I’m kind of lonely.
Not really in general, but right now, I’m pretty lonely. My boyfriend is working overnight at the hospital, and I have one best friend who happens to be busy tonight, another best friend who lives very far, and unfortunately, I don’t exactly have a fourth or fifth person to call.
So, it is Monday night, I’m home alone, and I’m drinking a glass of red wine and watching Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (which is a truly awful show, but one that pairs perfectly with loneliness and a glass of red wine). It is my own doing, thought, so I have no right to complain.
But it isn’t just me who feels this way. In early February, Forbes writer Caroline Beaton wrote an article about how millennials are getting lonelier –- a thought which is definitely believable considering the volume of “Netflix + chillin’ by mYsElF #loser #boring” tweets I see on my feed each day, and especially believable considering all of the actual data she had to support it.
She goes on in her article to explain how the loneliness is actually bad for you –- like, with actual statistics about how and why loneliness can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. (You should probably click on the link to this article. I couldn’t possibly regurgitate Beaton’s thorough research myself, but I can definitely relay the blown-away sentiment to you guys, and urge you to take a look.)
After I read the article, I thought a lot about it. I was coming up on week one of Drew working nights, and knew I had a lot of lonely evenings ahead of me. It is in the moments that I find myself without my one or two core life-partners that I regret not having more players on my team. I regret having isolated myself preemptively, at risk of not being socially accepted, or whatever other jaded reasoning I had each time I purged myself of another group of high school friends, or casually didn’t respond to a text from a new classmate suggesting we go out for coffee. I thought about it and thought about it, and even asked some girls from my classes if we could exchange numbers and meet for a drink. I don’t want Lonely Millennial Syndrome –- I don’t want it at all.
Which is why I was so delighted to see that last Friday, Beaton wrote a follow-up article to her (personally soul-shattering) article on loneliness, entitled “The Solution to Millennial Loneliness”.
Anyway, I clicked on the article fast as all heck, and waited for the solution. Caroline friggin’ Beaton, please cure my loneliness.
She suggested, brilliantly, that the change begins within us –- that we, as lonely motherfuckers, need to switch our priorities back to where they were in the days when we treated actual social connection as something important to us.
We are increasingly consumed with and impressed by busyness in our society, and would proudly sport an “I’m A Workaholic” badge over an “I Have Tons Of Pals” badge any day. We glorify insane busyness, and, put simply, we’ve put meaningful relationships on the back burner in favor of working on our own professional development.
In fact, I tweeted today about the fact that people often use the excuse of being a “busy, working adult!” to justify their lack of social connection and obligation to maintaining relationships, and how I often think that making that justification probably means you are a shitty friend. I never said that I’m not sometimes the shitty friend. In fact, I’m often the shitty friend. We’re all sometimes the shitty friend. The point is, I want not to be. We all need to try not to be, lest we chain ourselves to exclusively-online social connection, which is, at best, faux-friendship, requiring no actual relationship demands or obligation. In her article, Beaton says “Just meeting people, however, isn’t enough. We also need to sacrifice for them.”
We don’t like to sacrifice for them. But we need to.
So, if I could offer any advice based on what I got out of these two articles, it would be this: email an old friend. Make (and keep!) a coffee date with the work pal you platonically friendship-flirt with during your 9-to-5 hours. Actually respond to the “Just checking in!” text from the high school bestie you haven’t spoken to in ages. Don’t, by any means, let people into your life who have no place in it – you don’t need to be friends with everyone. But you do need to be friends with some people. Your health, happiness, and productivity depend on it.
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