I am 13 years old. School ended three hours ago, three hours that I have been sitting in my dad’s office—finishing homework, instant messaging, scrolling the internet, and waiting. Three months in, I should be used to this everyday routine by now. But I’m 13 and I want to go home.
Not to the thirty-minutes away from school and work and community, too-small home we are currently renting—no.
2,000 miles home to my best friend across the street, and my grandma, and my church. To the place where everyone knows me, and everything is familiar, and I like the everyday routine.
But I’m here in this office, with the door closed, because it’s easier to be alone on your own, than to be alone with people watching.
The church bells ring overhead and I realize the service is starting. I’ve missed the parade of people walking by the office, to greet my dad in his long white robe, before sitting by their loved ones in their usual pew. I’m late.
I open the door, and walk the empty hall, the sound of the organ marching me forward. When I reach the back of the church, I stop and stare at the backs of heads—searching for just one that I recognize, just one that I can join, just one familiarity that would prove evidence of my three months of living in this new place.
I turned around that day. With tears spilling down my face, I walked myself back to my dad’s office, back to a closed door, back to being alone.
Because loneliness breeds loneliness.
Because it’s easier to be alone on your own, than to be alone with people watching.
I hope you figured out, my dad is a pastor. When I was thirteen years old, we moved across the country because he received a “divine call from the Lord” to be a pastor at different church. If that sounds churchy to you, that’s because it is.
The experience I wrote about above is my first memory of being cognitively aware of loneliness. And because I’m human, I’ve had about a trillion and two experiences of loneliness since then.
And I’ve noticed something that terrifies me.
When I feel alone, my subconscious instinctively directs me to actions that guarantee I will definitely be alone.
Allow me to illustrate.
I feel like an outsider at my new job, so I avoid the breakroom and eat lunch on my own.
I feel unseen in my marriage, so I stop expressing myself or reaching out to my husband.
I feel unsure and awkward in young friendships, so I avoid initiating time together or attending the event that I know everyone will be at.
Spurred by my feelings of loneliness, I act in a way that only cements my isolation. And that’s terrifying.
Because…how do you get out? You feel alone. You instinctively isolate yourself. You further feel alone. You further isolate yourself. And on. And on. And on…
Loneliness breeds more loneliness.
This cyclical pattern spins you around and around and there is seemingly no way out.
Until there is. Because I have not lived in a constant state of loneliness since that moment in the back of church at the age of thirteen. So there must be a way out.
Someone has to pull you out.
Someone has to break through the wall of isolation that you built, storm into the loneliness and despair, and drag you (likely kicking and screaming) back to the world of relationship and connection.
Sometimes that someone is God.
Yes, that sounds churchy. But I do actually believe that happens. I notice that when I read a chapter from Psalms or go to my Bible Study Fellowship or talk with my pastor, a small warmth seeps through me and my longing partially subsides.
Sometimes that someone is a friend.
I have this amazing friend that knows my past and my isolation instincts. And so she texts me: “hey friend, how’s it going!” or “hey friend, let’s get coffee”. Friend. She bluntly reminds me that I am not alone.
Sometimes that someone is you.
It’s not easy to muster the discipline to fight subconscious instincts, but you can train yourself to reach out. And with time and practice, you slowly dismantle the wall of isolation and walk into connection with others. Eat lunch in the breakroom. Reach out to your husband. Go to the event.
Fight the instinctual actions that breed cyclical loneliness, because you were not created to be alone.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts about loneliness from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.