Been on a train lately?
If you're anything like me, then you probably have. I often find myself travelling in and out of the city on a regular basis, usually for leisure trips or the like, and more often than not, the journey is rather uneventful. Sometimes I would even consider it a bit boring, to be frank, and it appears that I'm not alone.
Here's a thought - next time you're on a train, take a look around.
Glance around at your fellow passengers, and you're likely to find that they've found different ways to entertain themselves on their journey. Some of them are likely to have their heads down as they tap on their smartphones, others squawking to some unknown person on the phone about how they're 'on the train' and others sitting with their partner or friend as they travel together.
Now ask yourself this - what one of them is lonely?
Well, you probably can't tell just by looking at them. In fact, you can spend years getting to know a person and not know that somewhere deep inside, loneliness is eating at their very essence. Think about that - someone in your life right now can be battling the grip of loneliness and you might not even see it. It's a terrifying thought, isn't it?
Believe me, the experience is so much worse.
There are seven billion people in the world right now, give or take. It's actually very hard to feel fully alone when you consider that. However, for some, it's just as hard to feel like they're not alone. I made a decision a few months ago to move to a university much closer to my home in the hopes that I can lay the groundwork to build a life I can call my own. A social life, that is. As of writing this, I have spoken with some people in classes, joined my local independence campaign and am in the process of looking into university social societies I could join. It's all actually an exciting time by my standards, and yet here I am taking time out of my day to write about a mental disorder that too many people worldwide perceive as being a non-issue. How weird is that?
I never thought of it as weird, actually. Writing is like my escape from the harsh reality that is life. I write to create, to build a world in which I do not experience the grip of loneliness and instead create characters who fight to save the world, engage mystical enemies and harness great power. It's all a fantasy, of course, but underlining it is another fantasy - the stories I write focus on a group of people forming a team, fighting with one common goal.
In my real world, I spend most of my time alone. It's not unusual for me to go through a day without finding more than one other soul to talk to, and yes, it hurts. Imagine that you have just made the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, and then find that you have no-one to share that discovery with. Then you start making discovery after discovery, but still there's no one to share them with. If you can imagine that, then you can imagine the pain of thousands worldwide who are at this very second struggling with loneliness and are searching their very souls for a way out of it.
It was Janet Fitch that argued that "loneliness is the human condition." And that we should never get our hopes up about outgrowing it. This may offer an explanation as to chronic loneliness, but nonetheless, I disagree in part with her statement. I am of the belief that the worst aspects of loneliness can be overcome. By this I mean social loneliness in my case. I believe I can overcome it, it's just a question of how. I hope the same goes for many other sufferers out there, but I do spare a thought for those who are in a worse position than I. Thankfully, I have retained the very parts of me being that make me who I am. I retain my charm and my smile even through my darkest days. I hope - I pray - that there are others out there who can say the same.
Here's another thought - there is someone on that train who's lonely. Guess who.