I’m sure you won’t have time to read this because there a thousands Tweets & Facebook posts also yelling at you. Apps, news, sports scores, TV shows. So maybe I’ll just write this for myself. I need an outlet…the kind of outlet that’s usually friends or significant others. I don’t have a significant other right now and my once large empire of friends has faded into acquaintances except for about two and they are probably sick to death of my rambling. I hope that writing this might be a help to some people in the vein of “#mynotsoperfectlife”. Which is to say that, others who feel this weird effect from social media in which the constant barrage of other’s achievements & happiness seem to suck the joy out of your life because, naturally there are less posts about hum-drum day-to-day stuff and sad/unhappy/depressing parts of life (& even when they are posted, they don’t have the effect of helping us see we’re all in a mess punctuated by happiness like they should)
The very fact that I don’t have anyone to vent to is the problem. Loneliness. Infinite, echoing, dead loneliness.
Philosophy of Loneliness
For some reason my life often seems to gravitate toward isolation most of the time. I’m going talk about the probable causes of this later. Sometime in 2004 I was living alone in a one bedroom apartment. I remember wanting to learn to play my guitar really bad but struggling with motivation because I didn’t know anyone on my skill level to play with and there was no around to hear or comment or enjoy anything I came up with to play.
During that time I remember sitting on my bed with my acoustic guitar & writing a song about my loneliness (I might have it written down somewhere). As with many of my philosophical thoughts I don’t know how theologically accurate it was, but I had an idea about loneliness & sang about it. It had something to do with finally understanding why my loneliness affected me so deeply and seemed to be paramount in all that I face in life. If the reason for my existence is to be in a relationship with God, then being away from Him in anyway would be the opposite of all that is good and right. I’m still trying to figure all this out & reconcile it with scripture, but I think humanity is like a 2nd tier of relationship that God wants for us so that we can, in earthly ways, better understand our need for Him. It makes sense to me (again, I’m not a theologian & could be completely wrong) that hell is not a torture chamber that God invented to punish people for sin, but rather (as CS Lewis explains in The Problem of Pain) it is the consequence of willingly walking away from God. If He is all that is good and right, like a bonfire in the middle of the arctic, then walking away from Him would cause us to wither & die; to grow cold. It would be torture and result in the “gnashing of teeth”, but it would be because we refused to repent & walk toward God and His ways.
I had this weird thought yesterday…and this just my imagination, not what I actually believe; but as I left my lonely house & went for a solo bike ride and I saw kids, families, people together, I thought, what if in a previous life I had rejected God & judgement day was erased from my memory but here I am in the hell that I deserve: walking the planet in isolation yet being able to constantly see a Facebook feed of friends getting engaged, married and having babies – forever. Forever I shall be here on earth wanting…wanting SO bad to be in a relationship, to have a family, and coming so close so many times and everyday seeing the mirage of opportunity on a distant horizon only to have it shimmer away in the atmospheric haze when I try to pursue it?
So that’s my philosophy on loneliness, that is is one of the most aching psychological pains we can experience as humans, because it is the opposite of what we were created for. We all experience it from time to time in all walks of life and at all ages. It’s even possible to feel alone in a crowd or with a spouse because relationship is way beyond just physical presence. I know I’m not the only one going through what I am now, but my particular brand of isolation seems to be extremely rare. Maybe I’m just really self-focused but I feel not only alone but alone in my loneliness.
It’s weird, I feel foolish even complaining about loneliness when there are a few things I could do to eliminate my loneliness and that’s what I want to talk about next.
Causes of My Isolation
When you’re alone and hate it as much as I do, you analyze it to try & find why you’re lonely and what you can do to get out.
I’m lonely in these main areas:
1) Home: I live alone
2) Work: I work a 5 day week where all of my co-workers only work 4. Also my office is in a far back corner of the building away from the main office core. There are two others guys that work with me but I would say they’re only in their offices 50% of the time I’m in mine.
3) Going out
So looking at number one, home. After living in that apartment alone in 03 – 04 I swore I’d never live alone again because I hated it so much. After that was the Skyler house where I lived with several roommates and had some of the best times of my life. The Skyler house was really good for me, I think…it got my mind off of singleness and I was really enjoying just doing stuff with friends – stuff you probably couldn’t/wouldn’t do once you’re married. It seemed like a good segway or “holdover” until I found a wife. But once again life went ways I didn’t expect. A couple of failed relationships, roommates moving away or moving on left me not with friends but in an unprecedented (in my life & anyone I knew) awkward situation that left me feeling strange, inadequate and alienated ; the Skyler house had expired for me and was waiting for me to move on.
