Lonely, not alone
John Donne wrote “no man is an island,” to which Saul Williams added, “but I often feel alone.”
Sometimes I feel I am never alone. I have a boyfriend, a roommate, a dog and a family. I have colleagues, classmates and strangers. Even in an empty house, I can text someone or hang out on Facebook.
Sometimes though, I feel the poignancy of Williams’ completion to Donne’s famous quote. Once in a while, I feel crushingly isolated, like no one wants to talk to me, and if we did, we wouldn’t really communicate. Sylvia Plath described it as a bell jar – a transparent barrier that isolates us from the rest of the world.
In this, at least, I am not alone. I like to think everyone feels that way from time to time (but if you never do, do not start on my account). Facebook is littered with sad, alienated statuses and cries for attention. I sometimes see it in peoples’ eyes, and sometimes they just tell me.
How is it that we are more connected than ever, and still feel lonely?
Technology could be the problem. Perhaps, rather than connecting us, it walls us up. During an awkward silence, people don’t make small talk; they play with their cellphones. Instead of talking during dinner, we may just watch TV.
Maybe secularism is to blame. Losing their connection to a higher power, not to mention a religious community, could make people lonely. Then again, maybe God is lonely too.
I prefer to think that we search for something in other people we lack in ourselves. People say their partner “completes” them. At the very least, other people validate us and give meaning to the things we do.
We seek synchronicity with others. When we find it, it is amazing. When we do not, it can feel like the whole relationship has failed. True connection can only happen in a few circumstances. Everyday life presents too many barriers for us all to sync up all the time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we must be individuals. Sometimes, we really do want to be alone.
So what should you do when you feel lonely?
You could always try to get to know yourself. There’s no better time than when you are not distracted by other people. Keep a diary, take a walk or write a haiku. It’s all about you. Find out what matters to you, and why you are unique.
On the other hand, it’s not all about you. It’s okay to ruminate on your alienation for a time, but if you keep it up forever, you could degrade your relationships and feel more isolated. You can only read “The Catcher in the Rye” so many times.
Maybe you are not the only one that feels alone. Call your friends. Help someone out with a project or give directions to a new student. Make someone’s day better and you will feel like people like having you around.
And remember, you are not alone just because you’re lonely.