Little circles are okay, being lonely doesn’t have to be a negative.

Photo: Freddie Marriage

Sitting in a beautifully large screen, IMAX movie last night with an extra-large for-no-reason-even-though-I-ordered-a-small Coca-Cola, one single thought ran through my head: I’m out watching a movie alone, and don’t feel like a serial killer. I didn’t even attempt to call anyone and ask if they wanted to go see the movie with me. I was content.

I realized that I don’t need the social gratification of someone accompanying me, or holding my hand always, in experiences— and that’s okay. As time has gone on I’ve unintentionally cut down my circles to be tighter and smaller. It isn’t that I hate everybody, but maybe when you hit your thirties a realization occurs that everyone is on their own path. My path doesn’t lie in spending all night in the bar anymore. I’ve learned how those nights end. I’ve experienced the next morning repeatedly. I know that nothing gets accomplished while sitting around having beers and shots in the bar — unless you are working on the bar that you’re formulating big plans at (opportunity plug).

Hearing from friends and acquaintances through close talks about life the same recurring theme prevails: Loneliness. The fear of not having people to talk to, someone to celebrate a birthday with, or even someone to accompany them to the movie theater. Loneliness is a real feeling and it isn’t something to take lightly. However I’m only concerned with the “Why, do you feel lonely?” aspect.

Loneliness results from so many variants in a causality. Social media’s ability to create instant false gratification, a lack of hobbies or interests to keep busy, social anxieties, or even the fear of rejection. When friends speak to me about some of these issues my response is often quite simple: Stop over-reaching and breaking your back to create friendships. Friendships will happen organically. Furthermore, friendships are like the man or woman you will marry — there are few in the many that will share the same ideas or feelings you value.

Hobbies are important. Learning is important. Pick up a book and read by the window. Learn how to sew buttons back on or fix holes in the blanket. Make a new recipe you read in a cookbook. Discover the things you enjoy doing. Find a club that goes hiking, or taking photos together where you are able to bounce ideas and techniques of each other. I guarantee you will make real friends in the process, organically while having fun.

Over the years I’ve learned to: skateboard, snowboard, paint, write, collect, participate in the stock market, cook, build and fix, change car parts, take photos, edit videos, build websites, make cocktails and bartend, create graphics, learn radio broadcasting, became great at playing shooting video games, and more. Next week I’ll be learning how to make pasta from scratch and continue learning how to talk about my feelings with my girlfriend. (I don’t think there is ever an end to learning about that.)

The point is — be so busy in learning that you aren’t lonely. You’re content and feel there isn’t enough time in a day. Always constantly reach towards the next goal…and in the process, you’ll likely meet people that share those interests along the way.

Be weariful when opening social media while scrolling through a facade of happiness. The grass is always greener on the other side. The people smiling and holding each other have just as much struggle as you might be experiencing. No one posts photos of their tears and arguments, their regrets and dark moments. Everyone has something to work on and push past. Healing requires time and work. Becoming comfortable in your own skin requires time and work. Nothing is perfect.

There’s nothing wrong with a smaller circle. There’s nothing wrong with patiently working on an array of big ideas. There’s nothing wrong with having experiences alone. It’s normal.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

“Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely and scared. These feelings are normal reactions to life’s stressors. Most people feel low and sad at times. However, in the case of individuals who are diagnosed with depression as a psychiatric disorder, the manifestations of the low mood are much more severe and they tend to persist.
Depression occurs more often in women than men. Some differences in the manner in which the depressed mood manifests has been found based on sex and age. In men it manifests often as tiredness, irritability and anger. They may show more reckless behavior and abuse drugs and alcohol. They also tend to not recognize that they are depressed and fail to seek help. In women depression tends to manifest as sadness, worthlessness, and guilt. In younger children depression is more likely to manifest as school refusal, anxiety when separated from parents, and worry about parents dying. Depressed teenagers tend to be irritable, sulky, and get into trouble in school. They also frequently have co-morbid anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse. In older adults depression may manifest more subtly as they tend to be less likely to admit to feelings of sadness or grief and medical illnesses which are more common in this population also contributes or causes the depression.”

— Anxiety and Depression Association of America