The Loneliness Map

The other night, I was talking to my friend about loneliness, how the experience of it has morphed for me over the years. This is a post I can write tonight because tonight I actually don’t feel lonely. It gives me perspective.

So I wrote up what follows, and then, upon re-reading it, realized that I am probably describing all of these ages from the perspective of being 36. I see age 16 so differently now, 20 years out, but at the time, would I have described it as torment? Probably.

I don’t want to shrug off any pain of Younger Me, but I also do want to accept all the growth I’ve experienced over the years. With that said, I present to you a mini-timeline of my experience with feeling lonely. Gosh, there is so much more to be said, but I really did just want to type up a little thing to see how it compared to others’.

Now I think I’ll probably show it to my therapist! 🙂

connor-wells-534089-unsplashLoneliness at 11: beginning to recognize that my thought process was very different from friends my age (i.e. undiagnosed OCD)

Loneliness at 16: melodramatic tears over the boy to whom I was “just a friend”

Loneliness at 22: perpetual bridesmaid/wedding guest, delighted for my girlfriends who were the most gorgeous brides– but a little wistful, wondering when I’d have my own special someone

Loneliness at 25: too throttled with anxiety to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 28: too excited about writing to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 31: gobsmacked to see my friends celebrating 10-year anniversaries, changed from wondering when I’d have my own special someone to if I would at all, loneliness became an actual physical pain

Loneliness at 36: almost unbearable when it hits

What about you? What ages were milestones?

3 thoughts on “The Loneliness Map

  1. I have to be honest: this post almost made me cry. I was incredibly, achingly lonely as a teenager and then in college and then after I had my daughter (so ages 14-21ish were the absolute worst) because everybody had somebody–best friend or significant other and I most definitely did not.

    I was lonely last year a lot after my big move, but that wasn’t really surprising given that I moved across the country alone. Now, though, I’ve mostly settled in and loneliness is rare and fleeting.

  2. 6, when my parents moved me from married and family housing at NDSU to a non-kid neighborhood, in the middle of the school year, with a wretched human of a first grade teacher replacing the Miss Honey type I had in North Dakota.

    My parents thought I wanted a sibling but what I wanted was to be a twin. I wanted an Ashley for my Mary-Kate.

    8.5 when I realized that finally getting a sibling wouldn’t fix anything because we were so far apart in age, we’d never share anything.

    4th grade in a new town, I had zero friends and spent recess sitting against a brick wall until a boy named Joe asked if I wanted to play hot wheels with him. We are still friends! Later that year I saw a girl by herself on the balance beam and befriended her. Later I was absorbed by her friend group.

    6th grade the boy I had a crush on, who used to be my neighborhood friend, threw rocks at me, and I was so devastated I hurled the F word back at him.

    7th grade on, my friend group changed every year due to friends moving or friend groups shifting. I did enough extra curriculars to not feel lonely, even if I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Also I became friends with my teachers *nerd alert*

    Loneliness drove me to having super toxic boyfriends through high school and part of college, until I figured that having no boyfriend is better than having a disrespectful one! I finally had a solid support at Northwestern, without which I’d probably still be in an abusive relationship.

    Newlywed, newly pregnant and living in an apartment in a town where i knew no one while finishing college distance ed was incredibly lonely and depressing! I spent months in a dark apartment, not going outside because I was tired and it was hot and everyone smoked, and my husband couldn’t hear the high-pitched noises coming from our refrigerator. If I didn’t start blogging then, I’m not sure how I would’ve survived.

    Living on base from 2010 to 2012 was a utopia society. When we moved to the suburbs I had a culture shock and was the only stay at home mom, the only person my age with a kid, and at home all day with a special-needs child. I was holistically exhausted. All of my friends were either busy with work or other single friends or were newlyweds and glued to their new spouses. That’s really when my health took a nosedive.

    In fact, I think I felt healthiest in the times I felt the least lonely. Though I don’t feel lonely currently and do feel like lukewarm, soggy garbage, that’s just because I haven’t found reconciliation for the bad health that compounded over the years and went untreated.

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