What do you do in this situation? No one really knows because everyone’s married by now. I chose to buy a house because it’s a good investment & better the sooner you do it even though I wanted, hoped and dreamed of doing that with my life partner. I planned for a couple of buddies to move in with me at the start, but that fell through and once again I found myself living alone. For reasons too numerous to mention here I bought a house that is “far away”..by some people’s standards anyway….. I’m always told I’m too picky and always wanting my cake & to eat it too and so I knew I’d have to let go of SOMETHING I wanted in a house. Well the one thing I chose to let go of, location, turned out to probably be the worst thing for my loneliness. You don’t realize how proximity can quickly isolate you from people. You don’t realize how much of social activity stems from the accidental hang-outs, the “let’s just go my place & hang out” rather than the planned parties or barbecues and nobody’s gonna just drop-in when you’re “way out there”.
“So get some roommates, ya idiot!” you cry. Well I probably should…but I know I’d be more than a little uncomfortable with strangers and my pool of single friends who need a place is almost non-existent…but I probably could do that. I just feel like the roommate lifestyle is step backwards. I want and am so ready to move on from that. If I were engaged or even seriously dating someone right now you’d probably agree with me. But this strange prolonging of singleness is what warps everything. It’s just so..weird, unnatural…unheard of…that I have no pattern to look to. The first thing you will see an engaged girl post on Facebook after her finger with the ring is “so where do I find a good wedding photographer?” or “where’s a good place for us to get married?” or the new parents will ask “what kind of car seat should we buy?” because there are patterns in life. Things everyone does and you can asked for advice and help. But when you’re treading through uncharted sea, no one knows what to tell you. Or when they do give advice, it’s from the outside looking in – it’s not from experience (more on this later).
Bottom line, in my home life I don’t know what I’m supposed to or should do. I know what I want, but don’t know if or when it will ever come. “Learn how to be content in your singleness” the married person will tell you (all the while straining their brain to remember the few short years post high school that they were actually single.) Singleness is a different game in your mid to late 20’s; still another in your 30’s.
Number two has been a subtle sneaking up of loneliness: my work situation. When I started here I was, because of my age, a part of group on staff of “Young Adults” as well as the Communication Department. In both areas people have left, staff has downsized & shifted, offices have moved, hours have been cut. You would think with all the shuffling that there would only be change; where one person disappeared another would take their place. This hasn’t been the case though, it seems whenever someone has left, there is just a hole where they were. One by one until it feels sometimes like I work in a giant empty building. I have enough work, usually, to stay at my computer constantly all day. In a way I like that…I hate wasting time & feeling maybe my job isn’t really needed and like to stay busy, it’s just my work ethic. But this also cuts off any chance meetings with people in the halls or their offices or random people that come into the building. There are meetings throughout the week and its funny because we all hate meetings & there seems to be too many of them and we complain about them, but I actually look forward to them because its the only time in my week where I interact with people. Several of them I could probably be excused from, but that means another hour at my computer….
Lastly, “Going Out”. Things seem to have come full circle but landing on a bad part of the circle right now. When I moved to Grand Junction for college in 1998 I knew no one. I made all my friends from “scratch” in the dorms, but they all went home for summer after that year. That was my first taste of paralyzing loneliness. I got an apartment that my brother would join me in the following year and I remember that summer thinking over & over “what do you do when you’re all alone?”. I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere and do anything, but I had nothing to go off of. I only knew my co-workers at Arby’s and most of them were on work release or a lot older than me. I kept thinking something would happen, that I would sort of be funneled into something & meet people. But as the summer wore on I realized it would take me being proactive. So then I thought, well I guess I just need to go out…to restaurants or stores or something. Do you know how weird it feels to go into a place alone? I guess some people enjoy this, but I feel like a fish out of water (especially at a bar).
My freshman year I finally began to build some deeper friendships through the on-campus ministries I was involved in. So many great memories were made with that group of friends and some roots grew so deep that the prospect of ever leaving here seemed unthinkable. Over the years the friend groups morphed into others but I always felt like I was building a larger base of friends more than just changing friends. I seemed to have lots of connections and opportunities. I helped start community activities like “the Bike Gang”, threw huge BBQs and parties at mine & my roommates’ house, led a growing and thriving Bible Study as well as attended one, was at the core of The Door (my church’s young adult service) and was part of the team that launched Kaleo (out of the Door). It’s always hard to pinpoint when things start coming apart, but it seems like right around when I broke up with my girlfriend, that was when my Bible Study dwindled to nothing, other friends got married and moved away and worst of all, one of my closest friends moved to Denver and the other one…let’s just say he “ejected” himself from life at the time. I guess it was roughly the summer of 2010 when the pieces of my life seemed to drift apart like melting ice caps in the Arctic. Because of living alone, I once again find myself where I was the summer of ’99 and then the summer of ’04: almost no group of friends and trying to figure out how a single guy is even supposed to be anywhere. Only it’s harder this time around…I’m older. Even more friends have gotten married and moved away. If one friend is working that leaves me with only one “wingman” to hang out with.
Where do you go when you’re all alone? I want my friends and my future wife to be from church. .. *sigh* but I don’t know where they all went.
….to be continued