Free Will: On loneliness

This week, Will reflects on the hidden value of loneliness.


Those monochromatic walls were so tasteless, really. My first day of freshmen year remains poignant, from the tight walls of my single room dorm to the overriding fear of what was to come.

From the very first moment, as I approached my RA for check-in assistance, I immediately felt the gap between my previous life and the future widen, producing a subliminal uncertainty. There was much about the prospects of the next four years that didn’t provide any clarity. What was to become of this life I had become so accustomed to and how, with any degree of confidence, could I benefit? These were just a few questions I had.

I was unable to slow the pace of this transition down to a manageable speed, but not for a lack of trying. While my face was painted with a smile everyday, attempting to create an amicable spirit, underneath the exterior lay a sheepishness bulldozing away at my greener pastures.

I knew that whatever I was feeling wasn’t exclusive to me, nor to a small minority of fellow incoming students. Troubling us were the many daunting challenges of this newness, which is like pushing a reset button. The ease at which some of us used to socialize, the effortless nature of our prior relationships with friends and academia, were thrown out. Now, we were stuck, hoping the foundations we meticulously constructed and reinforced with time could serve us well.

But like these things tend to be, struggles occurred and amounted into the occasional feeling of defeat. No matter how hard I would push, or how persistent I was in breaking the mold of self-doubt, I just couldn’t fully do it. I was living too fast, too fraught with indecision. My cadence was out of rhythm. To obtain the goals I had laid out months prior meant accepting my predicament. In the most certain of terms, it meant accepting a growing loneliness that I could not shake.

Loneliness, according to the internet, is described in two different ways. The first is this: Sadness because one has no friends or company. The second: The quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.

Both definitions are specifications of how someone could perceive their loneliness, and both are contextual, providing different takes on different kinds of loneliness. But in more ways than one, these two are interchangeable and quite frankly, rely on the other to give themselves credence.

If one is to be unfrequented and removed from the interconnectedness human beings need, then perhaps there is a sadness that floods their spirit. Likewise, if one feels sadness from being socially unprosperous, perhaps the only foreseeable route one can travel down is toward isolation.

It may be that when loneliness occurs, the only remedy is found in the hope that someone will observe your loneliness, that invisible demon hanging over your head. When a fisherman casts a line out into the sea, he hopes for something, anything, to bite back, but little control does the fisherman have over the tides.

To be lonely is to be sad, to part ways with a former rendition of a once thriving self. Loneliness forms in shadowless environments, only to bulge out from the bottom of your feet and creep up your neck as twilight strikes the horizon.

It is the lurking nature of loneliness that gives it a silent demeanor. Perceiving it in myself took time and a purposeful slowing down of my pace. I had to think, I had to mature and I had to accept that loneliness, alongside sadness and isolation, may hang on tight to a diminished degree, yet still against my will. Though these feelings lack the ferocity of previous days, I remember them in full detail, as if they never left.

The feeling I felt those long, lonely months are behind me now, in which the extremes of such feelings were laid to rest, though lingering around me are those undertones of isolation, remoteness and sadness. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way; friends and strangers alike vary in their desire to mask or open up about similar dispositions.

It was no accident that in conquering only a portion of my loneliness, I was able to control the passage of time in my head. Slowing down, using honest inspection as a means to rid the unwanted consumer immensely helped. And for those feeling similarly, such a practice might help some. But not for all, and not to the same extent.

Accepting the loneliness of our lives will do more good than harm. Doing such will awaken the knowledge that existing as a human being means facing the void, the gaps between happy and sad, and looking down into the valley below. To accept loneliness is to accept an occasionally uncontrollable force, but know that what can be controlled is a response. It may not always work out positively, and certainly, I speak from the advantage of having a comparatively weaker feeling of loneliness.

But loneliness, as I’ve come to know it, shares a common thread in most of us. To be lonely is to connect with ourselves, to feel the enormity of living. It is with hope that understanding these truths can help mitigate the profundity of loneliness and the worst of its appetite.

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