I graduated from college bright eyed and bushy tailed, talkative, sociable, ready to move across the country and make hordes of new interesting, talented, and hilarious friends.
A year later I was heart-wrenchingly lonely.
Busy, sure. But lonely too.
That’s right, after a year of occasional coffee dates and brunches, all I had to show for it was a scattering of casual pals. Polite conversations were readily available but I lacked any resemblance of Secrets-Sweatpants-and-Tears Friends. (Those are the real friends, aren’t they? The friends who know you only brush your teeth once a day and have seen you in your actual sweats? Not the cute, slumber party pajamas. No, the ratty, oversized, who-knows-what-that-stain-is sweats. Spoiler: It’s definitely wine or queso. Those are the real friends. Those are the real heroes.) If I’m being honest, I can now admit I used a lot of these “polite conversation” situations only to remind myself I was not, in fact, a complete social invalid. Noble, I know.
As a generally normal twenty-something human, why was I struggling to make real, deep friends?
I thought it was perhaps because I’d moved across the country.
I thought it was perhaps because I’d devolved into a weird, boring, shell of a human.
I thought it was perhaps because it was my destiny to buy some cats and die alone.
[Not shutting the door fully on that one yet.]
One night, sitting around a picnic table with some beers and some friends, one of us admitted to feeling lonely. I stared with (what I desperately hope was) subtle shock. I had been utterly convinced that I was the only person in the entire East Tennessee area, quite possibly all of America, who felt loneliness. But one by one, around that picnic table, we each admitted to being lonely. I swear, it was worse than coming forth with some deep, dark sinful addiction. Awkward, vulnerable, uncomfortable. And in the midst of the vulnerability and discomfort, an incredible, massive weight lifted off my chest and was replaced with joy and relief. I could finally, finally breathe.
Around that sweet, sweet glorious picnic table I realized: we’re all lonely.
We’re all, all of us, lonely now and then.
The girl who is stunning and has the trendy job? She has lonely moments.
The guy who was born and raised in this very town? He has lonely moments.
The girl who is happily married and posted the cutest maternity photos the other day? She has lonely moments.
We’re millennials, which means we have grown up to desire deep relationships and epic adventures. We’re millennials which means we have grown up with technology that informs but misleads us, and ultimately disconnects us. We’re millennials which means we’re all lonely and no one will admit it. Nothing will change until we admit it. I am so wildly thankful for the friend who was willing to be the first to come forward and be honest.
It will be hard and awkward but please, love, you won’t regret it:
Boldly admit your loneliness.
Let your bold loneliness spur you to be the one who is willing to make plans. Be the one who is willing to follow through. Be the one who is not afraid to ask deep questions and listen to long, difficult answers. Be the one who invites people into their home. Be the one who “takes the next step” in the relationship. Be the one whose schedule is open and flexible and always ready for a chat and a beverage.
Lay down your pride, free up your schedule, and put in the time and effort necessary to develop Secrets-Sweatpants-and-Tears Friends. Because it will be an effort and it will take time.
I know it will take time, because twice this week, once to a friend and once to a church small group, I’ve admitted to being lonely. It is still the most difficult and vulnerable confession for me to make. Yet I know with every ounce of my being it’s something we all need to continue to admit.
Because loneliness isn’t something easily fixed.
The good stuff is never easy, and honest community is some of the very best stuff life has to offer us. I’m so much more grateful for the community I have now, thanks to the loneliness I felt then.
So if you’re lonely, please, please, admit it. You may be surprised by who follows suit.
And there’s no way we can be lonely together.