The first few months of college were the loneliest months of my life.
I was so nervous and at some points excited to start my college experience. The first few weeks were okay — I was adjusting to classes and hostel life, and I was figuring out how to navigate the campus and the city. Then for the first time in my life I started feeling pangs of loneliness and homesickness.
I was in a new city, I wasn’t familiar with the local language.I was staying in hostel and everything was new. I felt like I was an outsider…like I didn’t belong.
Everyday at the hostel was the same. I would wake up, get ready.. I was still getting used to the idea that now the breakfast won’t be ready. I didn’t know who to ask to accompany me till the cafeteria.There’s no one to sit and talk to while having my meal. I would now have to stand in line in the cafeteria and sit alone. Go to class. I used to sit in the front seat. I liked my subjects and that is why my lectures was the only time, I was engrossed and didn’t think about anything else. It was the days where we had no classes, holidays or after day scholars left that I used to again feel like there was nothing to look forward to. Noone to share my day with.
That was the time I realized the difference between solitude and loneliness. Earlier I used to feel solitude when I was by myself as I enjoyed it but now when I saw others with their partners and people belonging to specific groups, I felt alone and disconnected from everyone.
I saw groups in the cafeteria, playing games, cracking jokes in their native language and having a fun time. I used to eat alone. I started missing our daily family ritual of having dinner together.
I never had a best friend to hang out with who I can call anytime I want or a group that I was a part of. I was what people generally call a ‘loner’
I used to be happy with my novels. I used to enjoy my alone time.My best friend was my golden retriever Taffy. I always had people around me most of the time – at my house, in my school and I talked to them or was in the same room but still I felt so disconnected like no one cares or understands me.
The feeling of being alone consumed me and it had spread everywhere in the form of disinterest in college assignments, studies..Just hours of being locked up in my room.
Since I have moved to this new place, nothing made me happy…I just felt empty every day. Managing everything alone was so difficult.
Then coming home to my hostel room made me feel depressed, knowing that again it would be EMPTY. Earlier I had Taffy waiting on me and I was happy sharing everything with him even if my parents were busy.
The other hostellers always had a party going on and I was not the partying kind.
On the weekends, I slept or jumped from Facebook to instagram to Pinterest or watched a movie not because I was interested in it but because I couldn’t stand the silence.
I knew these were all temporary quick fixes and were not helping me permanently resolve what I felt
Even when my mom used to ask me “What’s going on in college or hostel?”..I didn’t have anything to say. At home I could just cry in her arms and she would reassure me and everything felt fine again. On the phone, it was difficult to tell her what I felt. She couldn’t come over and hug me. I couldn’t tell her anything as she would only worry.
I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through.
The worst time for me was when I had a bout of viral fever for a week. I had noone to take care of me, comfort me and soothe me when I was feeling down. I haven’t felt so helpless in my life than I did in those days.
I had a bad headache from time to time. I used to take pain killers . I didn’t know what was more painful- the headaches or the isolation.
I started having crying spells and moments of anxiety as it was getting too overwhelming for me.
One day when I was surfing the net I saw the website of a Life Coach and the coincidence was that the first thing that popped up on the website was “Feeling lonely even in a crowd”
I could relate to that sentence so much in that moment that I thought I shall give it a try
In retrospect that moment was what changed the whole situation for me
It was with the help of my Life Coach that I first started understanding that loneliness was not a problem associated with the outside world, it was more internal.
I felt nervous when I had to talk to someone..I would clam up if I had to initiate a conversation. My mind would go completely blank. I didn’t utter a single word as I had no idea what to talk about
I also used to have a fear of how others would judge me..What would they think of me..What if I make a complete fool out of myself and others think of me as dumb or stupid.
This fear used to overpower me every time i was sitting with someone in class or anybody tried to strike up a conversation
My Life Coach helped me build my confidence while interacting with others.
We did role plays on how I can make eye contact and initiate conversations
We came up with pre decided common topics that I could pick up while trying to talk to someone from my class so that I did not freeze at that moment or wrack my brains for a topic
I started writing my diary again, a habit that I had let go of couple of years ago. It helped me check with myself from time to time, with my thoughts and feelings as there were a lot of negative thoughts that had been built up due to my loneliness that needed a vent
My Life Coach made me realize that confidence was like a muscle, the more I flex it the more it would develop
After giving it a lot of thought (over thinking actually) , I joined the poetry group in my college as writing was a major passion for me. The initial days were no doubt awkward for me. I felt embarrassed and even had thoughts of backing out but with the encouragement of my Life Coach, I managed to stick to it till now and now I am glad I did.
I started realizing that I kept expecting others to make the first move while interacting..Others to make eye contact..Smile..Say the first words
So now I tried making the efforts. I would compliment my fellow club members if they did well and in turn there were many who would then talk about their poems and interest in certain topics.
I asked a classmate one day to go out and eat outside college. I was getting tired of the cafeteria food. The same dosa, idli, puttu…I wanted to eat something new and surprisingly we had a great day together…What was even more surprising is the fact that he told me how he used to feel the same way in in the initial days.
After a few weeks I took the initiative of joining an NGO for animal protection. I love Taffy and animals in general and that was one place where after a few interactions, I could meet like minded people.and join the lively discussions they had as it was a topic that I was interested in.
I still wouldn’t say it is easy for me to initiate a conversation but I have mustered up enough courage to start conversations as often as I can