Loneliness and isolation.

When we are in a social circle, when we are someone known and often talked to, we don’t notice other parts of our environment, of our social space. If we were to, for a moment, blur out people in front of us, our friends and people we spend time with, we would find other groups of friends, people who talk to and keep by each other – but also those who stand out by the fact they hide themselves – the loners sitting in a corner, listening to music and browsing internet. They who don’t speak much to anyone or just very little, enough to get by. Not many people know them – their interests, personality and feelings merely by the virtue of their quietness and the fact they don’t come to people by themselves and as a result – others don’t take interest in them. They are not memorable people – how can they be if they aren’t putting themselves out, right? Well, i’d like to tell you about the experience of being a loner.

Now, what you’d need to know about me is that I used to be an open, outgoing person. Before I moved from where I used to live, I was really, really popular (in the school) and socially (as well as physically!) active, open, talkative and every afternoon I would always have some friends to hang out with, someone to talk to or do sports with – everything was great! That changed the moment I’ve moved – it was a new environment, but I thought at the time that I simply needed to walk in, present myself and act like I did back then and there. Well, I was hated from the moment i’ve stepped in there, despite my attempts at being nice, social and friendly – people just wouldn’t accept me and openly mocked, gossiped about and bullied me. I didn’t see (and still don’t) the reasons for why they were so against me, so superstitious – but it changed in how I viewed people, developing a superstition of my own – that regardless of what I’d do people would hate and treat me with hostility. Another result was that my own perception of myself has shattered, so to speak – I began to think of me as the problem, a reason for how i’ve been treated – it went as far as me simply thinking of it as a punishment of sorts, something i’ve deserved for being a bad person, even though I haven’t done any wrong – especially having just moved in to this new environment. I couldn’t understand the reasons for the people’s hate of me, and so I began searching for reasons for this, that could in any way explain what was happening – even if the reasons I came to myself were just as irrational as the response of the people i’ve just met. However all of this combined have meant that I, perhaps not fully aware of it and partially because of the circumstances, began to adapt a shut-in, isolated “personality”, where I would stay silent and keep to myself.

However, even if people later on were more friendly and treated me more better, I stayed shut-in and still spoke little and went outside not so often, but why would anyone isolate themselves out of choice? Well, to speak for myself from perspective of time, it was just a self-defense mechanism. This experience absolutely ruined me as a person – destroying my self-esteem, negatively reshaping my personality, making me scared to go outside (there were few accidents, where I went outside only to be more bullied by the same people from school), proving to me how my view son social interaction and people were wrong – no longer I was willing to be open to them, to talk to them, no longer I could have any trust. Isolation was not only the natural outcome of those things summed up, but also something you could in a very simplistic, child’s view call only good option left. Think of it as if you were 10 or 11 (which I was at the time) – if being open and social got you in this hell, then the opposite of it won’t, and more so would protect you from being hurt in the future.

Scream by Edvard Munch – main focus of the painting is onto a screaming man, who hides his ears from the outside noise, and in such a gesture also showing his will to isolate from others. Yet as he cuts himself off from environment, he is unaware of what he’s turning back at; as he is not looking at it and doesn’t notice and is unable to see the beauty of the ocean behind his back or sky above him. In a way, you could say i’ve attempted to do the same – isolate myself from everything and become blind and deaf to what and who I was surrounded by – friendly people, with whom I could’ve developed a friendship.

Isolation has protected me for quite many years, about 7 or 8 now. I wasn’t bullied or harassed. I wasn’t gossiped nor bothered. But while isolation has served its purpose, it started to grow on me. Because while I had my superstitions, my own doubts about myself (do I even deserve to talk to anyone, to be friends with someone?) – there was an awareness that I’m going against myself – the boy who used to be open and social, very chatty and loud – he was still within me and wanted to be out, to meet and be with others – and created an identity crisis, that remains unsolved to this day. Not being and talking with others also meant that I never truly built any friendships with people by which I’ve been surrounded, which also meant I couldn’t truly develop myself – at least when it comes to developing my social personality. In fact I was and still am anxious about any perspective of social activity, with a still lingering fear of going out to others, even if I wish I did it more often and do enjoy the rare times I do that. 

I, in the hindsight, have asked myself – was it all worth it? Was hiding, in a sense shielding myself from the outside world a good development for me? In regards to that I can only imagine and presume what could be, if I decided to let my other half out from the protective bubble of loneliness, that I after a certain point decided to retain not because of my situation, but because of pure fear. But I certainly don’t have to think far to see that I’ve missed many social opportunities, potential friendships and moments or memories, that I could have had, but which I’ll unfortunately not have. I can only hope that I, in the future, won’t be asking myself the same question, as I do today in relation to my past. 

Loneliness by Oana Dascalu – While I may have sailed through the lone waters and parked my boat in them once the darkness have settled in, I and other people in my position should remember that when the sun rise comes, we should sail once again in pursuit of finding a safe port, where we’ll able to stay – not alone, but in company of others.

Isolation and loneliness, be it from circumstances or by a conscious decision, is not a good development for the long-term. It may serve its purpose short-term, but in the longer run it’ll, in my experience, do harm to you, one that you won’t notice immediately, but with time. I also wouldn’t want to omit people who decide to be loners because they prefer keeping to themselves, but there’s a difference between extreme end of isolation – where you completely cut ties with others, speak little and not go out to them – and one where you stay quiet in the public, but stick by few people that you trust, with which you talk and spend time. Lastly, as a heart to heart finishing note – I wish I didn’t go through the experience I did to tell you that being lonely and isolate is indeed damaging for whoever is in that position. I hope that You, the reader, don’t share my experience or at very least might take some notes from what I tried to message here.