The Loneliness of the Long Distance Nobody
I was at a concert recently. No prizes for guessing who, unless you think I’d put up a random photo just to fox you. (You’re wondering if I actually did that now, aren’t you?)
It was a fantastic show, a great atmosphere (despite my continued reservations about the venue being any good for live music) and everyone had fun. I left with a smile on my face — or, at least, I should have.
Y’see, I attended alone. I drank my overpriced beer alone. I bought two tour t-shirts alone. I nodded my head and shuffled my feet alone. Then I walked home alone.
I should have joined the taxi queue and been distracted by the hubbub of happy music lovers. I’d have been home quicker, asleep sooner and my brain probably wouldn’t have started with all this bullshit.
But the night air was pleasant and the queue was long, so I walked home.
I thought back to trying to find somewhere to stand to drink my beer, keeping out of everyone else’s way. I thought about how easily displaced I was in the crowd when others pushed through for a better view. I thought about how I had no one with which to share the memory of the show (a colleague was there but I didn’t see him).
I’m not sure when it actually hit me, but it hit hard — I am incredibly lonely right now.
The story of how I reached this point is long — stretching back to lunch breaks at my first school at least, possibly even to playschool (kindergarten, for those uninitiated in old English ways).
At that first school, I was never invited to join other groups of kids playing war or football or Star Wars (the one time I was allowed to join a Star Wars game, I was made a stormtrooper and killed off quickly). I used to spend the time walking around the playground, sometimes pretending to drive a car, but always alone.
Cue many intervening years spent getting by on the outside edge of every group of classmates and colleagues, leading eventually to a solitary figure walking home from a gig and about to have his first ever real crisis of confidence.
I realised that I have no real friends — not one. I still occasionally interact with a couple of people from school via social media, but these are relatively rare occurrences. I don’t socialise with colleagues that often. Even when we do go out, I am the quietest by a wide margin.
Romantic relationships are different in that there was an inherent closeness whilst we were together, though that naturally dissipated after the break ups.
My family lives a good five hour drive away and I don’t have as much time as I would like to visit them. We keep in touch by phone regularly, but sometimes a good chat and a hug from mum is exactly what is needed.
So what did I do when confronted with this overwhelming loneliness that came crashing into me seemingly from out of nowhere? I did the only thing any sensible, right-thinking person would…
I shut myself off from everyone.
No, I don’t really get it either.
I tried to occupy my thoughts with things that needed done and managed to actually tick a few things off the list. I also offered support to folk on TalkLife where I could, but I wasn’t really any good at it. I wasn’t feeling it.
Where am I now?
Well, I’m still beset with a sense of loneliness and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. Circumstances dictate this. But I have started speaking to people again, particularly those closest to me — a mixture of guilt and stupid also merging with the lonely as I do so.
I wish there was a happy ending to this post, but I think that’s a way off yet. Like everything else, time and effort are needed. At least I know what the warning signs are now and hopefully I’ll not make the same mistake again.