I’d be lying if I said I haven’t always had the idea ingrained in my head that you should live alone at least once in your life. No housemates, no parents, no partner, just you and your plans of casually walking around after taking a bath with the door open.
To be quite honest living alone was the only thing I have waiting for for a long time; me in a new city, ready to live life to the fullest, to make friends and go on adventures that go marvellously wrong and sickeningly right; without someone’s (hi, mom!) tireless gaze on me.
All the plans and dreams aside, there are days that my reality is exactly that. Then there are times when I haven’t spoken to a single soul for days in a row and all my friends are too busy managing their own hectic schedules. Those are the times I can’t help but wonder “is that why everyone hates adulthood and compromises for unfulfilling relationships?”. As if that wasn’t enough, two months after the first draft article this NY Times piece came along and gave me the perspective I needed to finally publish this.
Truth is, sitting alone with your thoughts is probably one of the most nerve-racking things out there. I doubt the overthinking that comes with sitting by yourself for too long hasn’t been an issue since the early days of humanity, but I feel like it is starting to slowly develop into a disease of our time. As I’m gladly watching the stigma over mental health fading by the day and plenty of institutions taking action, it does make me wonder, how come people seem lonelier than ever?
Around a year ago, I recall stumbling upon this article by the Guardian aiming to help adults make friends and I casually scrolled by it thinking “How hard can it be? I meet new people all the time! You just have to be a little social”. In the recent months, I’ve seen a lot of similar articles and even some YouTube videos of people feeling cut off and dissatisfied with their social lives. I even came across a piece claiming that students are lonelier than ever. Fast forward a year, I see most of my close friends less and less, - some are busy, some have moved away - oftentimes doubting our friendship. But worst of all, loneliness can make you doubt yourself.
Who is to blame though? Some could say the rise of social media and the constant bombardment of the fear of missing out (FOMO). Others would point out that modern societies are too competitive and career-oriented, leaving people socially and mentally exhausted. While most of these ring true, how can we keep a balanced life while living alone, managing our responsibilities (and the stress that comes with that) and making the most out of what this experience has to teach us?
Don’t get me wrong. Living alone is a wonderful lesson and I am extremely lucky to have had that opportunity early in my life. I know, I’ll never regret it. But truly, what pushed me to write this isn’t living on my own. It’s realising that people are shying away from meaningful social connections or struggling to maintain the ones we already have. Adulthood, oftentimes, is a lot harder than we dreamed of. The only thing I know for sure is that sharing your burdens with people who care is the best way to deal with them. Some people you’ll lose along the way, some you will outgrow, some you’ll be lucky to cherish all your life. But think of this: you cross paths with so many new people in life. Think of all of them as a little surprise, a new way to keep learning and evolving and making your life brighter, just like the way travelling to a new place makes you feel.
Make space for the newcomers in your life, no matter how old you are. Let them surprise you. It might not be a full solution, but it’s definitely a start.