Adulthood is The Loneliest Place
Why making room for what matters sucks.
By the time we’ve reached our 30s, most of us have acquired a certain amount of wisdom. If you’ve done it right, you’ve found the value of having a few friends in their 20s, allowing you to feel young and old at the same time. In your 20s, you get a pass on everything. Drinking too much, figuring things out, living at home, not renewing your license, racking up debt, etc. But as your birthdays creep towards 28 and 29, whether you like it or not, you are described as “well, he or she, is almost 30.”
I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing. I’m saying it like it’s a true thing.
So for sake of this essay, let’s say adulthood is roughly from ages 28 to 38. It’s a time in our lives where yes, we’re smarter. Yes, we’re more independent. Yes, we know more of who we are. But in working towards this assured sense of self, we reach a point where we look around and realize that we are only with ourselves. I think this happens for a few reasons:
Ageing Family Members
Whomever took care of you growing up, whether it’s your parents or another family member, you reach a point where they are no longer able to care for you in the same way. The roles reverse. As your guardians begin to age and get sick, though it may be a gradual change, it’s rarely subtle.
By this time, you’ve probably found something you’re good at that makes money. If you’re lucky and found a job you also love, you’ve worked hard and long enough to know that even in this fortunate circumstance, a career can only offer so much fulfillment.
Your Friends are Busy
We’re all busy. On the less-often-than-you’d-like occasions that you do see your friends, you want to have fun. You want to go to happy hour. You want to see a movie, watch a Mexican wrestling match, or try a new restaurant. You want to relax. You don’t want to talk about your ageing family members and your unfulfilling career.
You’ve Loved and Lost
If you’re in a relationship, new or old, you’ve lived with yourself long enough to know that despite loving another person, you’re still stuck with you. Your issues, your questions, your deal. Even having a spouse doesn’t mean you don’t have to stick out problems alone once in a while. What if the problem isyour spouse? And if you’re single, God help you.
And You’ve Lost Friends
In growing up, we grow apart. Interests change, people move, it happens. Sometimes it happens naturally and other times it’s intentional. With self-knowledge, you know which people are toxic, and which ones simply do not benefit you. This is due to having less time, which makes it more precious. It’s important now more than ever to spend free time with those who are a plus in your life. It’s a literal process of elimination. Eliminating the neutral/negative friends and meeting/befriending the right ones.
It’s fun. And sometimes sparkly. But things are things and you’re now aware of the certain joy a long-desired purchase brings.
My hope is that as we approach 40 and beyond, we’ve spent enough time in solitude to begin filling the empty spaces with more worthwhile experiences and relationships. Ones that support the true sense of self we’ve spent so long getting to know by way of this sobering, sad, definitely a hard-ass teacher called loneliness.