At 23 I’ve learned a surprising amount about loneliness.
In July, I was removed from a summer job because someone determined I wasn’t equipped to handle it. I had just graduated from college and had turned down a job offer for the fall and had nowhere to go.
I was, and still am, lucky to have a gracious mother who took me in until I could get back on my feet. Six months later, I’m still at her house—in North Dakota. Many of my best friends still live in Chicago (where I grew up) or Miami (where I went to school). My boyfriend has moved to New Zealand until July.
These are the days in which students borrow tens of thousands of dollars to earn fancy degrees and then struggle to find work in their fields. The days in which we end up settling for something else because we need to sustain and support ourselves. The days in which we worry not only about employment today, but also ten years from now. We fret that we’ll find ourselves in our thirties on a career path we don’t enjoy and stuck without relevant experience or mobility to change course.
I decided not to go down this route.
I decided to stick it out and find something I was excited about. But I have been disappointed by opportunities over and over again since then.
There are some days when the only person I talk to is my cat. I spend a lot of time in the darkness of my bedroom, alone. I’ve picked up a few freelance opportunities here and there and they’ve both expanded my skills and kept me busy.
And every day, I do make it to the yoga studio.
There is no good way to describe this kind of loneliness. I often feel like I’m watching the world hurry by me. I feel like I’m wasting my formative years. What used to feel like endless opportunity now feels like a constant uphill trudge. What started as a resolve not to give in to the pressures of adulthood now looks like weakness, laziness and a complete waste of time and energy.
But every time I start a job application I feel lukewarm about, I can’t bring myself to complete it. I imagine moving out to somewhere I’ve never been and starting a job I don’t care about, but will pay for me to stay there. I imagine making no new friends this way. Perhaps some of that is just my stubbornness. I’m more than willing to admit that I can be hard-headed and one-track minded when it comes to my career.
I’ve learned more about myself during this period than I did in high school or college. I’ve learned how to reach out and find friendly faces in an unfamiliar place. Unlike school, post-graduate life doesn’t lend itself nicely to meeting dozens of people my own age and with similar interests and values.
I’ve learned what I want, where I’m trying to go and how I want to move forward. I’ve learned how to neither give in nor give up on what I’m driven to do.
And most importantly, I’ve re-learned the art of being by myself.
I’ve learned that it is up to me to make myself content. When I feel lonely and, honestly, miserable, I’ve learned to make myself move, or read, or do something fulfilling and healthy for my body and my mind.
Picking myself up out of an unexpectedly dark time has taught me that each of us has strength we haven’t experienced and possibly don’t understand. That strength can be channeled into negativity and inactivity or it can fuel our passions.
The choice is ours.
Author: Traia Thiel
Apprentice Editor: Terese Keehan / Editor: Caitlin Oriel