8: Conquering loneliness

I grew up as an only child to working parents, which meant that there were often days when I was the only one to give myself company. Although I had a great time at school and had many friends, after school and on holidays I would crave for the company of people my age. There were few kids in my neighborhood whose parents let them play in the evenings and I would show up to their houses each day, diligently, on time. I have always loved the company of people, as a child and as an adult. People make me laugh and I take on their enthusiasm and spirit. On the days when there was no one to play with, my vivid imagination helped a lot. I would imagine myself in all sorts of situations, such as my favorite superhero or the lead character in my favorite story book or the member of the Secret Seven. Reading a lot of books also helped and the time would soon fly by.  But there were also those long summer afternoons when even my imagination would give up, and I would end up feeling depressed and lonely. My parents would then have to take me to a park or something, to get me to feel okay.

In college, I initially struggled to find people with whom I could connect and those were a tough couple of weeks. During that time, I remember trying to talk to everyone in my class, only to be disappointed by the fact that the friendship did not click. It was almost like dating. Once, I found people whom I could relate to, things became much easier and college became a joy ride. Now that I have graduated college and live on my own, I find many of my friends struggle with loneliness in big cities. Those who are dating, they immerse themselves in their partner’s  lives. Those who are single, find solace in Tinder, working extra hours, booze or any other mindless activity which the city has to offer.

The ability to be at peace all alone, without feeling the need to engage in any activity is something which is alien to most of us. Most people attribute loneliness to the lack of company in their lives whereas in reality people are never a cure for loneliness. They may distract you temporarily, but loneliness can engulf you even when surrounded by a sea of people.

According to religion, once you realize that you are part of a bigger cosmos, you can never be truly alone. We all share the same cosmic energy which binds us and keeps us together all the time. This concept may be difficult to grasp and its articulation unpalatable for some, but the essence of this theory dictates that loneliness is not a physical condition which can be rectified by some object or a person. It is a question of perspective and about dealing with our deep seated fears of isolation. Nobody wants to be left behind or die alone or become the crazy cat lady or the old bird man. In reality, though, everyone dies alone. Being in a relationship is not a requisite for meaningful human interactions. There have been moments in my life when I desperately needed solace or advice and my friends were unavailable. In those moments, the most unexpected and yet the best people have come to my aid and listened to my story, which has led me to believe that we are never truly alone. As long as we continue living, we are all together in this journey. That acceptance is key to getting over loneliness and finding peace, whether in the middle of a throbbing crowd or all by yourself.

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