Editorial Notebook

My experience with loneliness

“Why didn’t you come, Namish?” asked my then best friend. “I … I didn’t know about it,” I stammered, desperately trying to avoid the phrase “I wasn’t invited.”

This was the last day of middle school. And, in the most painful way possible, I learned that I wasn’t invited to a party that pretty much everyone else in our friend group had been, as far as I could tell. It was a grating experience overhearing them talk loudly about how much fun the party was.

That crushed me. I smiled through the school day, but as I lay in bed that night, I started to cry. “Why just me?” It was a small circle, and everyone else was there.

In some ways, I can understand why she didn’t invite me: we weren’t especially close friends and I was notorious for not showing up to things. My mother, a devout Christian, was convinced that Sundays should be kept “holy,” so no parties and no fun. In addition, she wanted us to attend a Saturday evening prayer section. That barred me from about 75 percent of events I wanted to attend. These restrictions only ended when I was fifteen.

Still, my “friend” could’ve simply thrown a token invitation. I spent all summer thinking back to the last day of school. I was never an especially popular kid, but surely most kids thought I was at least okay, right?

Since that day, I haven’t attended a single party (not that I got many invitations). I’d completely lost my taste for them, so I willfully avoided every event, celebration, and social gathering I wasn’t required to go to. And since that day, I haven’t had a close friend—he moved to another school, and our friendship drifted into oblivion. I still have fond memories of him—my first and last true friend.

High school was lonely, bitterly so. There was one moment where I looked around my classroom during a free period, and saw every single one of my classmates talking to someone. There was only one exception—me. That was my high school social experience in a nutshell.

Loneliness is strange—it creeps up on you. Once you’re isolated, you’re convinced it is your fault, not circumstance. Then you start to believe that no one wants you around. Finally, you give up and relegate yourself to the corner of the classroom, where no one will notice if you’re there or not.

The years passed. I still had no actual friends, just acquaintances I had occasional conversations with. And the loneliness in my heart grew ever larger. In all honesty, I could’ve made an attempt at being more social, but the fear of being excluded kept me from doing so.

However, in twelfth grade, I met a girl. She, for some reason, liked talking to me. And for the first time in years, I actually felt excited when I woke up to go to school, because it meant I’d have a chance to talk to her. I finally had a friend.

Then I destroyed our bond.

After an attempt at suicide, I stayed at home for a month trying to recover. Distraught and frazzled, I couldn’t concentrate on anything except the pain I was reeling from. When I got back, we talked, but far less often than before; she could tell that I was different. On three separate occasions, she asked me what had happened to me, and three times I couldn’t bring myself to tell her.

After break, she jokingly told me that I was mean for not calling her. But now I think that maybe there was a hint behind that. At that point we rarely spoke. A few weeks later, we had our last conversation. That was it.

Only now do I realize that I had become the thing I hated. All I could think about during that time was myself. I didn’t put any effort into the friendship. I left her in the dark for a month. I didn’t trust her with information she deserved to know. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, so I didn’t. That included her. She might have felt like I ignored her. I regret it; I wish I could apologize.

In all of this, there’s only one person I can reasonably blame—myself. I’m not popular, or charismatic, or even likeable. I’m not entitled to invitations. I didn’t put any effort into my social life. And I accept that I inflicted pretty much all of this loneliness on myself.

In college, I’m trying to make a few friends. And I’m going to make a very real effort to maintain these friendships this time. I’m still repulsed by parties, because I always feel like an awkward wallflower, so I haven’t gone to any and probably never will. But there are other ways of getting to know people.

One thing’s for sure, this time I’ll try. I’ll try putting myself out there. If, after all is said and done, I’m still alone, so be it. But at least I can say I tried.