Thoughts on Loneliness

I don’t feel lonely as often as I used to. Right now is probably the least lonely I’ve felt for my entire life. After all, you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. I think the times that I do feel lonely are the moments when I feel like I will never meet someone like me, who gets me, and I get them. Sometimes I feel like an entirely different critter than anyone else. There have been a few times in my life I felt a connection, a similarity, but usually I’m the one trying to fit in to who and what they are. I’ve decided to not do that anymore.

I think of that Hunter S. Thompson quote from Fear and Loathing: “One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live. To rare to die.” I feel like that most of the damn time.

Sometimes I feel a strange pull, a familiarity of a time when I belonged. As if to say, “Back in the day, we used to all do this.” But there never was a time like that. I think that’s what is unnerving. I feel like I’m trying to recreate a time when I truly belonged and it never existed. I’ve always felt like the Other.

It’s strange to admit, but sometimes I see people on TV or movies and think “I’ll bet they would be great to hang out with.” That’s probably just because their characters resonated with me at some level. Familiar. Comfortable. Even if the actor/actress playing that part isn’t that person, the character had to have come from somewhere, right? There’s a writer or director who said, “Play it like this.”

Sometimes I’ll do a search and find out more info about these people. Their age, where they are from. It’s strange but I’m almost happy when someone is close to my own age. I feel like there aren’t many of us. Most of the time, I feel like I’m the last of my kind. Not special so much as a narcissist might think, but just different.

When I was 22, I took a road trip with two other buddies to California. We were gone for nine or ten days. One of those friends is ethnic Vietnamese. We found ourselves in Chinatown in San Francisco, looking for a cash machine. My friend stopped us and told us to look around. He said, “How does it feel to be the minority?” He was right. Out of the entire street, only two of us weren’t Asian. I understood for a moment how he must have felt all the time, growing up in a mostly WASP suburb of Denver, being a Vietnamese catholic.

Maybe that’s what I’m looking for. A whole street of people where I feel like I belong. I still haven’t found that. Maybe that’s why I have such an urge to go to new places. Maybe that place is waiting for me. Maybe it would give me some comfort knowing it exists. I know it’s a common trope in storytelling. So there must be a reason for that.

I think about when I was younger and how I used to believe that I had just one chance to meet the person I was supposed to be with. That other person who was like me and I wouldn’t feel alone once I found her. So, I used to watch for anyone who walked into a room, as though I would have known them at first sight and they would recognize me too. At some point, I stopped believing that and I settled. I got married to the wrong person and felt the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m not even sure what to believe anymore.

I think a lot of us feel that way and find kinship in other ways. We are told that a feeling like that is invalid. None of us is anything special, after all. I think that kind of mentality is what leads to stuffing people into box cars and shipping them…away. By depersonalizing people we can dehumanize them and therefore it doesn’t matter when they don’t matter in the whole scheme of things.

I haven’t ever felt like I fit in anyplace. Not with family. Not with peers or friends or contemporaries. It’s not even that I have felt like I was born at the wrong time. Maybe just the wrong place. The wrong world. I watched my own kids struggle with this. My daughter considered transitioning, but in my own opinion, from my own observations, changing yourself to fit in to what you think is right doesn’t work. I’ve tried to change who I was to fit in and it has never worked. I’ve always felt worse, denying who I was to the point of hating myself. I tried to become someone else who fit in to a marriage. A job. Circles of friends. Changing yourself to fit in with others…we all do it to a degree, but in this world of billions, where do we find our tribe? Where do we find others who are like us?

Like each of us is on our own world, broadcasting from a little radio station into the vastness of night, hoping for a reply.

Lately I’ve learned how to live with the solitude, but I have my nights when I wish I had that person to share moments with. I wonder if the older I get, the fewer of us there will be. The easier it will for all of us to be lost in the shuffle. Or just lost in the crowd. Maybe that’s why I’ve stopped looking at faces when someone new walks into a room. What if there is nobody else? What if I’m the last?

Bits of iron filings in a world made of sand.