I know how to be alone. As a third grader battling crippling shyness, I’d usually sink into a bean bag chair during recess time and read while my classmates played kickball outside. I felt somewhat safer being by myself; I lived on a separate and imagined plane, where there was no noise but the sound of words trickling through my brain.
This preference for solitude stayed with me years later; in college, my friends knew when I wanted to be alone. They understood that I’d want to stay in instead of going out. But they always invited me anyways—a gesture for which I was grateful.
Right now, I am lonely—and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve returned to Simon and Schuster, so it’s not an entirely new environment, but it’s apparent that I am new. People see me and ask if I’m an intern (of course, I can proudly say that I am not). The editorial assistants on my floor have worked together for awhile, so I sometimes feel like the outsider. I know that this loneliness will eventually fade into the occasional solitude, but I’d like to ponder how I perceive this isolation. Am I feeling this way because I am so separated from the familiar? The friends I saw every day are spread out and busy with their own lives. My parents are back in Cheshire—experiencing, for the first time, true empty-nest syndrome, because while my siblings and I returned home for school breaks, we will not return to Mayview Avenue, but to our own homes. I talked to my parents yesterday (they call all the time), and I couldn’t help but miss the sound of their voices.
I think I’m feeling uncomfortable because I am constantly aware of this loneliness. Loneliness comes with danger. After getting off the A train in Brooklyn, I have to walk about two blocks to get home, and I cannot deny feeling intimidated by the shadows and by the group of men lingering in the park across from my townhouse. I feel exposed.
Loneliness definitely creeps up on you in times of transition. I’m not at Fairfield U anymore. I’m not in Cheshire anymore. I’m not sure where I belong just yet. As I’ve told a friend, recent graduates have to essentially start over and find new places and friends—and friendship is much like an awkward dance. I’m the one wondering if I have two left feet. In these moments, I wish I could go back to junior and senior years, when I felt most at home.
But I also know that this feeling will eventually subside, and it’s up to me to make that happen.
I forget about myself when I keep busy. One day, I ached for something familiar—like my night-and-day blanket I’d had since childhood, like a bowl of my mother’s heartwarming phở–and I didn’t want to go home right after work, so I looked up things to do. I found a reading event at the Center for Fiction, and thought, “Why not?” I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and picked up a few books from the used bookstore (two dollars for paperback and four for hardcover!). I’m also working through my loneliness by writing, my scripturient habit that will never go away; after all, that’s how I started writing in the first place—conjuring make-believe characters and instilling some realness into them to comfort my lonely self.
I’ve also been open about my feelings. I used to think that loneliness needed to be inflicted. I guess it’s true if it results from alienation, which everyone has experienced once in their lifetime. However, you can also feel lonely if you dwell in your dark thoughts and think that you have no responsibility or no will to fight this loneliness.
Eager for familiarity, I reached out to people. I went to dinner with my sister one night and then had lunch with my friend Stephen who’s also working in Manhattan. I spoke to my best friend Ali on Google Hangout (she’s in Italy), and I instantly felt better upon seeing her face. I hung out with friends at a recent graduation party. I’m hoping to explore Brooklyn with a good friend this weekend.
I think it also helps to speak to someone who looks approachable—maybe just smile at them. I went to a Laundromat for the first time on Saturday, and was waiting for my clothes to dry. A Jamaican woman sitting next to me was rocking her adorable baby to sleep in the stroller. She looked at me.
First time here?
She must have seen how out of place I was.
Worked out though, didn’t it? She smiled.
In this small moment, I felt like we were lifelong friends.
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