On Loneliness

I have recently started a PhD in a new country, and none of my friends are in the same city. And so naturally, I felt lonely for a while until I made some friends, and then for a while even after.

Recently though, a friend who may also move to a different city/country for his studies expressed his concern that he’ll become lonely. The following is a slightly abridged version of what I said in our conversation.

Friend: I’m worried about living alone

Friend 2: It gets lonely then too You need to go out

Me: Definitely

Friend 2: IDK

Me: But I know you Friend, you’ll do very well You can easily make friends Try a bit, you’ll find a gang

Friend: I make friends yes…. Friend: But I also get lonely pretty easily

Me: That is ok, I’ve realized Me: Occasional loneliness is not very bad, its only if it extends for too long Me: I mean, of course it’s better to never be lonely, but it’s something that will happen whatever you do. And so, don’t worry about feeling lonely.

Friend: It’s like my first instinct when I’m lonely is to isolate myself more

Me: Oh that’s me too

Friend 2: I don’t think not worrying helps. Push yourself to do things.

Me: Definitely. I feel lonely, I feel sad, I miss ‘my old institute’, I feel sadder, then no motivation, so I sit it out, then miss out, then feel worse Bad cycle

Friend: 🙁

Me: But I’ve learned, it’s not very hard to break it You just go. You must. And then, you will enjoy. Because I am one of those people who love hanging out and talking, and it brings me joy. You are like that too, I think So I just have to get there Be reserved for a few minutes to adjust Then open up fully

Friend: I’m not sure… I usually feel comfortable only in 1 on 1 settings But you could be right It’s so hard to say when I am stuck at home working remotely like this

Friend 2: Go out with people near your house

Friend: I moved houses… I know only one guy here I guess I just crave a lot of company at this time of the night And usually everyone is asleep

Me: correct But when you are studying or working in like a group setting, you will find people to talk to. Not everyone will be a very good friend, but eventually you will find people you like talking to. Friends of friends type. You just need to go out, and stick at it When I first moved to Paderborn, full josh (excitement) was there, for 2 months. Then December I went to Vienna and met (some other friends), which took me till mid-Feb. But then a combination of bad weather, not really vibing with my group entirely, and the International Group not actually connecting, I felt very, very lonely. Plus I was going to travel back in March, and I get real bad travel anxiety, so that made it even worse. But in all this time, two new people joined the Intl group, a Polish girl and a Chilean guy. After coming back from India, somehow we vibed really well. Plus another Indian guy joined, on the day I went back home who turned out to live right opposite my house. We don’t vibe as much, but Indian Indian Now I am in a good space. I’ve made my peace with the fact that my lab group won’t be my best friends. I also know that there are some people I vibe with who don’t have a similar upbringing to me, so there must be others too. Weather has also become pretty much awesome, and I’ve settled in. But there is SO MUCH TO LEARN from people. Remember how we talked about how many different viewpoints we get in IISER? Now you get so many more! Different food, language, customs, geography so much fun But finally, you still will feel lonely. This is ok. You will find people who you will vibe with. Eventually you won’t vibe with them. And this is scary, but this is ok. Finally, you will live a life that will be defined only by you. Your associations shape your path, but they do not make you, You. I imagine this like a long path. You set off from a unique location, and you’ll end up in a unique location. You are the only person who will do this path, and in that sense you are alone. But most segments of this path you will share with others. But they are going different ways, just for a while, they are with you. You make the most of it. Sometimes you have to exit a highway to a different one, and this connection road is naturally very sparse, and you may not meet people. But in the next highway, you will again find people who will drive a long way with you. But finally, you are the only one in your car.

Maybe I was very sleepy and tired after a long day, who knows? But this still makes sense to me.

#life, opinion