The anatomy of loneliness | Inquirer Opinion
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The anatomy of loneliness

/ 05:05 AM September 29, 2023

Recently, on a Facebook group, someone posted asking what the loneliest moment in our life was and I got to ponder—what actually is loneliness?

Is it eating alone in a crowded place and being spotted by an “influencer” who posts you on social media with the caption “cheer up” or “stay strong”? Is it staying single in your late 20s with no plans to marry and with rest days spent with cats? Is it staying mum about your feelings despite the desire to explode because no one is there to listen and share those feelings with? Or is it being left out, feeling you do not belong to a group and just questioning what are you actually doing there?

I have had these moments a lot of times (except being posted on social media for eating alone outside). Sometimes, I feel I am okay living alone until I die, but there are times when I crave some human companion, someone who I could talk to about just anything. I get really talkative when with a friend. I could talk for hours on different topics, from K-pop to anime to movies to memories we do not even share. I remember sitting beside a coworker, talking about … I have actually forgotten what we talked about, but we talked from lunch break until the end of our shift. That was about six hours of working while talking. We have both since left that job.

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I still do talk a lot to colleagues, but mostly about the cases we handle (I work in a legal department), analyzing things including how we will handle our workloads. I share some interests with a colleague and we talk about it at lunch break, but that’s it. Outside of work, I have no social life. I do not go out of the house on weekends. I spend my time with my cats instead, or watching Korean dramas. But I do love to go out. I want to visit places. My feet crave walks, but I do not have anyone to tag along. No one invites me.

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It started in college. I took a film-related degree at the main campus of our university. Most of my high school friends enrolled at the satellite campus or other colleges near our town.

Two of my best friends were also at the main campus but in different departments. We rarely got to hang out although I lived with one of them at a boarding house. I knew no one at my department. I felt I did not belong. I came from a high school in a town only a few knew existed. Most of my high school classmates came from lower-class to lower-middle-class families. But my blockmates in college were graduates of private schools and sons or daughters of professionals. Some of them only got into our program because they were not accepted to their chosen course. Despite doing well in class, I felt left behind, not being able to relate to most of them. Despite having good friends in college, I felt alone because I was insecure.

Three years into college, I fell into days of passive suicidal ideations. I tried opening up with a high school friend, but they just dismissed it as academic-related stress and even tried to compare their own experience to mine. Since then, despite the desire to reach out, I bottled things up. I carried it with me even when I graduated from college.

Years after leaving school, I gradually lost connection with both my high school and college friends. I am still friends with some of them on Facebook, but that’s about it. I do not know how to connect with them anymore. We are busy with our own lives and I do not want to be a bother. Still, I envy those people who still hang out with their friends from childhood despite their busy lives as adults. Sometimes, I mutter to myself, “I want what they have.”

I also want to hang out with my high school friends and reconnect with them. I want to be invited to parties, to hike mountains, to try new restaurants, to take staycations, or to go on coffee dates. I want to feel like I am part of something. But I do not know how.

I remember volunteering to be a part of the organizing team of a presidential campaign activity by K-pop fans. I love K-pop, but that experience only proved how awkward I am in social situations. I did not know anyone there. I left without knowing anyone. I couldn’t connect with them despite sharing the same interests. It felt fake. At the end of the day, I left asking myself what I was even doing there. I hated myself for not taking the initiative to interact with others.

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There was also one time when I had to attend a meeting along with a manager, on behalf of our managing director. The meeting was attended by some industry leaders and held in a not-so-small events room. I remember feeling insecure throughout the meeting. I knew no one there, not personally, but they were well-known figures in the business world and they made me feel that I should have not been there. I did not belong there.

Loneliness is like that for me.

It is that gnawing feeling of wanting to be with other people, but when we are, insecurities then set in. So we go back to being alone and wishing we had someone to spend our time with. It’s like a cycle. A lonely cycle.

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Carissa Cestina, 28, works as a paralegal for a domestic corporation. She is also a published book author.

TAGS: column, Commentary, Loneliness

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