When was the last time you heard someone say ‘I’m lonely’? You just don’t hear it do you, but from various conversations I’ve had about this over the last few years, everyone gets lonely. Humans as a species are made to live in groups, we’re not solitary creatures and it goes against our nature to live in such a manner. As with everything there’s an exception to every rule and there are some people who live completely solitary lifestyles and if that suits them, that’s fine by me. I’m not here to say they shouldn’t live like that at all, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else enjoys being alone.
This post isn’t a ‘here’s how to overcome loneliness’ or ’10 tips for making friends as an adult’, its just and admittance that it’s hard and a way for me to get my feelings out because I don’t have the answers. If this post does however encourage one other person to be a little less embarrassed about feeling lonely, then the post has achieved something it’s not really setting out to do, but it’s definitely a positive step. There’s no real conclusion to this ‘brain dump’.
I don’t know if it’s having spent a lot more of the last couple of weeks at home or just because I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps and being harboured by a cold, but I’m going to be open and honest and say I’m lonely.
I’ve always had a sense of this feeling since moving to London and no longer living anywhere near my other friends or family, it was a sacrifice we had to make when we moved here and everyone said the phrase I’m coming to loathe as an adult ‘it’s ok, you’ll make new friends’.
It’s actually really hard to make friends as an adult. You’re not forced into spending whole periods of time with people in large numbers where you can fathom out who your people are in the way you are at school, college or University. You do have some opportunities in the work place and work friends are great, some of them become the kind of people where you drop the ‘work’ bit and they truly become your friends. The ones you’ll go out of your way to stay in contact with when you or they move on from the company, the ones you actually want to spend lots of time with outside of the work environment, but it takes a lot longer for these friendships to form in my experience because at work you actually have to y’know, get on with your job.
As a younger child, when you start to make friends you’re less aware of the pressures of society to make friends, you just find people who’ll play with you nicely and make you laugh and then I don’t even know how it happens, I can’t remember that far back, but you become friends. As you get older as a child you have more awareness around you of ‘will they like me?’ as you make friends. I was very fortunate not to move as a child, and therefore only had to go to a new school once and do the whole ‘making friends’ thing between Primary and Secondary school. I remember it being a bit horrendous at first but everyone was in the same boat and at least some of the people you’re there with you know from Primary School. I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to move schools or house when you’re a child and have to go through the process on your own, but I’m sure I’d have founded it harder the older I was.
When you’re at Uni/College, you’re still in that semi-forced environment where you make friends with the people on your course or that you live with, it’s not all roses and ponies as inevitably there are people that you really won’t get along with but again, in the large concentration of people, you find some to call your friends, often the friends you carry with you for the rest of your life.
After that, you’re on you’re own and it’s not something I personally was really that well prepared for. The best Summer of mine by far was 2013. For various reasons, it was actually quite shit. I had major surgery and the family suffered a terrible tragedy, but in the blur of emotion that it brought with it, the Summer of 2013 had one constant. My best friend Sammi being at my side pretty much through it all. She lived round the corner and if I needed her, she was there. We had the time and opportunity to go on trips together and just spend lots of quality time together and that’s why it was actually great, she made it great even when it was all a bit shit.
Sammi now lives 130 miles away, it’s a bit hard to say ‘come round in 10? I have wine and I need a hug!’ or ‘meet me at the pub in 15, I have big news!’ these days. Real life gets in the way and you have to plan that stuff. It’s quite frankly, not the same.
Back to the friends I’ve made here. They’re wonderful, they really are. I’ve made some great friends down in London but we all have our own lives and we’ve not known each other *that* long in the grand scheme of things. This is a really hard paragraph to write because I absolutely don’t want to discredit them in any way, I think the world of them but everything that I’m about to write I would imagine that they share similar sentiments with.
They don’t know the things that my few really close friends know, they haven’t known me for the majority of my life to have learned all the things that my very closest friends know. We’ve seen each other broadly, at our best, when we’re enjoying drinks after work or nights out. Not when we’re on the sofa, drinking wine and having a really deep chat with someone we’ve known for over a decade. We’ve talked about the good and the bad parts of life and commiserated and celebrated life’s wins and pitfalls together but because we’ve only known each other a shorter time, we’re not at the ‘come now I need a cry’ level yet. I’m sure that these people will become my closest in my tribe and I know that if I needed help, they’d offer it, but I also respect that they have their lives to lead and their closest friends are the people they’ve know for a lot longer too, there’s an understanding there.
Having opportunities to make friends as an adult are quite limited mainly with time. Outside of work you’re not forced into meeting new people you have to actively seek it. Before anyone thinks ‘oh she’s such a snowflake, she can’t go out and make friends she needs it doing for her’. It’s really not that, it’s a bit of a sense of not knowing where to start and most importantly having the confidence to do so. There are quite a few barriers based on the time you have and the money you have. I was for a while a member of a networking/friendship group here in London called Thinking Bob. The premise is brilliant, you sign up to all sorts of events from board games nights to dinners to events to, literally all sorts, with a view to going out and making friends, but it relies on having time and money, something that we don’t all necessarily have in spades. To allow the whole network to run, you have to pay a subscription and then often pay for the events too. The money is to cover costs which I totally get, but if you haven’t got the money there to go to things regularly, then you’re not making these friendships and meeting these people.
