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?

Non-Earth-Shattering Thoughts on Singleness

Like how I prepare you right in the title that this blog post won’t change your life? All about monitoring expectations. Ha!

Singleness is amazing sometimes. Sometimes it blows.

single taken empireSometimes being single lets you accomplish things you couldn’t do otherwise– say, write a book. Sometimes maybe you couldn’t accomplish something without the encouragement of a significant other. How do we know? I suppose we don’t. Faith.

One way I can tell I’m maturing is when I find myself thrilled for my friends in new relationships … instead of envious.

I get pissed if anyone even insinuates that I am “lesser than” because I’m single. I should probably give people the benefit of the doubt … instead I give them a lesson. #sorrynotsorry (Dating and married people, please take note of all the tiny things you do that say or insinuate this. It happens more often than you’d guess. I could give you four examples just off the top of my head.)

People who found their partner when they were young need to be especially careful about the feelings of someone who is, oh, let’s just say 34. People who got married at 20 have zero idea what it’s like to be 34 and single. It’s better just to acknowledge that than to pretend.

Being 34 and single is totally different for me than being 30 and single was.

Writing love stories is weird sometimes. But still fun.

Intimacy with friends is so important.

Intimacy with God is even more important.

Sometimes I think how Jesus was single his whole life. Sometimes I think how Paul said singleness is preferable to marriage.

I’ve observed enough friends to confidently say that it’s better to be lonely and/or discontented outside a marriage than lonely and/or discontented within one.

I’ve observed enough college students rushing to the altar to confidently say, Slow down. Your brain isn’t even fully developed until age 25. Heck, I didn’t even settle into my identity until I was about 28. I’ve seen many marriages dissolve when couples married very young. I also admit that, as a single 34-year-old, I’m not an expert on marriage.

Singleness allowed me to mentor many young people and really invest in their lives. Singleness allowed me to write a book. I try to be grateful for singleness’s gifts.

[Interlude in which I have a long online conversation with my bestie about all these things … and now it’s my bedtime and I decide to end this post with a conclusion that I call an interlude.]

Please know that all of my thoughts are shared with humility, and that some of them probably lean into stereotypes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, just please don’t be mean.