Being Alone vs Being Lonely

I’ve spent most of my life alone. I haven’t had a roommate since 2004 and haven’t been on a date since 2006. It’s not that I don’t like having conversations or in person interaction. I have very rarely met people who share the same interests I do. I grew up in a small farming village of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska. The nearest Wal Mart was over an hour drive away as was the nearest four year college and book store. Most people I knew growing up thought I was odd in preferring to read science and nature books in grade school over playing sports. I never could run fast and was never coordinated enough to do well in sports like baseball or basketball. I didn’t have quick enough reflexes to be very good at most video games. My brother was a master at those. I always lost to him and I gave up trying to compete against him when I was ten years old.

Instead, I spent most of my free time either in the local library or wandering my back yard. While in my back yard, I made up stories and fantasy worlds. It came natural to me. Granted the neighbor kids thought it was funny and used to spy on me. Got me real paranoid after awhile. I didn’t have many friends growing up. I guess no one liked the smart kid who wasn’t afraid of being well read and smart. Even the adults thought I was strange for preferring to read to going to ballgames or county fairs.

It wasn’t until I was eleven that I met a friend who had many of the same interests and was just as much as an outsider as I was. His family moved in from a mountain town in Colorado. We hit it off right away. He and I were discussing politics and economics when most of our classmates were discussing school yard gossip, the latest video games, or the results of the college football games the previous weekend. He and I would sometimes spend our recess time discussing the presidental debates with our sixth grade teacher in 1992. Naturally our classmates thought we were weirdos.

I met my current best friend when I was thirteen. She and her sisters were homeschooled. First time in my entire life I met a kid who loved reading even more than I did. We hit it off immediately. Of course I got a lot of grief from classmates because my best friend was a girl. Half of the school thought I was gay and the other half thought we were all but married by freshman year of high school. Neither was true, she and I just shared similar interests. Most people don’t realize how few options I had for socializing for most of my life. Hell, I didn’t realize how limited my options were until facebook came out. Sadly, facebook turned into a toxic waste dump shortly after being opened to the public at large and big money got involved. Sad to see something so beautiful get so distorted.

Because my best friend in high school was a girl, that killed my chances for dating. Some people have the issues of not being able to get a second date or end up dating losers and jerks. My problem has always been getting anyone to say yes even once. I never did figure out what I was doing wrong. I flat out asked people what I was doing wrong. I never got any answer beyond ‘just be yourself’ and ‘there is someone for everyone.’ Right.

Even going off to college and being the only person from my school on campus didn’t improve my dating prospects. I asked one girl out and she laughed in my face. I had another girl in one class get all angry because she thought I was starring at her when I was really just starring at the clock. I did have a steady dating relationship my second year in college. Like most young romances, it didn’t last. We didn’t have enough similar interests. My last three years of college, I spent whatever time I wasn’t studying for classes in the library reading the classics of philosophy, history, literature, poetry, etc. Those books that serious literature students consider classics but never read, I read dozens of those in my spare time in college. Sure it killed any chance at dating, but I figured out that I wasn’t what most people were looking for anyway. It was no loss.

One I got out on my own, I struggled for a few years bouncing from job to job because of my worsening mental illness. I eventually wound up on disability. Worked a few years just to say I could. In 2012, I took early retirement from traditional work to devote my life to study and writing. At age 40, I’m far happier with this arrangement than with any I’ve ever had. I don’t get spied on by my neighbors like the kids in my hometown did. No one gives me a hard time for not wanting to date anymore. No one insults me because I love to learn. Sure it gets lonely at times, but that is what happens when someone has rare interests and lives in an environment where aren’t many people. Could I have done better socially if I grew up in a suburban setting? I don’t know. I’ll never know at this point. But it does get lonely. Some days I feel like a medieval monk with a great book collection but no one to share that knowledge with.

Being Ignored While Reaching Out

Saw my parents a couple times over the last few days.  It was good to have visitors for an extended time.  I hardly get any visitors anymore.  I guess I have hit the age where most of my friends are busy with their careers and families.  Other than a few friends who are divorcees, I have only one close friend right who has never been married.  Unfortunately he is quite busy with work and lives in another country.

I feel like I miss out on a great deal because I don’t have a family and can’t work.  Most of my friends conversations revolve around work, spouses, and children.  And sadly, many of my friends are also depressed and anxious.  I guess with most of my friends being in their late 30s and early 40s, I imagine many are experiencing mid life crisis type things.  That and pretty much everyone is more stressed now anyway.  There are times I am quite stressed too even though I have no job or wife or kids.  I spent most of this spring in a deep depression where I would go entire days without leaving my apartment.  Some days I slept twelve to fifteen hours a day because sleep was the only time I didn’t feel anxious or depressed or irritable.  I was isolating from neighbors and avoiding people because I was depressed and anxious and I was depressed and anxious because I was lonely all the time.  And on it went in a vicious cycle.

I miss my friends and family.  I miss having in depth and meandering conversations that cover many different topics.  About the only person I have those with anymore are my mother.  Everyone else seems to be hung up on work, debts, family, etc.  They have become too busy earning a living that they forgot why they stay alive.  Naturally I can’t talk to any of my friend about this.  Because they are too stressed living paycheck to paycheck to engage in anything besides work and sleep it seems.  And I have been having a great deal of paranoia lately that my friends really don’t like me that much.

This paranoia might spring from that most of my friends don’t reach out to me, at least not lately.  Anytime I try to reach out to friends, I usually get no response.  When I do get responses, they are usually short answers or complaints about how bad their lives are and how lucky I am.  It’s really discouraging and sad.  We tell people in distress to reach out for help all the time.  Yet, what is the point of reaching out when most of time we are ignored or made fun of?  And people wonder why, in spite of our prosperity and having all but conquered absolute poverty, we are unhappy and depressed.  We are unhappy and depressed precisely because we don’t make efforts to connect to people or answer those who are lonely.  We bought into the whole rugged individualism to where we believe we have to just bear it if we can’t solve our own problems.  This is really heartless and stupid.  In our age, we are far more interdependent than any of us as individuals or nations realize.  And until we acknowledge this and adapt accordingly on an individual, civilizational, and species level, we will only see our issues of anxiety, depression, and loneliness become far worse.  We are already seeing epidemic levels of stress related illnesses.  If mental health problems got even a fraction of the attention that physical illnesses like cancer got, we would be well on our way to alleviating these problems.  Yet, we as a society and individuals choose to make them worse in those around us and in ourselves.