Alone or Lonely


When I think about my life five years from now and how I want it to look like, I think my vision is is the same as it was five years ago.

Five years ago I thought I’d be looking out over downtown in a high-rise apartment, surrounded by concrete buildings. Now I am willing to settle, even longing for, a little more greenery in my view. As I look over whatever the scenery is outside, I picture myself sitting at a small table, with a book or a laptop, either reading or writing. My cat is slung over the top of his cat tower, sleeping. I’ll be playing one of my vinyl records, maybe some Sharon Van Etten or Snail Mail. Because I live in a walkable neighbourhood, I can go down to a cafe and read and write some more, but with a cup of tea. Or I’ll go to a restaurant and eat something fancy. There’ll be a gym nearby and I can do some weight lifting. I can take a walk around a park while listening to an audiobook or a podcast.

The one thing I realize in all my visions of the future is that I am alone (save for my cat).

I am a very solitary person. Despite this, I admit that I am definitely someone who enjoys the company of others. So why don’t I make room for people in my idealized future life?

Maybe it’s because I can get too caught up in my own world. It makes maintaining friendships hard. I am the type of person who can surface after days, weeks, months, years after contact and keep going along with a friend like nothing has changed. The problem is that not everyone is like that. In my first year of university, many of my high school friends dropped me because I was suddenly unattainable. I had so many things going on that my friends kind of fell off of my mind. It made sense why they dropped me but it still stung.

I think this is why I can make “work friends” so easily. You see them every day without too much effort to do so. The proximity helps a lot. It does feel like work friends just become friends of convenience but it’s enough to feed my longing for connection. Or so I think. I’m not entirely sure.

The only time I feel lonely is when I compare myself to others. I don’t even know if it’s loneliness that I feel. The feeling is more like envy. I am envious when others talk about hanging out with their friends. Obviously I don’t feel envious enough to change my ways. I feel sorry for myself for a little bit and then go back to being my hermit self.

As I write this, I’m asking myself how much of this is just me trying to cope with the fact that I am often alone. Do I enjoy my time alone? Yes, I think so. But how would I really know?

Going back to the times when I was most social, I realize that I would often overdo it. I would spend too much with others and all the things that I liked doing by myself would fall to the wayside. It’s like I can’t keep a healthy balance of me time vs other people time. It could be that spending too much time on one end of the spectrum causes me to go to the opposite end in order to recuperate.

What would balance look like for me? Right now, I’m not content with just having work friends. But starting from scratch is so incredibly hard. One of my goals this year was to make a new friend. Or rekindle an existing friendship. One third of the way through the year and I’ve made no progress towards either (and just a clarification to any online friends reading this, I am talking about making friends in the “meat space”). Where do I start? How could I possibly start?

My last friend group was formed around my ex. And I met my ex through another friend group, a bunch of people from the computer science club at university. My inclination is to join another club-like group. I have often toyed the idea of joining a Meetup Group. Maybe a book club (as if I don’t have too many books to read already) or a writing group. Or maybe something extremely out of my comfort zone and totally left field, like an improvisation club (yikes).

I’m still thinking about it. All of this came about because I just finished reading the poem, “How to be Alone” by Tanya Davis. As I read through it, I couldn’t help but read it with some disdain. A lot of what the book talked about that were supposed to come off as a little revolutionary was just how I live currently. Okay, except for talking to random strangers on park benches, I don’t do that.

But another thing that spurred this on was a post tangentially about being terminally online. I can’t deny that a lot of my “alone time” is spent online. The author mentions taking a social media detox. I don’t know if that would help me at all. I think I would instead just dive myself deep into my studies or reading or writing. I think it would help me be more productive in those areas, actually. But productivity is not the goal I want. Connection, is. I think.

I’m not sure. I’m still turning these ideas around in my head, even after writing 900+ words about this. I wonder if anyone feels the same.