5 lessons on loneliness

5 lessons on loneliness

Number 5 of my list of things I’ve learned since moving to Koreatown reads:
You were never really lonely.  You just weren’t present.

Consider this as a companion piece to that bulleted item.

I think about this from time to time.  I don’t say it often, or at all for that matter, but I’m beginning to feel content with my life and where it’s heading.  The energy has shifted, and all those years spent pontificating and wondering when that next “big thing” was going to reach me have, at least for now, stopped.  In lieu of the incessant overthinking and waiting, I’m met with an odd brand of calm.  Is this peace?  I can’t truly say.  All I know is that it’s foreign.  Familiar, but foreign.

In order to even start extrapolating what it means to be lonely, it’s imperative to understand what the opposite of loneliness is.  And my conclusion is that it’s purely subjective.  For some, loneliness is the feeling of being alone.  For others, it’s the feeling of lacking purpose.  And for many other others, it’s a mixed bag of different negative energies.  But I suppose, the common denominator is that feeling of lack.  And for me, that lack was my inability to ever be present.

Because of this, I’ve historically retreated to the only things that have ever, both organically and forcibly, compelled me to become present: music and creation, a healthy outlet, and something else that wasn’t entirely healthy for me.  I’ve held on to music and creation. And I had to let go of the other thing, and this was accomplished through a series of lessons that served as catalysts to self-improvement, and thus, becoming more present.

Lesson 1: A loss of passion is a loss of identity
I’m assuming a lot here, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you know me personally, or perhaps you know me through my music.  Given that the majority of the people I associate with and the facebook ad audience I typically target are around the same age range, I’ll safely assume that we’re all adults here.  And as we all know, navigating adulthood is oftentimes an unpredictable journey.  It’s messy, busy, and lacks continuity.  In short, life is chaos.  Many of us get stuck in the rat race of going to school, working hard to attain a steady career, and working at a job that will pay for our bills and help take care of our needs and, if so lucky, our family’s needs.  All the while we reserve the weekends to relax and partake in mindless, consumerist escapisms that keep our minds off the micro traumas we experience on a day to day basis, eventually subscribing to the idea that we all get to breathe out a collective sigh of relief at the ripe age of 65 when we retire and finally get to, “enjoy our lives.”  Supposing that the average age of death through natural causes is 80, we apparently have 15 years left to enjoy ourselves, perhaps even travel with loved ones, if they hadn’t already beat us to our deathbeds.

But remember childhood?  Remember when we were fearless?  Remember when we didn’t give a fuck?  Remember how we thought outside of the box?  How we weren’t so encumbered to the social norms we’ve been indoctrinated to accept.  We were mini-Gods, able to create the reality we wanted to.  For me, creation meant expressing myself through music.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve never lost this, so it’s very much a part of my identity, despite my disputatious relationship with it at times.  A loss of passion is a loss of identity.  The loneliness and desperation one feels in life even if everything seems fine on the surface, I believe, is our subconscious self attempting to find this lost part of ourselves.  We won’t feel whole until we find it.  We won’t find it in other people; we won’t find it in new experiences.  We’ll find it in ourselves though.

Lesson 2: Don’t be a solution looking for a problem.
Sometimes life isn’t too crazy.  Sometimes life is eerily calm, and you actually feel like you’re in control.  For someone like me, this can be a bit overwhelming.  The reason for this lies in the notion that I’ve always viewed my life as chaotic.  Chaos has always been the mechanism for change.  How this ties to loneliness is a bit of a stretch, and I’m sorta winging it, but follow me with this.

My therapist back in April boldly exclaimed that I was “a solution looking for a problem.”  At the time, I’ve relayed to him about my improvement in my health, both mental and physical, my apparent lack of desire to jump into anything serious romantically with anyone, and how I was experiencing a creative high.  He commended me on my progress.  I then told him about minor anxieties I had when it came to things such as spreading myself too thin, dating prospects, and potentially overtraining at the gym.  This is when he dropped the truth bomb.

You’re a solution looking for a problem.

