Warning: Adult language ahead!
When I moved out on my own, I began to evolve into my own person.
I transformed from someone who was terrified of sleeping alone in an empty apartment to someone who was doing it—bills, work, balance, fixing the wrongs, planning for the future.
But I was so busy with doing that I didn’t see what was waiting for me in the pauses and in the silence—the stuff that comes up when you’re all done with your chores and errands. I realized this one night as I sat down after a long day on my floor—ironically, right up against the couch. I looked around my empty, clean, just-how-I-like-it apartment, and I realized I was alone.
My friends had moved away; some were married and with kids, but I was just alone. I was a newly strong, single, independent woman who had just gotten her arms around this life thing, yet right when I wanted to share this new independence with my people, I realized my people had moved on. They were all one step or two steps ahead, in some new direction in which I could not yet go, because I’m neither married nor pregnant nor adaptable to selling my sh*t and traveling the world.
It’s like when you were little and your mom gave you permission to go play outside, only all of your friends had already gone in for dinner and now you were standing in the dark, awkwardly alone, all of this parental permission just wasted.
I realized in that silence and pause, on the floor of my clean and empty apartment, that I had all of this new freedom in my life—and no one to share it with.
And the feeling of loneliness kicked me in the boob and flung me down into the depths of what I can only describe as a dark, musty barrel. And I have been trying hard as hell to climb out of it, to set foot again on something tangible from which I can scream “I’m here! I’m doing this on my own, and I want someone to see!”
But no one came, because they are all busy with their own lives—and rightfully so.
So, I gave in. I came and went from home, moving through the routine of my days and weeks, crossing off grocery lists and planning class sequences and work schedules. I allowed myself to feel what it was like to not have plans for the weekend and yet watch friends Snapchat their selfies and cups of beer from the NFL draft.
I realized that when we find our independence, often in those years of our late 20s, we also find a whole lot of pain. Pain from wishing you had just one friend who could hold space for you while you fell apart in your loneliness, or if you’re like me, pain from wishing you had courage enough to open up to any friend and not fear that they will judge you, or worse, leave you.
I also realized that our loneliness begins to gravitate toward the fear that we will end up as stereotypical spinsters with a collection of cats. That kind of fear really f*cks with our heads, because in today’s world, it could easily be true: I could become a spinster with cats after bargaining my chips on cheap Tinder dates.
But while I lived feeling sorry for myself, I also began to explore this idea of loneliness. I mean, this is something I would teach to my yoga students. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I tell them to go where it doesn’t feel comfortable because it’s the only way you’ll make it through to the other side of acceptance, love, and healing.
Who was I becoming if I couldn’t take my own advice? A hypocritical yogi, that’s who.
So, I gave in even more. I sat down with this bitch called loneliness and I allowed myself to feel. Truly feel. Yes, it caused me to ugly cry over some journaling and candles, and I felt more like Bridget Jones every day for weeks, but I stayed with it.
I took a friend’s advice and watched sappy romance movies alone, because she said it was a good way to release emotions. Do I think my love story will end up with any man swinging via jungle vines to reclaim my love? Probably not, but if loneliness is bad enough to make me unrealistically dream, let me get my f*cking popcorn.
Somewhere around day 12, I started to get really honest with myself. I started looking around at where I was in life: I’m a teacher in the moments that I teach a student something on their rubber yoga mat, and I’m a writer in the moments when I decide to sit the fuck down and write posts like this one.
And I’m doing that now, because guess what, world? I am not okay—in case you were wondering. I don’t even know who came up with the idea that we need to be okay anyway, but I’d personally like to meet that person and kick them in the shin. Because these times of desperate loneliness are times that we need to share and talk about openly.
Independence is f*cking lonely.
After all the strength and willpower and success of “making it,” we often find an underlying loneliness. This loneliness is like our shadow, an old friend who’s been waiting for us to come around, get older, and allow the trivial things to fall away, like the drunken nights of our early 20s that we need to sober up from.
Loneliness begs to be felt. It asks us to sit at its feet and welcome it—even though it hurts, even though we’re restless. Loneliness stays with us until we allow it to crush us and break us in ways that we need to be broken in so that we can finally feel again. Loneliness feels like being at the bottom of some musty barrel, like the heart couldn’t possibly fall any deeper.
We reach the bottom and stand up, staring up at the light above from our dark vantage point, and know that loneliness is not the end. There is always a rising, but not before we stop fidgeting and willfully fall to the bottom, to where there is no one around to distract us or tell us to fight like hell and climb back up.
No. Loneliness is without others.
It’s an empty and desolate place, made for us alone. Our people, our tribe—they’re up there, old and new alike. But they don’t get to fall to the bottom of loneliness with us. Only we can do that. And this is where it begins to hurt. Because we’re so used to being with people who will travel and walk with us, that to imagine a trek as painful as falling alone is deemed impossible. And our hearts know that this is where we need to be, even as our minds fight this aloneness. And that’s when we dig in our heels and tug at the rope that we hope will save us, wishing the rope will be held by people at the top, because we still think that our salvation lies with them and not with us.
The old me who believed in full-time happiness would have told you that you’re never truly alone and that, through some hardcore self-lovin‘, you won’t need anyone else, anyway. But when you’re alone and going through hell, do you even know what self-love is or where to find it? (If you know where it is, could you let me know? Because I can’t seem to find it. Thankfully, I’ve also discovered that this is okay.)
If you’re here at the bottom of the barrel with me, can I ask you to stay? Because even though it stinks and feels kind of like the end, it isn’t. It can’t be. We have so much more cool shit to do and see. We have that romantic falling-in-love scene somewhere in our future, maybe even with fewer apps and more appetizers.
I love this life because it kicks me in the boob and pushes me into deep shit like this, where I can publicly say that right now, I’m not okay and I’m lonely and tired and tired of being tired. But God, does it feel good to know that if this is the deepest I’ll fall, that I’ve landed on my own two feet—the same two feet that have been living, succeeding, and surviving, and the same two feet that will lead me to rise again.
Have faith, my people. Crumble and fall and stumble your way into this shit, because the more you kick and scream, the more life will drag you down, United style. Loneliness is just another chapter in the story of our immaculate badass, warrior evolution, and teaches just as much about who we are and are becoming as heading out on our own, or getting married, or having a child does.
Author: Aleksandra Slijepcevic
Image: Edwin Andrade/Unplash
Editor: Callie Rushton