Illustration by Eric Rannestad.
As I write this, I am acutely aware of the upcoming, most terrifying day of the year: Singles Awareness Day, aka Valentine’s Day. I have but to buy some Ben & Jerry’s until I’m fully prepared to be alone for the nineteenth year in a row. For some reason couples have chosen this special day to spend together every year and make everyone else feel bad with their smiley, hand-holding, lovey-dovey, squishy-wishy displays.
When it comes down to it, we have to examine why Valentine’s Day makes us feel so uncomfortable and oddly hollow. Instead of ignoring it or suppressing the feeling, would it not be better to ruminate over the deeper problems within our personal psyches when it comes to dealing with loneliness?
Somewhere among the blur of social media, text messages, and the soul-shattering romantic connection depicted in cinema I think that we’ve forgotten how to be alone. It can be especially difficult in a college setting with romantically-engaged friends down the hall that we couldn’t avoid if we tried. But ultimately the resentment and feelings of deep insecurity that arise when we see a particularly cute, or else annoying couple, come from something within us ultimately unsettled by the sight.
Now this isn’t to say that I really need a significant other not to feel existentially alone. I’m grateful for the way my friends support me and understand me on a deep level. They’re also generally good about knowing if I’ll like a new person I meet. But they will never be able to resolve my feelings of metaphysical loneliness. Nothing can ease the realization that no one will ever understand truly and deeply who I am the way that I understand myself–only we can know our own greatest doubts and insecurities, what we think about before falling asleep at night.
Yet being with other people, even through texting and social media, distracts from the worries we deal with when we’re left alone in a quiet room. For example, if I’m avidly discussing the new Kanye album with a friend I’m not thinking about what I will want to do in ten years time. When I’m having a silly Snapchat exchange I can ignore the creeping suspicion that some of my friends might not actually like me.
The way I see it, the problem with today’s society and its pervasive loneliness is that we care too much what others think of us. We’re so busy putting up walls in front of people putting up their own respective walls to be able to understand how anyone else actually feels. I’m trying to seem a certain way and predict what another person wants to hear, all while they’re doing the exact same thing to me.
Sometimes we lack the honesty necessary for any real connection, yet still find ourselves surprised when relationships fizzle after a few months when we realize “we have nothing in common.” We collectively envy couples because they have ‘someone’ to care about them, to make them happy, to do stuff with. We wonder if they ever feel loneliness when their partner seems to understand them so well, or, failing that, at least still supports them. Regardless, there is undoubtedly a problem somewhere along the line. Because if you’re single and feeling torn up inside because of an overwhelming loneliness, you should reflect on yourself. Will having a significant other solve your problems? Perhaps it would be more productive to work on our own selves first.