Starting new hobbies or trying to pick up old ones is hard when you move away from home. It actually takes a lot of confidence, often more than we give ourselves or others credit for, to go to a new place, take up and new hobby or an old hobby in a new place and step forwards and introduce yourself to all these new people. Gone are the days where you’re aged 5, sharing toys and one of you asks the other ‘will you be my friend?’. You have to navigate the social waters of small talk, finding out their likes and dislikes, their opinions and beliefs and it takes an awful lot longer to work out if these people are the ones you’re going to be really good friends with. Sometimes they turn out to be a bit of a dick straight away and you can move on, but you get the idea.
I’m forever grateful for the Sealed Knot, my battle re-enactment hobby. It’s a funny hobby (not just because of what it actually is) but because the nature of events means you can actually meet people and become very good friends quite quickly. You’re kinda ‘trapped’ in a way, in a field with other people who get to see you at your ‘afternoon in the sun with a cider’ best and your ‘3am, too much gin, ugly crying in a camp chair’ worst all in the same weekend. You see people at their best and their worst almost straight away and it kind of draws you together and forges the deeper levels of friendships quicker than in a lot of other situations.
I think that’s the difference between making friends there and making friends elsewhere, it takes a lot longer when you make friends elsewhere to get to the point that people see you at your worst, which is where the next level of friendship forms. Most of the time it’s once a week/fortnight/month where you’re by and large in an environment that’s pleasant and where you hold it together, not where you have the opportunity for ‘3am ugly crying’ or other equal displays of vulnerability and emotion.
Also, if I’m honest, I need some time at home. It’s hard to try and forge new friendships when you’re balancing work/social activities/home life. There’s only so much time I can dedicate each week to making new friends down here or nourishing relatively new friendships. I still need time to come home and do boring things like make dinners and do the washing, much as I would rather spend that time getting to know my friends down here better so that I didn’t feel so lonely.
I know I have the fortune of having moved to London with someone, it’s something I am very grateful for, but Aidan’s often at work when I’m at home and vise-versa. Coming home to an empty house multiple days in a row quite frankly, sucks. It’s not nice and I’m not going to pretend it is. I put a brave face on it but 3 years of shift work it’s hard and I’m not going to lie and say it’s all fine when it’s not. It’s not ‘not fine’ all of the time, you carry on, but some of the time it gets to you and you just long for the days when you come home to a house with someone there more often than not, or failing that someone round the corner. I have a lot of respect for those who live alone or those who’s partners work away for longer periods of time. I don’t know how you do it. Well I do, you put it to the back of your mind and carry on, but that doesn’t make it easy.
I don’t have anyone where I am now who’s round the corner like Sammi was in 2013 and I think that’s what I miss most. My closest friend who I know well enough to just say ‘wanna come and sit on the sofa and drink wine and talk about whatever for the evening?’ lives over an hour away on the other side of the city, we still have to make even a vague plan of spending time with each other to fit in around busy schedules and the fact you need more than an hour just to get there. London’s a big place and even with making new friends, you’re really bloody lucky if they end up being just round the corner. Trying to fit into a new community and make friends just isn’t an easy thing and it shouldn’t be such a big deal to admit it. It also shouldn’t be looked down upon as a failure or attention seeking in any way. It’s just the way it is.
I have Anxiety that was diagnosed a few years ago and have talked about that in the past semi-openly with people. Contrary to the misconception that everyone with anxiety wants to hide away from people, I actually hate being on my own. I get panicky about not having anyone with me and I learn to overcome that to manage it but it doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I like some time on my own some of the time, don’t get me wrong, but definitely not as much as a lot of people do and I would far prefer to be with people than away from them, any day of the week.
I’m not really sure where this post is going, nowhere really, it’s just me using my blog for it’s main purpose, to write my feelings down so I can understand them better, so they’re not just swirling round and round in my brain making me feel worse and worse. I’m also not expecting anything from this post, I’m not writing it for sympathy or anything like that, just to be honest with myself and allow myself to realise that feeling negative feelings isn’t a bad thing; you need to feel them to understand them and process them and work out how to deal with them. I’ll be fine, overall, I always am. I’ll have these lower moments where I feel a bit shit about things but then I pull myself together and keep on keeping on.
But I’m not going to let myself think that being lonely is a bad thing, I also know that I’m not the only one. I’ve had conversations about this with various people from various age demographics, it’s not a ‘millennial’ thing or just something consigned to those who are older and can’t get out as much or whatever. The one commonality of these conversations is that there’s usually been alcohol involved. Not to the level where the conversations are then something of an alteration of reality and people not really having any comprehension. But enough alcohol for someone to admit loneliness, which they probably wouldn’t do if they were sober and this was a conversation of acquaintances, by people who are trying to show they’ve got their shit together. My point is, it’s not openly talked about and I kinda think maybe it should be. It’s not just a reflection on your character or anything like that, it’s just an admittance of a feeling and that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing.