I guess it’s time for me to admit this, more to myself than to anyone else: I left DC because I was a lonely.
I wasn’t lonely in the way that was like being tossed down a deep pit, a well, without a rope. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t sad or angry or isolated from the world. In fact, if not for some other real and pressing life, family, and career factors, I may have been able to push through the slump and I’d have stayed in The District–
But, the fact of the matter is that I was lonely. I had a job; I had friends; heck, I was in a relationship, one that was ostensibly a “good” one (it wasn’t, but more on that later), but the net effect was that it wasn’t working for me in the way that it needed to work. I loved, no, I love The District: it’s the right size city for me, close enough to things but away from the thick of it, still a good food city, reasonable-ish housing prices, reasonable-ish transportation infrastructure, and a sun’s out guns out pool vibe which suited me perfectly.
And yet, I found myself increasingly traveling back to NYC, having friends travel to meet me, wanting to (and eventually going to) London, down to Richmond, and…
And I felt lonely with my girlfriend because we didn’t have much in common and we had real distinct differences in values.
And I felt lonely at work because the things that I’m dealing with currently, in this moment, were kicked off then and I felt voiceless and set aside and I didn’t have words for it yet, I didn’t have a coherent narrative for what was happening, and so it was isolating and maddening and irritating.
I guess I need to say it now, right? I moved back to NYC for my family, my friends, and my professional network, because I was tired of being alone, as much as I wanted to not need to rely on those things. I wanted to move to London because in London I had 2 out of 3 (and that’s not bad!), but ultimately, in DC, I had barely 1 out of 3 (and that’s not good enough).
We don’t talk about being lonely because that sounds “sad” and why should we be sad when we can be (fill in the blank of the adjective based on the thing you do often to distract yourself).
But, I’m not afraid to talk about it, because shedding light on this helps dispel the bogeyman of this thing. We can’t be afraid to say aloud, most of all to ourselves, when we’re in this position:
“I feel lonely.”
It’s only when you say it, when you acknowledge it not just out of the corner of your eye, that pink elephant trumpeting in the corner, but directly, face-to-face, and making your peace with it, which is when it loses its power.
It loses its power to:
- Keep you in relationships that don’t feed you
- Keep you cycling through dates with people who don’t suit you just because you need the validation
- Have you working more hours than you want to / need to / should do
- Indulging in too many vices
- Keep you exhausted and unmotivated to not keep up with old activities you want and like to do or new things you want to try
And so on it goes, all these things we do to run from ourselves, to distract ourselves, to pretend that we are not lonely. [Loneliness is not an incurable disease; we need not be afraid of the diagnosis]
I knew I made the right decision to move back to NYC. I knew, had I succeeded, that moving to London would have also been a great decision. I knew, and I still believe now, that leaving The District was essential to my current happiness.
I knew breaking up with my DC girlfriend was 100% the right decision. It was something of convenience (for both of us, I’ll admit) and that not only did we not have the same values, interests, and hobbies, there was slim-to-nil overlap in those things and lots of passive conflict which I tolerated until it became intolerable, and I made a bid to address it and that was wholly, fully, and totally shutdown.
I have no regrets.
I am no longer lonely. There are times when I’m alone (ha! barely enough), and there are times when I’m so busy and not alone that I want to go back to The District just for some peace and quiet (occasionally), but ultimately I’m happy by myself. I’m comfortable in my own skin. Maybe between NYC and London, I’ll meet someone and we’ll sort it out. Maybe I won’t, and that’s alright, too.
What I do know is that faking it until you make it when it comes to loneliness, that’s a fool’s game and not worth attempting to follow. It will only make it worse.
Come into the light.
Once you know what ails you
Only then can you figure out what heals you.