Emilie thanks for sharing this. Loneliness has been on my mind a lot. I am at the age where I still feel young, yet at the same time see old age inevitably approaching. That whole sense of invincibility youth phase is definitely over. This makes me highly motivated to find connection. Yet I am at a loss on how to do so.
I work with disadvantaged groups and I’ve noticed a pattern that may partly explain why loneliness is so hard to overcome. I have noticed that disadvantaged groups often have a hard time with trust. Not the naïve type of trust that scam artists take advantage of. I’m talking about the type of trust that allows you to not feel as if you got to hold back. I notice this in myself. For example, when I first meet someone I am always on edge, as if I’m expecting to be attacked. So, I always hold back and carefully observe for the first signs of trouble. The reaction is due to past negative experiences where I was deeply hurt by others. But I am now beginning to realize that this defense mechanism is actually hurting me rather than protecting me.
Hopefully, I can find a way to overcome that tendency. Through my work I’ve gotten a taste of what it is like to introduce the human element in the equation. In my government position I work with the public frequently. When I first started my job I dealt with the public primarily through email. It was more efficient than having to spend time on the phone. Or so I thought. In reality, email never worked very well. Now matter what I wrote, my instructions were never clear enough. People would become confused, even angry from thinking I was accusing them of something.
Well one day I decided to run a little experiment. Rather than explain things over email, I decided to call people before sending any email. Although this may seem like a small change, it in fact completely changed everything. Instead of confusing or angering people, the process became a positive experience. I really enjoy calling people up and explaining the regulations over the phone. People are really appreciative. It’s improved my decision making, allowing me to collect the right facts to make correct decisions. I even get a kick out of how shocked people are that a government agent is contacting them within a week from when they submitted their application. My simple change humanized what was once a sterile, bureaucratic process.
I hope that one day my personal life can reflect the moments of empathy I feel at my job. I think that the way technology is evolving is in fact doing us great harm. What we need to do is to get back to basics. Inject a little humanity into our lives.
Anyway, thanks for writing.