Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

A State of Confusion

Being lonely is a given when I’m at home. I knew it wasn’t a matter of if I would feel lonely, but when. I tried my best to stave it off this summer, I really did. I joined a gym, a yoga studio; I ploughed through books the best I could and willfully resisted the lure of Xfinity On Demand. I saw friends, had lunch dates with my dad, and for a time I was content. “You know, it’s so weird,” I told a friend in some words or another. “I’m doing nothing, but I feel so busy.”

Ah, if only things could last. I spoke too soon. A couple weeks later, I feel unbalanced, restless for no reason, and worst of all, lonely. My best friend is going to Lollapalooza this week, leaving me very much alone. I have other friends I can call, but the self-isolating hermit in me resists dialing the phone.

Lonely, but too weak for human contact. Alex, why can’t you just fully embrace being an introvert? Why do you have to feel lonely? You can have a perfectly good time on your own. This is what I tell myself, but it’s not entirely persuasive. Past experience tells me that I enjoy the clarity that comes with being alone for a day or two. But soon the feeling of newfound freedom wears off and I am left feeling lonesome and lost. I remember driving off to Los Angeles at the beginning of spring break.

Flying through San Jose, I could not get enough of freedom. I flew through San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, just like that. But that night, when I got to LA with a few hours to kill, my aloneness circled around me like a gang of samurai. I found myself (figuratively and literally) on a darkened downtown street, not a soul in sight.

However grown-up and independent I like to think of myself as, I did not feel either of these things at this moment. Alone in my car, my sole companions Ryan Seacrest’s voice and a Clif Bar, I felt as meek as a child lost and bleating in a department store after it’s closed and shut off its lights.

I can see why graduating is so frightening. Who wouldn’t want to move back into their parent’s place? It’s not just about laundry, or home-cooked meals. Alone in LA that night, I felt a discomfort like that I had at Admit Weekend, or the first day of YMCA camp. Being naturally shy, the worst day is always the first day, when I am forced to partake in icebreakers and attempt small talk.

This discomfort boils down to an internal log of questions, like: What do they think of me? Will they like me? Can they see how insecure I am? The same paranoia hits me as I find myself alone in a city without a safety net to fall back on: Will I find friends? Will I find love here? Or will I be eaten alive?

It is, when it comes down to the basics, a question of love. With my dad there, there is no question to it. But left to my own defenses, armed with a shaky sense of self-worth and a thirst to be accepted, the city brings out my worst fears: Will I be loved? The skyscrapers look like fangs; every street looks like an opportunity to be mugged. But in truth, it’s not portents of crime or physical peril that have me ill at ease; it is my fear of slipping through the cracks, unloved, unnoticed.

But being in a brand new scary city is one thing; being home, when my dad is right downstairs, is another. And so I realized in part, my loneliness is fueled by simple and straight-up depression, that Scrooge of all Scrooges who manages to make you feel lonely even in a crowded room of people.

But it’s also this weird position I’m in, at the crossroads of two universes: I’m leaving behind Stanford to study in Paris with NYU kids. The thought of this is stirring up all new, but not so unfamiliar fears: Will I make friends? Who are my permanent friends?

On top of that, home is not the fixed place I had imagined it to be. My friends are heading back to college, or busy with jobs and serious boyfriends. People are heading in different directions, away from Connecticut, and I hardly know which way I’m heading. It’s all terribly disconcerting.

And so here I stand, in this wide deep ocean, without a lighthouse to calm me down. The future and now even the present, feel unsettled. Where and how does one find their anchor? When you veer from the handed-down K through college path, either by graduating or falling into an existential crisis like me, how do you go about getting back your sense of direction?

Ah, I don’t know. I wish I had the answer to this because if I did, I would write a self-help book and pitch it to Oprah, then sell it door-to-door until all the millions of people having existential crises could figure out the answer (which, alas, is not how existential crises work).

  • Sharon

    Thank you for sharing your confusion. I was in a similar place – no two persons’ existentialist crises can be the same, as you rightly pointed out – a little while ago. And I realised that the most tightly-tied knot in my heart was my lack of self-love. I noticed the self-criticising monologues that voices in my head could keep up constantly; I noticed how much I relied on social cues to figure out what to do – who could I please next? what were the social norms of success? I saw that I had been so good at doing what was socially ‘right’ – partly from the overbearing influence of my mother, whose approval I always sought for without consciously realising it – that I had no idea what I would do without those social signs. I realised that for myself I was seeking external affirmation because I had no internal sources of value. Then followed the slow, perhaps never-complete process of learning how to practice self-love. My process has at different points included meditation, a gratitude practice, exercise and nutrition, lots and lots of solitude, introspection and exploration, confiding in friends of the heart, and conscious experimentation to learn more about myself. Indeed, not the stuff of a self-help book; just somebody else who felt compelled to reply upon reading your column. Wishing you all the best in your next steps forward. Of course you’ll make friends! 🙂

  • introvert

    Thank you for writing this! As a fellow introvert, your experience resonates with me.