Loneliness is a part of life, as natural as birth and death. Sooner or later, we all go through it. I’ve gotten used to my loneliness, and I can feel isolated and as though I’m plunged into solitude, even in the most crowded room, even surrounded by the people I love.
Loneliness is hard to understand. It’s not feeling as if you’re the only person in the world, although that’s often how it’s described. It’s feeling as though you’re in a room so pitch black and dark that you can’t quite make out the people around you.
You know they’re there, and you know they’re probably your friends and family, but you can’t see them, and you can’t reach out to them, and you’re colliding with unseen things as you stumble around, searching.
You feel as though the safest thing to do is to try and back up into a corner, away from everything else, and hope you can just wait there safely until the lights go back on and you can finally see.
I know a lot of creative people experience this. They become so wrapped in their work, in their art, in their writing, in the companies and products they’re trying to build, that they start to forget everyone and everything else, and when they finally come up for air, they don’t recognize their people or their places.
I know that when that happens, it makes it hard to ever go back into your work, because you’re afraid of the loneliness taking hold once again, and making a home in your soul or your heart or your mind, or wherever you believe it lives.
But the real joke, I’ve always thought, is that although loneliness makes us feel like we’re isolated from everyone else, the fact that everyone in the entire world is lonely sooner or later is the most unifying, uniting characteristic of being a human.
Loneliness is real, and it’s hard to cure. But loneliness isn’t the same thing as being alone, because there’s always people around us and out there and waiting to show love and friendship, and show that they care. It’s tough to remember, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
I don’t struggle with it as much as I used to, when I was a kid in a band, or a kid starting his first startup, or a kid with a bottle of cheap scotch and a punk rock record, alone his room drinking.
Loneliness still comes hanging around late at night when I’m vulnerable, and when my guard is down, and when I least expect it. Some days, when I go home alone, it’s waiting for me just behind the door, to follow me around an empty apartment.
It’s okay though. I’m a happy guy, and I do what I love, and I do it when I love. Life is good, and life is manageable, and life is kind of beautiful.If I’m lonely, from time to time, it doesn’t mean life is anything less, or I am anything less.
Sooner or later, we’re all going to be lonely. And you’ll find that when you get through it, you start to fear it a little less. It’s not a great feeling, and I’ll always be a little scared of what it can do, and the games it can play, but it’s never the end of the world.
There’s one quote I always go back to, when I think about being lonely:
“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” — Henry Rollins