Reflections on Loneliness
Issue   |   Tue, 12/05/2017 - 21:44

This routine is not daily, but it is familiar: I realize with a good amount of dread that for the last eight hours, I have had no social interaction with live human beings in my schedule. I’ll reach out to friends and try to set something up, but there will be one snag or another and nothing will end up working out (they’re busy, or not on campus, or they really want to focus on this essay, etc.). So I’ll try to work somewhere other than my room, hoping that just being around other people will be enough to soothe my extrovert cravings for companionship. It doesn’t; I go to sleep with an odd and harrowing feeling of loneliness, unsure if the next day will look the same way.

There’s a myriad of reactions that one can have in this struggle, and I’ve probably cycled through all of them by this point in the year. Because it’s an inexplicable situation to end up in, there’s an endless number of ways to brood over the feeling of loneliness and an endless number of feelings it can inspire. I used to blame myself for how my energy would dwindle the more discouraged I got, wondering why I was sometimes “settling” for this situation by not reaching out to even more people. I wondered where exactly I had gone wrong in my social planning to end up with so many wonderful friends but so little time spent with them. I wondered, too, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t find enjoyment indulging in any one of my many hobbies with that empty time in my day after work and classes.

The biggest feeling that I have about my social life, however, is a feeling of powerlessness. There’s no one to blame or be mad at. No one is snubbing me: people really are stretched thin. Deadlines have crept up on me too, and I know how bad people feel turning down a request to get dinner or hang out. There’s no way to make people less busy, including myself. I’ve had to turn down some of those same requests with the same feeling of dread because of my own mounting workload. The reason the formula feels so familiar is because it is looming and unstoppable; it’s hard to expect consistent companionship in such a rigorous environment.

Not all of this melancholy has been purely negative, at least. I think that realizing my powerlessness in it all has allowed me to smother some of my less helpful thoughts, like the idea that it’s my fault that I’m alone a lot or that I’ve done something to be rejected by Amherst as a place. But all in all, my loneliness here has led me to appreciate the interactions that I do have so much more. When those Val dates do work out or I have a club meeting to attend, I can value the time I’m spending with people as a relaxing respite out of both of our schedules, a time where work has decidedly been set aside for the sake of reconnecting with another human being.

I can’t say how the positivity and negativity coming from this loneliness has resolved itself, nor can I say what my outlook or my solution is. But I do think that sharing a small piece of what the daily grind can be like at this college might be helpful to someone imagining that this situation is something unique to only them. Hopefully, by speaking frankly about this kind of thing, we can be a little less lonely in our loneliness.