I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so lonely than in the two months before I left New York.
It was an odd feeling, at an odd time. I was tremendously happy, and also lonely in a way that occasionally felt like it would kill me.
Which is different than being alone.
I’m not wholly convinced there exits sufficient language to describe the experience that is loneliness. Because it’s not so much the feeling of being alone, it’s the feeling of being alone in one’s experience of that alone-ness. It’s nuanced and personal and deeply alienating. And it sometimes feels like standing on one side of a ravine while everyone else who has already crossed moves ahead without you.
I was careful not to expect too much. I was excited to move to Durham—excited to begin school—but didn’t want to think that everything would change. I was hopeful, but tentative. Experience has taught me not to overreach in my wanting.
I live by myself now, in an apartment with three small rooms. It’s the most amount of space I’ve ever been able to call my own. I’ve printed photos from recent trips to London and Paris and they now hang on the walls. A jar of ground coffee beans sits next to the stove, a Moka pot beside it. I walk across campus a few times each week to go the grocery store or the small yoga studio with its brick walls painted white. The air is made sweet by gardenias, and in the evenings there is a riot of sound made by cicadas alone. I live on a tree-lined street in a tree-lined neighborhood in a section of town that is quiet and a bit removed from school. I can walk to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, or the bar that serves food until two on Friday nights; I love it.
It’s so good here. Life is so easy.* I didn’t know. I had no idea it could all feel this way. Like the center of my chest has softened. Like faith itself is loose and adept and everywhere.
I spend a lot of time in classes or in the common area at school. We go out on Friday nights--and some school nights, too. I am surrounded by others, often. But I also spend a lot of time on my own--at home or in the library, on long walks or lying on the yoga mat. And the thing is, I'm not lonely here. I mean, maybe I will be, eventually. But I'm not today. And probably won't be tomorrow.
*This is not to say school is easy. School is hard. I am neither a statistics or microeconomics whiz, and I don't seem to read as quickly as some of the others. But hard in the context of that which has meaning is transformative. Which is to say, totally worth it.