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Avoiding Loneliness

January 24th, 2022

I remember vividly something a friend said last spring on a walk in the middle of a rather morose conversation.

"I mean, what's the point of friends?" I asked.

"Avoiding loneliness" She replied.

Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't spot on. Because today I committed an interesting faux pas:

A harmless text! Well, when I got to the library and looked for a nice table, I happened across a friend from mock trial, with whom I sat down and began happily working away.

Until someone in this group chat responded that they were arriving at the library and were looking for me. Now, I had to either leave to meet this new person, or renege on my cheery text looking for pals to study with. And it felt weird to try to add my freshman friend the the calm working environment of my mock friend, on which I was already sort of encroaching.

Does that make sense? Basically, I'd over-committed. I could have sent the text looking for people to join me after I'd scoped out the library and found that nobody was there, or I could have sent the text but then not sat down at Marie's (mock friend's) table because I might have company. Instead I did both.

What does that mean? At this point some of you are thinking about whether or not you need to close this tab because Ian has chosen a boring topic. I do think there's a bigger idea here.

On a consistent basis, I have a tendency to send out too many feelers at once. I might text three people at once if I want to strike up a conversation. I might ask multiple people if they're around to grab a lunch. And yes, in my haste to not be alone at the library, I might both send the text and snag the table.

I think that's a terrible behavior. It indicates that a lot of my socialization is motivated by the need to avoid loneliness. I'll get a burst of "need to be around people more," panic to find a way to rectify that, and try to plan stuff with friends all at once. And the reason it feels so slimy is that it isn't always coming from a place of "I want to spend more time with [x]." It's not proactive like that. It feels a little selfish. "Spending time with [x] will make me feel better."

I'm combing through all the people who I know read this, or even have access to it. And I would like to say for the record that I genuinely enjoy spending time with all of them. It is consistently a treat to be around these people—either keeping in touch with the ones I know well and learning more about the ones I've met more recently. Let's find time to do something this week! But sometimes the impetus to start that process comes from a questionable place.  

I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that I'm at college, a place where being around people constantly is the expectation. It feels weird to spend time alone here, even if I want to, because it requires some self-assurance that it doesn't look weird to be the one by myself.

Because I think I disagree a little with the "avoiding loneliness" reason for having friends. That positions friends as aspirin—when you have a headache they make the bad go away. Friends are also the candy bar—they add the good. And I am certain of that. So why does it feel like so much of my drive to be around them comes from the headache, not the sweet tooth?

Maybe that's just how it is. I'm probably overthinking it. But it's been on my mind today nonetheless.