What We Talk About When We Talk About Being Lonely

My friend texted me from the library the other night and said “I’m lonely.” It was 11 at night but I had been lonely in my room, too, so I went and I joined him, and we sat in the library basement in silence, side by side. It was a little more bearable, to be lonely together.

It was weird, that night, and my friend was mostly joking when he said he was lonely. He just wanted company while he finished his Sociology essay, someone to sit by him while he wrote about Inequality in the Workplace. But it made me think about loneliness, about feelings, about the urge to have someone sit next to you at night in the library, even if you don’t speak to each other.

We are all lonely, in some way or another. We all crave human attention, human touch, human love. We all yearn for more than is given to us. It’s a burden of the human condition, to feel. To be able to love is a beautiful thing, but that also means we are able to hurt, to feel afraid, to feel alone. It’s intrinsic — we ache for connection. It could be anything — someone to travel the world with, to love you until the end of time, or someone to sit with you in the library, to smile at you as you walk down the sidewalk or stand in line for coffee. We are all lonely for something, even if we don’t know what.

I have the greatest family and friends in the entire world, and I could never live without them. They complete me; without them I would not be whole. And I’m sure everyone feels that way about the people we love. But that doesn’t stop us from feeling lonely when we walk into a crowded room, when we walk back to our room at 2 in the morning after a night of drinking in a crowded, stuffy basement. 

You don’t return my calls anymore, yet you haven’t blocked my number, either. Sometimes I still leave you voicemails in the dark, mostly when the loneliness is overwhelming. I like to pretend you listen to them.

None of us are special; none of us are any different from anyone else. We are all lonely, and we all fake it at some point. We pretend we aren’t, and sometimes, we even really believe this. Sometimes we might even not be. But at some point, it comes back; the feeling comes back, that endless tug that says so much. We are lonely and we are empty and we feign indifference. Sometimes I think life is just a series of attempts to fill that emptiness inside. Do we ever succeed?

None of us are bound to each other by anything tangible or meaningful. But we are all lonely. At least this is what I like to believe. Because if everyone is lonely, I am not alone. Because if we are all lonely, that makes us a little closer. If we are all lonely, that makes the pain a little less strong and a little less shameful. To know that it’s not just you: that’s comforting. But it does not eradicate the loneliness. Perhaps it is an unconquerable force. Maybe that small slice of comfort is all the world ever has to offer us; maybe that’s all we ever get. TC mark

featured image – Natalia

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