On Loneliness

 Photo from a self portrait project, 2016

Photo from a self portrait project, 2016

I know this has no connection to my usual blog posts. The only thing that connects is that it's written by me, but some things need to be written down. I have wanted to write about loneliness for a while now and it's something that's difficult to write about because you don't want to be a downer or lose readers, and a million other reasons. However, I'm the type of person who finds solace in writing and this is a platform that works best for those needs. It's been almost a year since I came back to the US and this is about something that has been on my mind since moving "back". 

Have you ever felt deep, profound loneliness? Not the kind when your friends go out without you, which I've felt so many times before. Not the kind when you're just bored and want a person to talk to, but you could take it or leave it. There's this type of loneliness that just goes so deep into your core that it's always there. You could be in a room of people and feel lonely. You could be on a date and feel lonely. You could be smiling and laughing and going about your day and feel lonely. It's like a wound that's always hurting underneath and you're the only person who knows that it's there. 

I moved to Korea on my own several years ago for college. I didn't know anyone there and it was a big step for an incredibly introverted person who gets shy meeting strangers. Everyone was a stranger and only a few of them even spoke my language. Talk about raising the stakes, right? 
I made a few friends but there was a semester where everyone I was close to went on exchange. It was the first time I felt true loneliness since I was a teenager. It didn't last long but it was one of the most difficult times in all of my college life. Things improved and I felt happy again in time, and it just became an unpleasant memory. 

The thing is, my true loneliness is happening right now. It's lasted longer than ever before and I become increasingly aware of it all the time. I'm not actually alone, in fact, I live with a few other people and rarely get "alone time". But it doesn't matter if I'm physically alone or not, I just feel alone all the time. 

When I moved back to the US it was far more difficult than moving to Korea. I had built a life there and I was leaving it behind. I didn't know how to be an adult in the US, how to make friends here, how to rebuild a life from scratch with all new expectations placed on me. I had a graduation party when I came back and my sister put a lot of effort into making an adorable, cactus-themed party. The problem was I didn't actually have people to invite to it because I didn't really have friends "back home" anymore. And the ones I could invite were busy, they moved forward with their lives here and I was the one left behind. I had a party, but the people who attended didn't know me and I had never met half of them. The loneliness started to grow at that point, with that realization of "oh, I'm alone now". 

When you have a unique life experience people don't tell you how difficult it is to move on from that point. No one can really understand what you went through, they weren't there. And it's not on those people either because you can't expect everyone in life to have the same experiences that you have. I can talk about my life for the past 4 years, however, no one is going to understand or empathize with it. People are intimidated by me sometimes, which to me is the equivalent of a person being afraid of an ant. I'm the one who should be scared. Hell, I'm the one who IS scared of interacting with people. When someone asks me about my life I can see their expression change and their attitude towards me shift the second I mention my college career. They're impressed, sure, but they usually don't know what to say next because they can't relate to it. 

When asked if I've ever been to Harry Potter World in Universal I said, "Yeah, to the one in Japan though." And there it is, the rift. When at a hair salon they always want to ask about your school life and I inevitably have to say (if I'm being honest) "I went to school at Yonsei, in Korea." I wish sometimes I could just say I went to school locally or that I work at a Starbucks in town or anything that can connect me with other people. No one knows how to respond to that so they either change the subject, ask typical questions, or fall silent while I sit there in this conversation apologizing in my head for ruining the flow. I feel like I've been turned into the Korean 220v plug and all the sockets around me are American, and I just don't fit into any of them. Use an adapter all you want, we've become different and they'll find out eventually. 

That sound of "oh..." echoes in my head every time I meet a new person and they find out I'm different. "Oh wow, you're so brave", "That's cool", "Were you scared of getting nuked?". Well I'm braver to have come back honestly, sure it was cool but I don't like the way it distanced me from everyone around me, and yeah sure I was scared some days but I'm more scared of screwing up this conversation. 

I honestly don't think I'm so special, and I even hate it at times. In Korea, I was stared at because I was so foreign. Blonde wavy hair, pale skin, weird way of dressing, big blue eyes. I didn't like being stared at that much because no one stares at someone who fits in. I felt lonely in Korea because I was part of a small percentage of "westerners" on campus and where I lived. When I came back to the US, I look like other people around me but I'm still an outsider. It's the same with loneliness, really. I was alone in Korea and an outsider in Korea because I wasn't Korean, and a lot of people were uncomfortable around me for that reason. I faced a lot of rejection in class and just kept to myself after a while since I was so tired of that rejection. In the US, I'm not alone or an outsider technically. But somehow I am both. 

Humans all feel the need to connect. It's why solitary is the worst form of punishment. Being so disconnected from everything around you and the people around you is like being that chord with no sockets to plug into. Powerless

I would love to end this with a solution for those like me who are searching for one. But really, I'm the one looking for an answer right now. I really hope to come back with another post saying, "I know what to do! Everything's better now!", but I can't honestly say that. 

I'm doing better than before, now that I found some purpose. I went off a medication that was accidentally increasing my anxiety and found some work that distracts me and allows me to move forward in life. It was difficult to get anything done when I was stuck in that deep hole of depression, but as I climb out I find that there is so much to pull myself out for. I feel displaced and lonely, but I have hope that in time I will find some peace in a group of people who understand me. Somewhere there are plugs and sockets that match me and we will connect. Until then, I'm going to continue to push and go on with my life because I refuse to live without some enjoyment. 

Sometimes we feel so incredibly alone in the world no matter where we are or who we are with. But it's temporary and nothing lasts forever. It took me a year to get through the worst of it, but the lesson to be learned is that I got through some of it. And just writing this now and admitting that I'm lonely and that it hurts is already beginning to heal that hidden wound.