I never experienced loneliness for very long as a child, teenager, or even a young adult, until this past year. Sure, there were a few times at recess or the first day of a new school, but those lasted days or hours.
Having grown up, and having the most life experience yet, I definitely feel that I should have the most friends I’ve ever had. Then I wonder “more friends isn’t necessarily going to make me less lonely.” I could have one friend and never be bored because we have similar schedules and do everything together. Then I go down a huge rabbit hole analyzing friendships and aging and everything begins to blur together.
Losing friends while growing up has hit me hard. I cycled through a couple different high schools but managed to stay in touch with my peers for a few years. Eventually, people fell off my radar, as I must have done with them. I still have some friends from this time in my life. Then I went to post secondary and gained some really close friends, a ton of pretty close acquaintances, and an even larger amount of people I could always count on to party with. This must have felt like the easiest time socially. There was always someone to hang out with.
After school, we all parted ways and I went through the same cycle of growing apart from people, until I had a large group of friends but much fewer than school had provided. This was okay. I was getting closer to certain people and didn’t have time to try and continue relationships with everyone I had graduated with. About a year ago, I had three best friends. One had moved to BC and the others lived down the street from me, worked with me, and shared the same interests as me. We were inseparable. Things began to take a turn between me and my two friends who were in Toronto with me. The details are not important, but in the end you might say I was “kicked out” of the friend group. I had and have plenty of friends, but I was so strongly associated with these two girls that many people ended up choosing a side. I don’t think this was intentional by most people, but I seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick. It really felt like everyone I had gone to school with didn’t like me because of the drama between me and these two girls. Many people would ask why I wasn’t with them anymore until word really spread and the situation became one not spoken about.
Most of my close friends do not live in my city. I have found it really difficult to adjust to not having someone to hang out with every night and do nothing, to literally tell everything to, to have accidental sleepovers with and all the other typical best-friend things. These two were really who I depended on for the last couple of years, and suddenly having them ripped away with no closure put me in a dark confusion, depression, and period of stress. Constantly seeing them at work was not a good way to move on, and I struggled with this for almost eight months before I knew I needed to stop putting myself in a bad situation and find a new job. I’ve now been at a new job for about three months and am starting to get comfortable. It was scary to leave all the people I knew to start a job with tons of people who were already friends, but it's also given me a great deal of time to reflect. Yes, I have been lonely. But I have been taking care of myself and putting my needs and wants first for about three months and I am so much happier and healthier.
Before this, I thought that self-care was face masks, smoothies, and Netflix. Those are all still great ways to relax and care for yourself, but I needed more than that. I needed to be able to take a deep breath and feel comfort in my workplace. I needed to stop worrying that I was being talked about throughout my shift. I needed to sleep through the night and fill my day with love and fun instead of sleeping because I was so tired and had nothing else to do all day.
This is a bit of a celebration for me! I have fallen in love with the amazing new friends and old friends that I have. I want to be social. I look forward to waking up again. And, most importantly, I’m really starting to love who I am! It’s been a hard year figuring out what self-care means for me. I haven’t been the happiest or the most pleasant to be around at times. I was hurting a lot and it ended up being my own actions that needed to fix this. I just needed some time to figure this out. Accept your highs and lows: we’re never going to be on a high forever. Give yourself time to work through things and find the right answers and take the right actions. Journal! It teaches you what makes you happy and sad. And don’t be afraid to make changes, especially scary ones that are going to make you happier. I challenge you to find what self-care means to you. Sometimes it is popcorn and nail painting. And sometimes it’s not so simple and might take months. It sure did for me.
Written by: Madison Sekulin