I’ve struggled with loneliness for as long as I can remember. I’ve never loved or been loved. I’ve missed out on midnight kisses and dancing and dinners with someone special. I’ve not experienced the sweet release of letting down my guard and inviting someone into my heart and mind. I’ve not been able to intertwine my heart with another and it’s led to a half existence, like I’ve been skimming the surface of life, never allowed to fully dive in and let the water into my bones.
It’s a pain I’ve learned to carry and compress like a dull headache that never heals. And so when I hear someone who’s been in several significant relationships tell me they feel they’ll end up all alone just because they haven’t made it to the altar yet, it makes me angry. That’s when the headache magnifies to a migraine.
I’ve had several people come to me over the years and express their fear of forever alone. But they’ve had relationships in the past. They’ve tasted skin and love. They’ve dived headfirst into the water. Many times they come to me before they’ve even fully dried off.
Most recently, I had a girl tell me she thought she’d be alone forever because she was talking to several guys but didn’t see much of a future with any of them. She was obviously desirable to have all this male attention but she still felt deflated. Meanwhile, there I was, newly fat again, depressed, and with no prospect of love.
I wanted to tell her to shut up and let her know she had no idea what loneliness was. She’d been single for a little over a year by that time, merely a blink of an eye in comparison to my 28 years of loneliness.
But then I pulled back and scolded myself because, to her, being single for a year was difficult to digest when considering she had been in a relationship since she was in high school.
I had to remind myself suffering is relative. Just because she hadn’t experienced loneliness as long as I had didn’t negate her feelings. She had every right to feel as lonely as she thought she was.
We all experience feelings in various degrees of deepness. And almost every feeling we have is valid. Just because it doesn’t match up with someone else’s experience doesn’t mean it’s not real or genuine. We all come from different backgrounds and have experienced different triumphs and disappointments over the years.
And because each one of our stories is unique, it should be difficult to pass judgement on others. But it doesn’t make it difficult at all. We pass judgment on people every day, most oftentimes without even thinking about it. I passed judgement on my coworker as if it were as natural as breathing. That was wrong of me.
I still don’t think she knows what loneliness is but that’s my opinion. I can’t push that on her. She knows how she feels and I know how I feel. And if we could all sit back every once in a while and be aware other people’s circumstances, we might begin to understand them better, might become more empathetic, might become less cold to other people’s emotions.
We all have our own journey and we all have to take care of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we have the right to invalidate others along the way. I’m also not saying we should sacrifice and live for others to the point we ignore our own needs but if we could just find the balance between nurturing ourselves while considering others among us, it might make things easier on everyone.