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.