We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
- from The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
I recall having a similar thoughts about the impending end of social community in undergraduate days. Though in my case, I would never have said it “scared” me. I reserved words like “scared” for cold war anxiety. But it did occur to me that the artificial community of college was ephemeral. And perhaps that’s why so many college grads seem to migrate to big cities afterwards. It may not be just the jobs.
For me too, seemingly unlike those around me, I understood in a visceral way that college was the ideal time to find a mate. For me, having unfulfilled that and loosing the “talent pool” from which to draw upon graduation was a the only part that made me apprehensive. Unlike Keegan, it was the missed opportunity to find a spouse amid the thousands of college females that generated the most unease.
The irony of it is that for me college comprised the loneliest years. Profound loneliness. My interactions with peers were unlike those of the characters in this somewhat insipid book. Primarily two things isolated me from other college kids. Most apparent was my lack of interest in drinking and drugs. I just couldn’t see the appeal, couldn’t justify the self-abuse. And yet for “everyone else” the appeal seemed almost universal. Socially, that was an unbridgeable disconnect.
But the stories in the book underscored the other crucial difference between me and other kids. I was so self-aware and sure of myself that it made others uneasy. A woman on whom I had a crush told me as much. Too confident? What do you do with that kind of information? If you question your own confidence, does that make you more appealing?
I’m told I was unusually mature for those years. My precociousness explains why the only significant opposite gender relationship I experienced during that time was with a 29 year old divorced woman whom I met during summer vacation. I knew others around me were engaging in sex but for me, superficial connection unappealing. I desperately wanted to connect, wanted sex too, but couldn’t find others of similar mindset. During college, others seemed to lack the awareness or ability to connect in an a meaningful way, or out of fear, perhaps they impeded deep connection. Despite having attended two institutions for five years two obtain two degrees, I have not retained a single friend from those days.
I remain the same person and the themes of this blog are the same passions I felt then. “Fringe” is how the subject matter of this blog has been described. And the number of followers, 350 as of this writing, tells all. More mainstream blogs accumulate thousands of followers after just a couple years. And I’m always amazed at the number of comments and “likes” some seemingly innocuous posts garner. Hundreds. And I wonder what compels readers to comment on subjects so common.
Though I identify as a warrior and woodsman of sorts, perhaps I’ve got a bit of artist temperament because I always go with what “feels” right. Blending what’s in Heroes ‘N Pirates feels right even it it doesn’t appeal to the mainstream. So thanks for joining me, for being a part of the Tribe. It’s not exactly the “opposite of loneliness” but give me 350 Tribespeople swords and shields, put us in Viking long ships and in Robert E. Howard’s words:
To the outmost roads of the plunging sea
Our dragon ships are hurled,
We have broken the chains of the Southern Danes
And now we break the world.
I’m told it’s not unusual to feel “different.” Loneliness is amazingly pervasive even in those in relationships and families. Most of us struggle against various forms of adversity for much of our lives. For those of you who can relate, for those who feel similar, know you’re not alone.