunkstar

    I want to hug you.

  • Jensen

    i was just listening to the godfather theme song – whilst reading this article.

    My past 2.5 minutes was in awe of how surreal this article is..

  • rfrancoeur

    Reblogged this on Na.noon and commented:
    But it’s a gift, too…

  • wow

    Amazingly true and relatable! Lonliness never seems to be written on that much

  • Isaac Lungu (@Africanlegnd)

    Humans are social, always have been. The only one to try “independence” are women and they are failing at it because it is tough and unnatural. Men have been acquiring women to alleviate this for years!

    • Domino


    • happydabbler

      Domino, I just spent the last 2 minutes laughing at your response to this garbled comment, to the point of shedding tears. Not sure what set off the laugh attack. Maybe I just needed a break from the serious article and discussion, so, thank you. And to the writer of the article, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Your article kept me company!

  • guest

    but i love being alone

  • guest

    #thesicknessuntodeath- read it suckaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    and throw in


    ttyl betch <3 xoxo

  • Katie

    It’s like you’ve been observing my life for the past year and have just written about it. Thanks. It’s good to know there are others out there that understand the struggle and can articulate it better than I can.

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