One of my most successful posts on my blog so far is the post Don’t Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) which is, as the title suggests, all about loneliness and how we can all reach out to those in our society who might be feeling that way. It was a piece that stemmed from a memory and is embedded in a firm belief of mine that no one should ever feel like they have no one to turn to. It was shared by charities such as Age UK and Contact The Elderly UK as well as by many ‘normal’ people too (thank you for all of the support, it means a lot!)
The fantastic response made me feel really proud for touching on this subject, but also made me think about the idea of loneliness even more. Is loneliness unavoidable? Should loneliness be unavoidable? Can a little bit of being lonely ever be good for us?
Since moving to Australia, I haven’t made meaningful contact with another person here other than the friends I arrived with, my family over here and of course my fiancé. I’ve spoke to people in shops and restaurants and went on a night out with my cousin’s friends, but as far as ‘making a real friend’ or ‘having a girlie night’, I just haven’t.
But that is through choice.
That’s not to say that I don’t want to make friends here, because I do. I’ve joined groups on social media for people who have just moved to Sydney and are looking for friends and I’ve joined the library where I have access to writing and reading groups. Advertised at a local bar is a night for people new to the area to come and meet new people and I am looking forward to going. I’ve made friends with a girl on Facebook who, like me, has just moved here and we are meeting this weekend. I know, when I want to, that I will throw myself into the Sydney friendship market headfirst. I can’t wait to meet new people and make new connections here. Everyone I have spoke to so far has been so lovely. Getting to meet new people here is something I am really looking forward to.
But right now, I actively don’t want to. Right now, I am enjoying building my little bubble in my apartment, writing every day, pushing myself on a personal and professional level. Seeing where my writing takes me when I solely focus on it is making me more excited than I can express. I spend my days creating and crafting, giving my own personal goals the attention that they deserve and that I have wanted to give them for so long. It feels like this is my time and I want to make sure I focus on it enough to make myself proud.
I’m also learning lessons from my friendships back home that I wouldn’t have learnt if I had been desperately trying to befriend new people the moment I had unpacked.
For the most part, I had excellent friendships back home. I feel so lucky to be able to call the people I am friends with my friends. My mind us full of brilliant memories, hilarious in jokes and simply just the best times with those people. They are amazing and I miss every single one of them in their own way for a million and one different reasons.
But from being away, I have seen the parts of friendship that I don’t miss, or more specifically the parts of my relationship with friendships that I don’t miss. I realise now that I was far, far too attached to the idea of being the ‘perfect’ friend all of the time. I was the girl who would reply straight away, who would say ‘call me if you need me’ and ‘it doesn’t matter about me, let’s talk about you’. There were so many times that I needed to talk to someone about something personal but I didn’t because they wanted to talk about them self and their day. I would reply to texts even if I was in the middle of something important or I would drop plans with myself that I was looking forward to if someone else wanted me to. I think back to times that I scarified my own happiness, sanity, rest and simply just time for myself for the benefit of others. I don’t regret the time I spent with those people, but I also know that if I were to move back home tomorrow that I wouldn’t be repeating some of those decisions again.
I’ve also found that some people I expected to ‘bother’ with me whilst I was away have been silent, whereas other friendships that I might have taken for granted before have become so much more important. I’ve realised who is genuine, who remembers details of things happening in my life here and when to ask questions, who will wait up to talk to you no matter what the Timezone is because they have some great news to share or to listen to. In short, I’ve learnt who my true friends are.
That is a priceless lesson and one that I feel so, so grateful to have learnt. If I hadn’t have made myself ‘lonely’, then I really don’t think that I would have had the time to sit back and assess these things. I’d have been too busy planning where to meet, replying to messages, stopping doing something halfway through so I could rush off and be sociable, running around trying my best to build bonds. All of these things I want to do, but on my terms.
They say that there comes in age in your life when you start to prioritise better, and I think that maybe I am coming to that time now. Everyone and everything in my life is important, but to what extent is for me to decide. I don’t want to make the same mistakes that I have in the past.
Loneliness has made me realise how much I value time on my own and time to take on the things that truly matter to me. The things I am passionate about and I enjoy, like my writing, should be given a fair chunk of time in my life, even if a friend doesn’t share that passion and can’t understand why I might want to stay in on a Saturday night to focus on it. How much time I am willing to invest in someone else should be reflected by how much time they are willing to invest in me. I don’t have room for one sided friendships, for the takers in life, to be made to feel less important than someone else. My relationships, my friendships, my terms.
To anyone who sees loneliness as wholly negative, I hope this helps you see it in a slightly different light. I hope you see that alone time is actually a chance to pause and reflect on your time, where it should be spent and with who it should be spent. I know that chronic loneliness is an entirely different story, but to feel lonely every now and then is something I argue is a blessing. It gives you time to recentre yourself, your thoughts and your life. It gives you time to actually listen to yourself and what you want without the thoughts and opinions of others clogging up your headspace.
I’ll end this post with a photo of a bracelet from one of my best friends, Grace. Since I left England, the only time I have taken this bracelet off has been to take this photo, hence the utterly battered, well loved finish to the metal. Before I left, I received many pieces of friendship jewellery, but this is the only one that didn’t break along the way. I like to read the quote and think that there was a reason why this piece is the one piece that stayed intact – because it reminds me that the people that matter will be there for me no matter what, no matter where. I’m never lonely because I have them and they will be waiting for me when I decide I am ready to throw myself back into the world of socialising.
But for now, this is my time. Call me lonely if you want to, but I’ve never been happier.