I already had all the answers.  And every time opportunity knocked, I answered the call. I was a living “solution,” as he put it.  Other things were said that, at the time, sounded too esoteric for my comprehension, but I’m beginning to see it now.

Negative emotions, whether it’s loneliness, depression, sadness, or feelings of low self-worth, if sustained for a long period of time, is addicting.  Once out of the state (and good for you if you’ve managed to escape its grasp), the brain desperately attempts to hold on to any semblance of anything that can induce this masochistic dopamine rush.  The brain supplicates to what it thinks is the norm.  It’s the reason why, myself included for a period of time, lonely people tend to self-alienate themselves or surround themselves with like-minded individuals to commiserate their struggles, further enforcing a cycle of toxicity.

I’m aware feelings of contentment and happiness are oftentimes the most fleeting of emotions, but when you’ve reached it, just embrace it.  Don’t be a solution looking for a problem.  This leads to Lesson 3.

Lesson 3: If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it 100% of the time.
Prove me wrong.  I’ll wait.

Lesson 4: Your happiness doesn’t reside in someone else.
From an early age we were sold an idea of “the one” that exists.  Personally, I do think “the one” exists, but only in the context that we actively choose who that “one” is.  In reality, there are probably thousands of “ones” out there, but that’s besides the point.  The point is that we were indoctrinated to believe that one cannot feel “whole” without a “better half” to complete one’s life.  This type of thinking, I unfortunately admit, was something I subscribed to for the better part of 27 years; I say 27 because I hardly think a 3 year old could ever comprehend this level of abstraction.

Social media also plays a significant role in fortifying this notion albeit indirectly.  The “grass is greener” syndrome is very much rampant as the comparison game is played out every night while we scroll through our instagram feeds.  With all the good social media does for society (connectedness, showcasing our creativity, etc) the glaringly obvious elephant in the room that few feel comfortable discussing is the fact that social media is toxic as hell.  It creates unnecessary competition anxiety.  It’s the proverbial dick measuring contest, played out everyday.  The “who can out aesthetic my aesthetic” tournament that everyone partakes in.  In such an environment, who can ever really feel…happy?

The fact of the matter is if happiness isn’t within you already, it doesn’t reside elsewhere.  Happiness doesn’t  suddenly appear in a new relationship.  It doesn’t appear when you receive your promotion.  And it sure as hell doesn’t appear when you post an IG story about your new pair of Alexander McQueen’s (I’m still copping though).  How, then, does one attain happiness?  Well like other rhetorical questions posed in this blog, the answer is purely subjective.  For me happiness, or in the very least, contentment, is derived from living a purpose driven life.  It comes in small doses when you find yourself less tired when you wake, when your body starts transforming in front of the mirror, when your mind is clear at the end of a very stressful but productive day, when you start feeling secure with yourself, when you take yourself out on dates, when you treat yourself.  In short, self-love.  Self-love is the silver bullet to happiness.  Self-love is the antidote to loneliness.

Lesson 5: Small moments.
On a sweaty, packed, and nauseatingly loud dance floor in downtown LA, a friend turned around to me and mouthed the words, “small moments.”  It was 2012.  I was fresh out of nursing school, and she decided for me it was time to take a break from studying for the NCLEX.  Spontaneity was never my strong suit, so I went along with it.  It’s a memory etched in my brain that I revisit from time to time.  We don’t speak anymore, but the lesson she imparted reverbates in high volumes when seemingly insignificant yet serendipitous occurrences happen in my life.  There’s a beauty in the small moments that catch you off guard and forces you to forget whatever state of emotion you were in.  We all could probably feel a little less lonely knowing that everyone has had a little experience with being completely blindsided or having their breath taken away.  No matter how jaded we can become with the reality that we live in, no matter the amount of struggle, heartbreak, and pain we may experience throughout our lives, it’s important to acknowledge the small moments.  It’s in these moments, the crossroads of chance and perhaps some sort of divine intervention, that the beauty of life truly resides.  Knowing this, at least for me, is enough incentive to keep growing and living life the best ways I can.

-JD