I’ve written about happiness frequently in this space (see here and here and here). Though I consider myself a cheerful person, I don’t always consider myself a happy person despite what outside perceptions may indicate. I strive to be optimistic and upbeat as I was raised to be. I believe in the benefits of positivity even when the world feels very negative. I like to be around happy people, so I strive to radiate happiness myself.
No one is truly happy all the time, and although at some points I am certainly more fulfilled and thus happier than other times-happiness is a constant balance. If I spend too much time working towards goals and too little time relaxing, I’ll feel burnt out. Similarly, if I binge watch Netflix each and every night without making time to exercise or blog or explore new hobbies I’ll seep into a lethargic depression. Life is about balance! Though many #hustle fans don’t believe in balance, I think there IS such a thing as life balance even if it isn’t the cliche way we imagine. Realistically not everyone can work from 9:00-5:00, spending weekends and evenings with family, friends and pursuing hobbies. Though I do have this simple luxury, I know in many cases balance doesn’t fall into such a neat and precise schedule. That’s okay-balance doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everyone.
My happiness struggle doesn’t stem from balance in the sense one would assume. I have plenty of time for exercise (though I don’t always utilize it), plenty of time for fun and plenty of time for cooking dinner, going to bed early, etc. My biggest threat to happiness is often the most difficult to speak about. The biggest threat to my happiness has always been loneliness.
It’s strange thing to be both an introvert and someone who feels perpetually plagued by a cycle of loneliness. To both crave human company and the comfort and isolation of my own home is a strange paradox. Almost every day after work I long to go home and spend several hours in quiet solitude but almost everyday I do so I find myself craving friendship and human interaction. So I force myself to make (and keep) plans I know I’ll dread until they begin. Every dinner, coffee date or happy hour is at least a small source of dread and anxiety until I’m happily immersed in conversation with a friend, or dancing with a glass of champagne. Yet, the idea of a weekend spent all alone terrifies me exponentially more. It’s a paradox I struggle to balance, usually failing in one small way or another. Guilty when I cancel plans with a close friend I really do miss, and guilty when I spend an evening alone scrolling through Instagram and watching Project Runway on Hulu.
Loneliness is especially difficult to discuss. I’ve rid myself of any shame when it comes to discussing social anxiety, depression, anger or grief, even jealousy feels worth talking about if only to rid myself of it. Talking about loneliness feels especially pathetic. While we can sympathize for a sad person an anxious person or a depressed person, a lonely person appears especially broken. We can’t help but ask “But why are you lonely? What is wrong with you?”. I even find myself doing it occasionally and I know how awful it is to feel lonely.
Recognizing our own loneliness can be just as problematic. When I identify myself as lonely I often whirl into a stage of reclusively if only because I doubt my likability as a person. I spend time laying in the bath wondering why I am so bad at making friends instead of going out and doing things to help me make friends. It’s a vicious cycle!
I must add, with all this talk of loneliness, I am not especially lonely right now but at times I feel jabs of loneliness. Perhaps loneliness is my biggest insecurity, I know how painful it is to feel so alone and knowing I can feel that way so suddenly and without warning is nerve wracking. Talking about loneliness, even when I am not very lonely seems like the best way to normalize the conversation and eliminate the taboo of loneliness. If we admit when we are lonely more often, maybe lonely people will carry less of a stigma. We’re all lonely once in awhile whether it’s for a brief nostalgic moment, for a weekend or for a season in life.
I wish I could end this post with a call to action, a crusade to end loneliness. However, intellectually I understand loneliness is somewhat beneficial. I think everyone should feel lonely every so often, it’s a great opportunity to build your identity, to learn about who you are and what you’re most afraid of and propelled by. It’s surely not possible to eliminate loneliness altogether, nor is it beneficial. Loneliness is one of those important feelings we never wish to feel again.
Perhaps my message is this; 1. It’s okay to be lonely and it’s okay to talk about being lonely and 2. Being a happy person doesn’t mean you never get lonely.