Two summers ago I wrote a sad piece about how lonely I was. The first version is gone now — I had to edit it for my blog so it didn’t sound so freaking sad. The thing was, I was really sad. I was lost, confused, painfully lonely.
I’ve always been a little bit lonely. We all are, just to varying degrees and in different ways. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I have a twin, if sharing my DNA with my sister robbed me of … something. I tell my mom that in the womb, we split our cleanliness, which is why we’re both so messy. Does it work that way with loneliness? If so, you think we’d have less of it.
I feel things deeply, often in rapid succession. Happiness, wonder, joy … terror, frustration, and yep, loneliness.
Two summers ago I was depressed, as I sometimes get. I haven’t been that sad in, well, two years. I remember the week I grabbed the reins of my lonely life: It was in September, 2014, and I made a friend. Loneliness: 0, Connelly: 1.
Making friends is difficult. My sister and I have always done it together. In Charleston, I’ve mostly done it by myself. I go places by myself all the time. Two years ago, I would not have done that. I would have moped in my bed. Now, right now, I’m sitting at a brewery drinking my favorite beer. Sometimes one of the bartenders has it ready for me. I come here by myself that often.
I started pondering loneliness last week, when I was alone at another brewery. Drinking Alone is definitely the name of some memoir, but y’all can tack it on my headstone as well. I told a coworker today that I would also like, “We need more vodka,” on my headstone, because, at that point, we definitely would.
Back to my solo brewery: I walked out onto the patio, trying the place’s new IPA, which was what my visit was about, and a group of youngish guys asked me to join their human-sized game of jenga. You know, the one with really big pieces. I had wanted to sit, drink the beer, stare off into the sun — anytime is a good time to catch a tan — but I obliged. They were a bachelor party, of course, they were nice, kind of dorky, but christ they probably thought the same thing about me.
“Who are you here with?” one man asked. “Myself,” I laughed, as if it weren’t obvious after the ten or so minutes we’d chatted. He was taken aback, nodded, said, “Cool.” I looked at him and continued my train of thought … “I go places by myself all the time.”
He smiled and we kept playing the game. I didn’t win or lose, which is a delightfully neutral way to ease yourself out of a short-lived scenario. I finished my beer, we waved goodbye, I drove off into my lonely, lonely future.
But it isn’t lonely. It’s just alone.
Two years ago I was struggling with that distinction. To clarify, I was both alone and lonely, and I wasn’t sure how to reconcile the two. It had been this way for years, with each year of college forcing me into a hermit-like existence that I didn’t want, but which I was too lazy to fight. I glued myself to my sister, my then-boyfriend, my few close friends. I couldn’t be alone.
I have friends now (see my September savior above). I also have plenty of time alone. Even some of that time is spent without my dog, who I whisper to every morning, “You are my best friend,” like she knows. She may know it. We often get beers together, which could be my litmus test for best friendship.
I am not the patron saint of battling loneliness. I still get lonely. Sometimes I think I’m fooling myself, being so blessedly content by myself. And then I remember the years of my youth, which I guess is kind of a joke since I’m only 25. High school roof sessions — you know when you climbed out of your window and sat on your roof and cried about being a teenager. And also smoked shitty joints.
And I think about how I struggled so much, at times, in college, wanting to open myself up to everyone, backing myself into the corner of a select few (a really great few, but, still, there was room for more).
And then I think, I deserve this shit. I catch myself being happy, just sitting in my backyard, drinking vodka sodas and skimming old copies of whatever magazine I have on hand. I wonder where else I could be, who else I could be with. What could I be doing right now. The question used to torment me. Now it passes. Am I growing out of something, or into something new?
I think what I want to tell myself, but I can’t quite yet, because I’m really not into finality … is that it’s OK to be OK. It might feel weird at first, after years of struggling through your own storm of thoughts and feelings. But it’s OK. Embrace it. Maybe next week, I’ll fall into the oblivion of something I can’t predict. For now, I’ve got, well, I’ve got my very own self.