I’m an introvert by default. I restore my energy in solitude. Quarantine for the foreseeable future? Sure. Work from home? Easy! Or so I thought. As someone who has mastered the art of being alone, from only child to international solo traveler, I’ve never felt so lonely in my life.
The pandemic forced me to downsize my social network. Although I’m an introvert, I’m quite social. I’m a performing artist, dahling! I live for the applause! I miss going to concerts, dancing, and losing myself in a sea of eclectic care-free San Franciscans. I miss my people, particularly acquaintances: a forest of familiar faces outside of my chosen family on whom I can rely for chance street encounters and conversation. Their daily presence adds a lot of value to my life because they remind me I’m part of something bigger.
So here I am, just me and this feeling of loneliness. It comes in waves. I’ll often do an urban hike or work on an exciting art project, and when the joyful day is done, loneliness awaits.
I learned that loneliness isn’t meant to be eradicated. Loneliness is a reminder of our X-factor: that intangible aspect of one’s existence that makes one unique.
Humans can’t thrive without connection. We long to be represented in others so that we don’t feel lonely anymore. But the hard truth is no human experience or perspective can replicate our own, only approximate — leaving behind that sensation of incompleteness: our X-factor.
Without loneliness, there is no you. To live a life well, we must accept our loneliness. When we can recontextualize loneliness as our X-factor, we can truly embrace our limitlessness. Loneliness allows us to creep toward the edges of our identity.
Not one person, place, or thing can be the ultimate source of our joy. We have to find that within ourselves, within the stillness of our loneliness.
This piece was originally written for and published on @notesontheoldworld, a digital anthology of short essays. Notes on the Old World exists to document our current moment, by reflecting on the past, the world before Covid. It is a curation project that aims to democratize ownership over the story of the pandemic, the political, and the personal.