To Any Human Who Has Ever Felt Alone
When I was a kid, I thought I was the only person who felt the way I did.
I can’t tell you precisely what feeling I thought was lacking that others had in abundance.
I just knew that I was alone.
Looking back on my childhood from my older — and, hopefully, wiser — vantage point, I realize those difficult feelings are not ones that stay sealed in the iron vat of childhood.
The feelings leak out.
The bad feelings — the feelings of being alone and unlovable — they stick around.
I’ve gotten better at managing them over the years.
Some days they are forced way down into the recesses of my mind.
But other days they lurk near the surface.
I think everyone feels this to a certain extent.
Why do I think this?
Because we are all human.
Carl Rogers, the famed therapist and found of person-centered theory, wrote in Becoming a Person:
What is most personal, is most universal.
Private, anxious moments feel awful because they reside in an awareness that is separate from others.
They live in their own pressure tank, bouncing off the thick walls of a compact space. If they can’t escape — if they aren’t allowed to bump into other words out of other people’s mouths — they develop a realness that they never should have had in the first place.
I used to think anxious thoughts for hours. That doesn’t happen anymore, thankfully.
But just because I have more coping skills now than I did when I was a child — it doesn’t mean that I still am not suddenly and inexplicably pierced by the feeling of being alone.
It’s a reality that we try to escape, and I assume you, fellow human, are no different.
We think that if we give in to others’ demands, or do the right thing, or be the bigger person, then maybe, just maybe, we won’t end up alone.
Yet we all know that that’s not the case.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying,
We come into this world alone, and we die alone.
It sounds so morbid, doesn’t it?
That’s what I used to think, but I’ve recently changed my perspective.
I think I got into the habit of calling things morbid when I wasn’t ready to look at them and see them for what they are.
I applied labels to myself because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. It was a way of putting off the hard work of peering into myself to see who I really was.
The problem with labels is that they don’t eradicate the thing underneath; that which is being covered is still under there in it’s unfathomable horror.
Like that piercing idea of being unlovable, of always being alone.
Depending on how you define it, it could be terrible. It could be the worst thing in the world.
But could it be wonderful? Could it be a source of joy, even?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve started to contemplate matters I never used to think about.
Whereas I used to spend hours ruminating on “negative” thoughts, now I simply and mindfully contemplate what is true for me.
The former was perseveration; the latter is celebration — of what is and what could be.
Of course, I still feel alone and misunderstood, but what’s interesting is that both of those feelings could be creations of my ceaseless imagination.
As I got older, I realized that living in my head isn’t a good way to discover reality. It’s a way to figure out if something is true for me — but only to a certain extent.
With each passing year, I’ve learned, more and more, that I have to get out into the world.
I’ve realized that reality is a social construction.
I can hold on to my truth in my own solitary enclave, and that could be the end of it. But what will happen, most likely, is that my truth will be severely lacking. It will never get the chance to stretch out and grow. It will never get to understand the great potential of its own latent resonance
And that is a shame.
So I push myself out into the world to risk being changed. It’s terrifying, and it’s wonderful all the same.
You might find that you’re similar.
You might discover that you force yourself out into the world to find the cure, a panacea for what ails you.
Your sense of being alone is likely not the same as mine. In fact, I imagine it could take on as many different forms as there are people in this world.
Still, there are core principles at play.
Every worried thought you’ve ever had has most likely been thought before, by someone else, in a location far-flung or near, somewhere on this spinning planet.
Every body ache and existential cringe has had its roots in the human potentials passed on down the generations.
Every feeling is valid, but its unique manifestation in you is made up of the bodies and minds of individuals from time immemorial.
You are alone, because you are you, but you are also connected to this beautiful human tapestry.
Your reactions have been predetermined, your emotions preformed in the gestational, celestial pool of human existence.
It’s beyond belief, but it is still very much within the realms of believing, if we give it a try.
So I’m asking you to give it a try.
I want you to contemplate the impossible.
It is not possible for you to be alone forever; that’s in your head. You simply wouldn’t survive if that were the case.
The flourishing of the body and mind is a story being told across millennia. You’re but one small part of it, but you’re here. You’re part of it.
To deny that is to deny the very real awareness that you have as you read these words.
And what is so shocking about all of this is that the two of us, you and I, can feel so alone yet be so interwoven into this tapestry.
When you get lost in your head — when you embody the dot, needlepoint, the lone thread — then the seas of colors are unimaginable.
But when you go out — and you will — then you start to notice the patterns and the commonalities.
When you let yourself unravel — without worrying about how you look or seem to others — you will find that no one wants the lone thread to flail on its own. That would increase the chance of your getting tangled, and if you get tangled, the tapestry gets tugged along with you.
No, no. It’s much easier to hole up and play your part — and then go out to explore. Both are critical for figuring out who and what you are.
I can’t tell you who or what you will be, but I can tell you that it’s a journey worth taking.