Loneliness has always been an ambiguous concept in my mind. As a kid I had few friends and wouldn’t get invited to many activities from the kids at school. This didn’t bother me much as many of them had interests orthogonal to my own. What did start to bother me was my mom constantly reminding me that I stayed in the house too much, and her growing concern that I had no friends.
Truth be told, she had a right to be concerned. I didn’t really have any friends aside from the children of family friends. For my mom who talked to her countless friends on a daily basis, this was uncharted social behavior for her. For all she knew I’d be the next Eric Harris.
Of course I was nowhere near that level of insanity, but I was pretty fucking close to losing it. The kids at school weren’t too fond of me, and those that didn’t dislike me probably felt something very close to indifference. This made the possibility of hanging out with the other school kids (in our free time after school) unimaginable. Regardless, the concerns of my mom encumbered me and I began to internalize this feeling of not being able to hang out with anyone as loneliness.
In the present I would say my relationship with loneliness is a bit different. I care less about being accepted by others and actively seek out new conversations with minimal fear of rejection. Most of my motivation for talking to new people now is to alleviate boredom. I don’t think I ever quite feel the loneliness I did as a kid. Wikipedia defines loneliness as a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation, which actually goes against my response to isolation. Now I cherish the times I get to myself and will start covet isolation if I don’t feel like I’ve had enough alone time. Of course maybe it’s impossible for me to be lonely since I never actually feel isolated since the Internet is constantly bringing me into contact with the ideas of other people.
Nevertheless, the feeling of loneliness I used to feel is now absent. This confounds other people. They wonder how I can be okay with so much alone time, and why I don’t feel an empty void for not having a girlfriend. This is a different type of loneliness their asking about — one tied to a longing for intimacy and stable companionship.
Here’s where things get a little blurry for me. I don’t feel lonely in the way of just desiring any form of companionship, but I do get an unpleasant emotional response thinking about the isolation I have with women I’ve cared about in the past. It’s a feeling centered around loss and regret from those relationships. It almost feels like a new type of loneliness. One that fits a more mature version of me. A loneliness for the socially secure, romantic pessimist I’ve turned into.