How To Deal With Loneliness


Owen McGonigle

They say that being alone allows for more time to think introspectively, and retrospectively.  When you’re single, everyone tells you to focus on “you”.  It’s almost like a preparation for when you are in a relationship, to use up all the time you can before it is stripped away from you.  So when you’re alone, you spend your time thinking about you and only you.  Proud singles boast their self-love for their world (and ex lovers) to see in anyway they can.  All this to the point of making those stuck in a gray area believe that the single life might actually be the path they have desired. 

But what happens when you are alone, but not by choice?  No, not when every single guy you approach finds some way to reject you, or when you have had a dry spell of a month.  I’m talking when you find yourself in the midst of a global pandemic, one so bad that you, nor the possible lovers in your life, may leave their residence. 

Now of course, a love life is not priority in a situation as such.  When global health is at risk, the last selfish thing on your mind should be the status of a possible relationship in the midst.  However, one cannot deny the underlying human desire that does not find a halt upon sudden events.  Those urges bubbling beneath your skin at every moment, even in those moments when you feel as though they should not.  The desire to love and be loved continues throughout the light and dark, throughout the glories and hardships, and everything in between. 

My own desire to love and be loved, and everything in between, was met with yet another roadblock along the way: quarantine.  So while I fully knew that I possessed no lovers in the moment, the reality hit that I would probably not be finding any new ones anytime soon.  It was a romantic pause, one that held an indefinite time stamp on my life. 

So I found myself doing what any young single would do: I phoned an ex.

It is human nature to crave a sense of comfort, one that will shield you from every sense of fear or pain emerging from the outside world.  In all honesty, I had no idea where I would find comfort in him.  Everything in our history, and everything in our past, lead to the most intense sense of emotional pain I could inflict on myself.  I had spent months prior doing anything to erase his name, erase his face, and to erase the song in my head that haunted my mind on an endless loop.  Months of work to rewrite and retell months of my life gone by, all to waste over a single message.

At first, I couldn’t tell what my true motive was.  I could not decipher why I allowed myself to give in to the man who had once caused me such pain.  My mind battled with my heart, but it wasn’t clear what either was battling for.  Instead, I continued onward for our conversation. For a while, we talked as if we had not ended the way we had.  As if he had not unfollowed me on social media, as if he hadn’t spent weeks ignoring me at every chance, acting as if we had never known each other.

But, in my state of physically being alone, I could not allow it to continue in that fashion.  For hours on end, I spent the days thinking about myself.  My thoughts rattled around thinking about my work, my art, my friends, and everything it could possibly analyze.  I thought about the way I spent my time, critiqued the routine I had set for myself during isolation.  With this, everything in my mundane life had become layered.  And I couldn’t sit with the man I had once adored, and had once feared, and talk about the shallow.  Whether he knew it or not, I had mentally dived into the deep end.  And while I did not require him to dive in after me, I found myself unable to float in petty thoughts. 

So gradually, I let little bits slip in here and there.  Our past, which I had spent months trying to erase from my memory, began to rewrite itself.  While we didn’t exactly agree on how each piece was to be written, it was still being done.  They came back in bits and pieces, as memories stored away for me to rediscover later in life.  We laughed about our good times, and even our bad.  It was a fairly meta thing to do, to go back and analyze the rise and fall of a relationship with the said partner.  Even still, I found myself continuing the conversation.  I thought back on all the days I knew I had been hurting, but with him I found a new sense of comfort in looking back at them. 

The scary thing was that I couldn’t tell why.  It was hard to understand the way it worked.   All I knew was that I was remembering negatives memories with the individual who inflicted them, and they didn’t seem as bad as they had been. 

So I thought with myself.  Had I just grown up?  Did I begin to realize that the pain I had felt merely a year prior had been dramatized by the righteousness of the moment?  Or, in the strangest twist of it all, was there still a sense of comfort within him that alleviated the pain I had once felt?

I woke up the next morning thinking about the events of the night prior.  Even in the clarity of the morning sun, I couldn’t find a motive to my actions.  Where did I stand with him?  Did I suddenly forgive him for everything that had happened prior?  Was this the start of a new chapter?  Whatever that may be.

So I made myself a coffee, and sat.  In quarantine, I couldn’t really do much else.  I was on the final film in my Harry Potter marathon.  Emma by Jane Austen sat at my bedside finished, and the thought of starting a Marvel marathon was a bit too daunting for the moment.  Every few days, I had done my makeup just for fun, and would occasionally wear some to my online classes. 

It was strange how swiftly your life could completely alter, and shift on its heels.  Just a few weeks prior, I was reaching a new peak in my social, academic, and artistic life.  After a year of scrambling to rebuild what I thought had been broken, I felt at ease.  My friendships were refined, and stronger.  I felt as though every single friendship I possessed was meaningful, and genuine.  My life in regards to academic was doing was well as I had been used to, and I had finally found my true niche within my art.  With all this, I felt as though I had been experience a personal renaissance.  

Throughout this all, he had not crossed my mind.  Well, of course he did.  Everyone is lying when they say that do not think about their exes in any sense.  You can be over someone completely and still have them cross your mind from time to time.  This is only human nature.  If they never even skipped across your mind once in a blue moon, then evidently they meant absolutely nothing to you.  But long story short, he did not plague my mind in the way that he had prior, and how he would again.

It was as if my personal goals and successes had distracted me from the true pain that had never really escaped.  The pain that I had merely placed in a box and attempted to lock, but fumbled for the key.  The pain that would probably make up my being for a little while after.  Had I been ready to move on, or was I just ready to distract myself? 

But in the field of love, do we ever fully move on?  Is distracting ourselves with a new endeavor, whether it be romantic or not, the only way we moved on as a collective?  If that was the truth of it all, what would happen when one was stripped away of all their distractions?  Would they revert back to their old ways, or would they come out with a new sense of emotional and mental clarity?

But as I sat to write and reflect on it all, the reality of it all come to light.  The false feelings of my life did not lie within the happiness and joy.  In fact, they were the most genuine feelings I had experienced in quite a while.  The lie of it all came through with the distraction of false-loneliness.  While I was isolated physically, and my borders had shrunk to become the limits of my childhood New Jersey home, I was far from alone.  It was a merely a trick of the mind, an imperfect illusion, to which I felt as if I had no one left to run to.  The truth was that, in the comfort of my self isolation, the true love of my friendships had flourished and blossomed past the negativity of the world around me.

So, like any young single would do, I phoned a friend.