Something I never really took into account as a kid is how difficult it would become to make friends as an adult, I’ve barley reached the milestone of an ‘adult’ and in my debut year, I’ve made a grand total of 0 new friends. Looking back at my 21st birthday I never really set a goal of making new friends but as the year has progressed, the idea of forming strong bonds with people in my adulthood has slowly started to creep into the forefront of my mind. As a habitual homebody I’ve gone through my fair share of binge-watching YouTube videos, tv shows and movies, and much to my surprise I stumbled into the world of the ‘friendless epidemic’ as I call it. I’ve seen a barrage of people make these videos expressing their difficulty in making friends and I can’t help but think about the irony of seeing a collective of people unite over the overwhelming feeling of loneliness that sneaks up on you in your early adulthood. The answer seems so obvious, just make new friends, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to translate so effortlessly into reality.
It’s a strange feeling to experience what seems like complete isolation whilst knowing that you have your whole life ahead of you, it’s like the world is at your feet but you are stuck where you are, you can’t take a step forward but are instead frozen in time watching the life that you want pass you by. I don’t mean for that to sound pessimistic and I can’t really offer an explanation as to when the feeling of loneliness became so loud but for me personally, it never really dawned on me until I turned 18.
I’ve always been an introvert and despite the picture that I may have painted above, I still do favour time spent on my own as opposed to struggling through a night out, at a place I don’t want to be, with people that I don’t want to be with. Being a recluse had always been something that was understood amongst close friends and family and I never really thought about it, I only really began to realise in sixth form how being an introvert detached me from a social life, but in all honesty I still didn’t really mind this. I was around my friends 5 days a week from 8am – 4pm and that was enough for me, I would go out on the odd occasion but being invited out on the weekends began to feel like more of a chore than something fun to do, and that’s not a comment on the individuals themselves, as I think that feeling would’ve persisted regardless of who I went out with. Although I was never a social butterfly, being surrounded by people 5 times a week still offered some sort of social comfort that I subconsciously appreciated, but I only came to this realisation once it has been taken away.
After leaving sixth form I was really on my own, I didn’t go to university and so I went straight into work, as all of my friends had gone off to university outside of London I went through another period of loneliness, but this time it was different. This was the first time that I had considered I was lonely because there was no other option instead of how it had been previously when I’d made a conscious decision to be alone. Graduating into your adult life can be a daunting prospect and I hadn’t anticipated how useful it would be to have a support bubble that you could reach out to as you all stumbled your way through the same experience. I wasn’t completely cut off, but my friends were far away and our friendships gradually began to dwindle once we were no longer forced to see each other every day. I guess it’s something that you take for granted, being able to socialise with so many people as once you’re given your own freedom to make your own decisions a lot of friendships and interactions that had become a part of your daily routine just fade away and you have no other choice but to adjust to your new life. The feeling of being lost and completely out of my depth was short lived however, as soon enough we all found ourselves constricted to our homes with the outbreak of Covid.
The lockdown oddly enough provided a much-needed sanctuary for me, as again I was alone but so was everyone, we were all in the same boat trying to make the best out of a pretty horrible situation. In some ways this resembled the feeling that I used to have in school where I was aware of my isolation but there was almost some comfort in knowing that I wasn’t actually alone as the whole world was sharing the same experience. The age of Covid gave rise to my social media era, for context I’ve never really been into social media, I used to be on snapchat like everyone was in year 10/11 but once my exams started I deleted all of my social media accounts and never really went back. I usually wouldn’t wander into the depths of the internet, but given that it had become most people’s main form of communication it slowly worked its way into my daily routine and soon enough it became my main way to keep up with everyone and everything. To my surprise, this actually wasn’t a bad experience, it became a fun place to be when everyone was isolated and it was quite easy to form connections with people as most of the world had pretty much transferred their social lives onto Twitter, TikTok etc. Lockdown brought people closer as a whole but once everything started to ease up, the digital friendships began to disappear and I’m glad that they did.
At first it felt as though I was experiencing that same feeling that I did once I left sixth form, the social bubble that I had built up and become accustomed to was being ripped away again, but this time it wasn’t quite the same. Throughout lockdown I was furloughed for 9 months and this gave me more than enough time to reflect on where I was, I was able to build up productive habits – initially out of sheer boredom – but those habits became my new routine and allowed me to recoup mentally, physically and socially. I discovered a lot about my myself during the lockdown period and it opened my eyes to things that were weighing me down, I found content within myself and this set me up perfectly to carry forward this newfound motivation that I had into life post lockdown.
When it came to the friendships that I had, I didn’t think that they were offering any benefit to my life, this is not necessarily because anything had gone wrong but I’d found myself growing apart from people that I had once considered close. Prior to lockdown I would’ve been comfortable holding onto to these friendships, despite my intuition telling me that it was time to let them go, I didn’t want to confront what it would look like to start afresh at 21 when most of the people I knew had already settled into their groups at university or work, I also didn’t want to experience the growing pains that would be inevitable if I wanted to get to the place that I’m in now. Growth is difficult no matter what it relates to, whether it’s physical, mental or spiritual it requires commitment and dedication to pull yourself up. The reason that I’m glad the internet interactions ended after Covid was because they didn’t feel real, and that’s not to say that you can’t make lifelong friends over the internet, of course you can, it’s just that I hadn’t. In the long run it would’ve taken more out of me trying to pursue friendships that had already run their course.
Cutting unhealthy friendships loose can feel overwhelming at the time but I’ve learnt that you will always do yourself more harm by going back to relationships that no longer serve a purpose in your life. I’ve reached a point where I’m truly fulfilled with having no friends, starting with a clean slate provides me with the ability to form new connections that are based on my own ideals. I’m no longer holding onto to the ‘barely-there’ friends for the sake of saying that I’m not alone and I’m excited to see what the future holds. There are still moments when loneliness starts to sneak back in but I don’t want to keep envying nostalgia, I can appreciate the good times of the past and also look forward to the life ahead that’s waiting for me. There’s a world of new experiences and new friendships that are just around the corner and I intend to make the most of what’s to come.