Lessons in Loneliness
The hardest lesson to learn is learning to be alone.
I woke up on my 25th birthday in a bed that did not belong to me, next to a friend who still believed in kindness. I opened Spotify and played Selena Gomez’s ‘Birthday’. I was drunk with excitement. But really, I was just drunk, still from the night before.
I was excited for 25 because to me, 25 meant so many things. It meant I could finally write listicles using all my sage wisdom and knowledge I’ve earned thus far. It meant marriage, children, stability, a family, a home, a sense of belonging. 25 was supposed to be the year I came into my self. It’s supposed to be a year of laughter, drunken uber rides with your friends, new traditions, warm hearts, and most of all: love.
My friend and I drove down to Laguna Beach to enjoy a birthday brunch on the beach, like some God damn Dr. Seuss book. But life’s lessons always seemed much easier to digest in rhyme.
My friend, the one who took me to brunch on the beach, well her birthday fell on the day American gained its independence and well, my birthday fell on the day America lost hers. Today was 9/11, and I was turning 25.
My friend came down because my Father was in Kentucky and my Mother was caring for her dying Mother in Arizona.
My friend was determined to make sure I wouldn’t be alone, despite my bitter protests. It’s interesting how your real friends, I mean the people who truly care for you,
don’t give a damn about what you want because they give a damn about what you need.
Anyway, I sat there, in my Grateful Dead inspired Pug-tee. The one that I paid way too much money for, wearing knee high socks and leather block-heeled booties. My outfit didn’t make sense at the time, but neither did my life. We sat and pondered the safety of a baby passed out in a tent like a drunken spring breaker who’s friends drunkenly stowed away for safe keeping. In between innocent snickers they would promise to return for their passed out friend before stumbling back to the hotel.
Eventually, another birthday girl came in, she had balloons and a family. Lots of family with her. And I leaned over to my friend and I said, jokingly, “there can only be one”.
And for a moment the tension of my personal reality lightened up.
After drunch, I insisted on going to the mall to buy a new dress because every birthday girl should have a new dress. I was shopping for a date later that evening; a play a man I had met on Tinder wanted to take me to. The show would end up being cancelled due to an actor literally breaking a leg. I would eventually tell my date the curse is almost over, but not before the blood curling scream and crunch of metal beat me to it. A woman had been T-boned.
I never bothered to find out. This day would not continue to be marred by death. This day was about me. This was the day I turned 25.
25 was an interesting year, marked mostly by loneliness. In a therapy session, Dr. Michael would ask me, “how many people do you talk to in a day?” Chipper and overly enthusiastic I’d reply, “lots” and he’d clarify, “not behind a screen. I mean in real life.”
I was embarrassed.
Embarrassed to admit that most days, it was zero. Some days I never even spoke aloud at all. On those days, I would wonder if my voice still even worked at all. As a person who is embarrassed and marred by the stigma that is ‘loser-dome’, I lied. “Oh, I don’t know, I guess average…2 maybe 6.” When in reality, my average was 1. “and how many have you interacted with today?” Confidently, maybe too confidently, I replied aloud, “2”. Well I wasn’t lying then.
In fact, I interacted with Jose, the man who parked my car and, well, Dr. Michael.
Eventually my loneliness would be temporarily curbed by a job that I loved dearly for many reasons. It allowed me to travel on the weekends and I no longer had to exaggerate my real life with fluff plans. Work would become my salvation and I loved it for that. After a long weekend of traveling, there was nothing more that I wanted to do than just be a fucking loaf. To just sit in my bed and ~relax~.
What’s crazy is how sitting in your bed for a week after traveling all weekend is totally justifiable; but sitting in your bed all week not having a “real” excuse like work or illness is totally depression. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t have an answer.
What’s even more crazy is how content I grew into this loneliness. It became me and I became it. The rare occasions I did bring myself to go out and interact with others, I could feel myself sucking the life out of the room and
I couldn’t stop.
I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to suck every ounce of life out of that room so that when people left me, they left me for good. So I could be left to my own devices. My own accord.
In Kentucky I enjoyed seeing movies alone, dining alone, drinking at the bar alone. But the difference between my self-imposed social isolation in Kentucky than in California was that I had no other choice. In California, in Irvine, I wasn’t ‘choosing’ to see a movie alone. I fucking had to. The things I once used to love to do alone began to feel more like an obligation rather than a sweet escape from my bustling social life. But even when I did do things with others, I felt that suffocating feeling one gets. I’d open my mouth, but nothing came out. I tilted my head to the side, but I couldn’t hear any better.
I was a shell of lonely, grown from a seed that was planted by sadness.
I was living in vacuum.
25 was supposed to be a big. A year full of warm, sweet, and loving lessons and messages. It was supposed to be a year where I, and the rest of my girl gang, stumble through adulthood like drunken teens in heels for the first time. Lifting each other up each time one of us falls.
But the only lesson I felt like I was learning was how to be content in my sadness. Content in being lonely. Perhaps that’s a warm message in myself — in itself. But here’s what I learned about what happens when I become content in my sadness.
· I stop brushing my teeth
· I stop doing my hair
· I let my skin run rampant with break outs
· I stop eating healthy
· I stop eating at all
· I let my dirty clothes pile high and I let my dogs urinate on them and I don’t reprimand them.
· I stop bathing regularly
· I wake up every night at 2 AM
· I sleep until 11 AM
· I cant get out of bed without a mental pep talk of how “worthy” and “deserving” I am of having a great day.
· I contemplate the logistics of suicide.
· I remember I don’t know how to use a gun.
· I contemplate if I should inform Dr. Michael of my plans.
· I remember I don’t even have a plan.
· I thank my dogs for being alive because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be either.
· I check instagram
25 was supposed to be a lot of things. Which surmounted to both nothing and a lot of other things.
But the biggest thing is this: look, if you get so hung up on were you aren’t, you’re going to miss out on where you are.
And I realized where I was really wasn’t so bad.
I brushed my teeth today. I did my laundry. I made my bed. I ate.