Saying goodbye to everyone was hard. Watching my friends move on to new jobs in new states was harder, especially considering I’m stranded in the desert that is Arizona—where my parents moved to late during my junior year at college—without a single friend and without a job I so hoped to have by now. I see things just lying around the house that fill me with the memories of what was rather than the prospects of the future. As my memories absorb me, I can’t help but feel alone. The kind of loneliness that follows me and lingers in the shadows of my room.
I sit and dip my feet over the edge of the pool and feel loneliness heavy on my shoulder.
I walk my dog in the morning with loneliness trailing just a few paces behind. No matter how far or how fast I run at the gym, I know that loneliness waits for me in the passenger seat of my car when I leave. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Stephen King and making a monster out of loneliness is just figment of my imagination, but when I turn the lights off before bed and the shadows of my room envelop me alongside my comforter I can’t help but feel completely and oppressively lonely.
By now, I’d imagined I’d be starting anew in some city with a good job and a cute studio apartment. I’d be getting drinks and dinner with friends at night after a long day at the office then retire home and read until I fell asleep. Then I’d do it all over the next day. I had high hopes, to say the least. Moving home was a likely possibility, and I didn’t mind the idea of it. I had just forgotten that the only company waiting for me in Arizona was my parents and dog. I hadn’t considered the possibility of boredom and household chores and endless applications to fill out.
I hadn’t considered the possibility of being lonely.
I’m afraid of feeling lonely, of being alone. I have been surrounded by friends for 22 years. From elementary school to the day I left college I always had a friend down the street, a holler downstairs, or a phone call away. I’m not accustomed to loneliness. However, it’s my fear that pushes me toward optimism. I find ways to refuse loneliness’ coos and coaxes. Running at the gym is a refusal. My mind and body are focused on something other. The music blasting in my ears propels me to my best. I leave elated. For some time, in the gym and after, loneliness doesn’t phase me as if I’ve defeated the monster lurking in my mind once and for all. I use that feeling to sustain me. If I don’t find it in running, I find it in books. I read every day at least for a few minutes although it really ends up being a few hours. I escape into the world that the author creates, into the minds of the characters. As they deal with their monsters, I forget about mine.
I also have to remind myself that I’m not really physically alone.
There are people all around me going about their days, running next to me in the gym, swimming in the pool next door. I try to go out every day to live among them to show myself I’m not the only person in the world even if I may feel like it at times. Even when I’m beside myself going crazy with cabin fever at home, I remind myself that I’m not alone there either. I’m living with my parents after all. While they have their own lives and work to carry on with they’re always there for me if I need them; whether it be from down the hall or miles across the country. They call themselves “my team” and we have meetings about my job search and what I can do to better it. They don’t want to see me discouraged or depressed and neither do I.
Between reading, running, trips around town and convening with my parents, loneliness cowers. Some days, I allow loneliness to wrap its arms around me in a burdensome bear hug and my mind reminisces on heart-wrenching memories of what used to be. But I crave the days in which I deny it the opportunity.