Struggling with loneliness? Here’s one reason you might be.
This morning, I read an article on Linkedin about loneliness and its impact on workplace productivity. The argument was that the lonelier people feel in their personal lives, the more disengaged and unconnected they are at work. It’s amazing how many avenues we have today to connect with people new and old, yet statistics show that somehow we have fewer social connections than ever before.
I have had my moments, too. The year after I graduated from University, during the mandatory Youth Corps service was the worst I had ever experienced. I was drafted to teach at a school in Jos, Plateau state of Nigeria.
All (and I mean all) my friends were are least 30 minutes away. That might sound really close, but it meant paying the taxi fare every time I had to see them. And because I was the only one amongst my friends in the middle of nowhere, practically no one came to say see me in my little room. My constant companions were my elderly landlady, a cassette tape (google it, young’uns) of King’s Praise and an Audio CD of Femi Jacob’s Music.
I spent a lot of my time walking around the neighborhood, smiling at strangers, teaching afterschool classes and watching “Super Story” with my fellow teacher and neighbor. (I wrote a little real-life story about my angel-in-human-form neighbor. You can read it here.)
It was probably one of the most difficult years of my life (Well, at the time. Now, I’ve seen worse!) Many of my dreams stayed dreams because I had no motivation to pursue them seeing there was no one around with whom I could connect on that level.
This revelation made me realize that sometimes we’re lonely not because we have zero social connections but because we’re unable to find relationships that challenge us; people with whom we can talk and share and not feel misunderstood.
At the time, I had no idea how to find those kinds of connections. The people I knew who could connect with me on that level were either too far away or not ready to engage (I should probably add that I was proud and not the kind of person to always chase after one-sided friendships). I also didn’t have a computer, and spending money every so often at the cybercafé was beginning to strain my already tight budget.
This is a sad little story, I know. But if you find yourself in such a situation, craving meaningful social connections don’t be like me; step out more often, reach out to people around you, they just might be in the same situation too.
Most importantly, make creative use of your alone time. Develop a skill or engage ones you already have. Trust me the focus and concentration you get from being alone can be harnessed for good.
Seasons do change, so try not to adopt a woe is me attitude. Reach out, seek like-minded people, be positive and continue to chase your dreams.
Isolation really is the place where dreams go to die. The antidote for that is meaningful connections. I hope you forge some.