Somebody asked me the other day if I was lonely and I nearly fell off my chair. I have not been lonely since I was a soppy, 14-year-old emo trying to figure out my place in the world, back when the feeling of misunderstanding felt terminal and heavy eye-liner was the only accessible medication. Back to the present day, though, am I alone? Yes. Am I lonely? Never. What a pointless waste of time. The absurd accusation that a person would be lonely because they don’t have a partner is about as robust as the assumption that all gay guys are “faaaaaaaabulous” and all pretty girls are dumb. Certainly, there will be instances of each but if you think it’s a blanket rule then you need to get out more.
To the young and carefree loneliness can be a bit like mould: if you’re complacent it can creep in and before you know it you’re sprouting mushrooms out of your shower grout. Much like the hygiene issues in your bathroom, you can’t trust other people to come along and clean up your mess. It’s you’re responsibility now and (I sincerely hope) your mum’s not going to come around save you. Roll up your sleeves, grab the bleach and take care of it like an adult, because – like cleaning the bathroom – the more regularly address it the easier it is to manage.
In a world where we are constantly attached to smart phones it can be easy to dilute friendships down to reciprocal post-liking or regular photo comments. Shout out to my Instagram bffs from around the globe with whom I share a magical double-tapping, girl-crushing, like-for-like commitment. I am here for you babe, and if you’re really struggling with that selfie I promise to like it across all three of my Instagram accounts – until death do us part. That being said it’s common in this day and age to let too many friends drift away from the physical world and get sucked into the digital vortex. Because of this, loneliness can catch you by surprise: while everyone else is driven mad by your loud, bragging message notification tone, you fail to realise the real-life organic relationships you once had are stale or rotting. Sure, I get a kick from pulling in mad stats on my latest highly filtered, artistic, over-exposed masterpiece (‘WOOHOO 100 likes…. Don’t touch me Bitch, I’m famous’) but that doesn’t take away my need for physical contact. I want to see your facial expression, read your body language – even smell your BO if I must. Nothing will ever replace the warmth of a whole-hearted laugh or the tingle of a rib-squishing hug. Thinking that social media ‘connectedness’ can cure isolation is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound – it’s just not going to stick.
If you’re a capable young adult the difference between being lonely and being alone is choice. I chose to be alone but nobody wakes up in the morning and chooses to be lonely. If I wanted a relationship I’m sure I could find one. There’s a plethora of delightful gents out there who might just be up for the challenge (Wanted: tall, dark and handsome… or tall, blonde and handsome… Or tall and handsome… Ok, ok. Just handsome will do). I chose to be alone because at this stage there isn’t an offer on the table that would justify rearranging my over-flowing calendar of commitments. With work, study, fitness, friendship, writing and my demanding hair-washing routine I am not willing to compromise my lifestyle for the sake of having someone to constantly harass me via text. So until the male cast of Vampire Diaries comes knocking down my door I’m more than happy to just keep doing my thing.
Loneliness happens when you stop proactively filling up your life with awesome things and waste your time moping that the man or woman of your dreams hasn’t tracked you down and put a ring on it yet. God knows why. Maybe they are too busy out living their own exciting, fulfilling lives to waste time trawling through Tinder profiles, Mutual Friends and Instagram galleries chasing you. The reality is you’re not going to get swept of your feet if you spend the majority of your time alone on the couch. I’m not saying you should sign up for insincere activities in the hopes of meeting someone, because that probably won’t work either. Trust me; a happy person can smell desperation like a shark can smell blood in the water. Only they won’t be creeping up on you like Jaws, they will be running for the hills in case you’re contagious. There is nothing less attractive than a stage-five clinger who has no real life, friends or interests of their own. You don’t want to be that guy and you definitely don’t want to be with that guy so always carry salt.
Finding someone won’t necessarily cure your loneliness anyway. Personally, I’m more likely to feel alone when I’m in a relationship that’s constantly letting me down than when I am in a committed relationship with myself. I know what I like, I manage my own expectations, I never have to fight over what movie to watch, I don’t have to shave my legs every day and I’m free to be as ugly as I like without judgement. If all of that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.
In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “if you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.’ If you can accept your flaws and embrace your strengths you can do away with the need for the continual reinforcement sought in a relationship. Put down the i-solation-Phone and make an ongoing commitment to your friendships and making life as full and rewarding as possible. You don’t need to settle for Joe-Blow, or worse, become boring old barnacle joy-riding on someone else’s life. Concentrate on yourself and it won’t matter if you have someone or not because you will be kicking life’s butt regardless.
Bottom line: You never have to be lonely if you can be comfortable being alone.
(Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)