• Robert Prendergast

A Lonely Time To Be A Loner

Ever since the school playground to be called a ‘loner’ is more likely to be an insult rather than a compliment. But I disagree.

I’m sure this is a case where there is no smoke without fire and there is a good reason for this word being used in an uncomplimentary way. But I have always considered myself to be a loner and I am very proud of it.


When I say loner I’m not talking about being a social recluse or an outcast to society. But in a way, I enjoy doing things on my own and have always enjoyed my own company. I know people who pull a strange face when I tell them that I go to the cinema or a museum by myself.


But this is something I take great pride in, being able to go and do things myself and enjoy my own company.


When reading books and Instagram posts on mental health, a recurring piece of advice that I often see is - learn to enjoy your own company. Which I fully agree is one of the most important things to achieve to be happy.


So, I consider myself lucky that this is something that I manage to find quite easy. Unless I just have an unlikeable personality and I’m just kidding myself that I do stuff alone out of choice. Either way, I saw Paddington 2 on my own at the cinema and had an absolute blast.


When I was at University I would set aside one day a week to go do something on my own in the city. Visiting a part of London I had never been before, going to a museum or a play etc. These days were integral to my mental health.


They kept my relationship with myself a positive one. They allowed me to enjoy my own company and decompress from the stresses of life while learning new things. They were often the highlight of my week.


Days like these are harder now, for geographical and Covid-19 related reasons. I spend a reasonable amount of time feeling sorry for myself for not being able to do these things. But slowly I have started to have small moments like this again, for example, as seen in my last article, a morning walk has been having a great impact. A small step. But at least a step in the right direction. But I still find myself longing for something different.


Right now I live in Dorset, in the countryside. No phone signal and fields all around. It is undeniably a beautiful place. But I do feel guilty knowing I am living in someone’s idea of paradise and all I want to do is leave.


This loner status extends into my dating life. It has been a long time since I was in a serious relationship. The proper, “it’s not official till it’s on Facebook” kind. This has been through choice throughout University. I hate it when other people say stuff like that as it is almost always bullshit. The bloke in the pub who tells people he is single by choice is usually correct, but it’s rarely his choice.


But in this case, believe me when I say it’s true. I’ve loved all parts of being a single student in London. I really took care of myself mentally and learned to be independent and loved it. I look back now and think of people that maybe I should have held onto, and for moments when I question myself I do feel regret. But I know that in the grand scheme of things the best thing for me to do was to stay single and I did that. I was a loner and proud.


It was not until earlier in this year that I attempted to change this single status, falling in love in a way that I thought only existed in fiction. But it was a failed attempt. With it being a situation that caused and continues to cause an immeasurable pain and a big disruption to the status quo I created over the last few years.


I feel like a broken record I mention it in nearly all my writing and conversations for the last three months. I feel angry at myself for not being rid of these thoughts and put down this baggage. But right now the pain I feel is one of the biggest parts of who I am. It would be wrong to hide that.


Although I am aware of my ability to get along with myself and know the benefits it has, I have been struggling to do so for a while. I understand the right thing to do bring the happiness back to my life. Go back to the way I lived before! A loner by choice.


I was happy then, so I’ll be happy now? It seems so simple. But despite my best efforts, I can’t simply make this a reality. It’s just not that easy. The people I love are far away, most of the cinemas are closed, finding a job suited to me seems impossible and any chance of travelling seems increasingly unlikely.


There is a song called ‘Holland, 1945’ by Neutral Milk Hotel. A song I used to love and listened to a lot this year. But now I cannot. It makes me too sad. I attempt to relisten, but each time I cannot get past one line that leaves me feeling weak.


“Now we must pack up every piece of this life we used to love”.


Now the sadness I experience from it stems from the song’s link to my own life events, as I listened to it mostly in the period where I moved away from my friends and was experiencing my failed relationship attempt. I took the lyrics literally to my own life. I didn’t want to pack up these pieces. I couldn’t. I wanted to keep them exactly where they were and never move them. But as we know, 2020 has a real attitude problem.


I’m also pretty sure the song is about Anne Frank, but I’m choosing to ignore that factor for a moment.


I can’t shake the thought that this really is the worst time to be single. For personal reasons and for obvious global ones. Sure, we are in a time where there are countless dating apps and we can ‘meet’ people without ever having to leave our homes and if there is anyone who is partial to a drunk “hey, how are you?” on Facebook or a fire reaction on someone’s Instagram story, then it is me.


But it isn’t the same. I’ve never come across well online. Not as well as I feel I do in person anyway. This has often been an issue, even more so this year as the world moves more and more online. Isn’t it just the worst feeling when you make a joke on Zoom and have that 3 seconds of delay waiting to see if it lands?


I still find myself using these dating apps. Throughout my time at University I used these apps mainly just for a laugh. It felt like a game. But I have started to accept the reality that I am not using these apps just for a laugh anymore, it is because for one of the very first times in my life I am not just a loner. I am lonely.


It took a long time to type that. Because it took a long time to realise it and even longer to accept. But it is true.


So now what?


A hard question to answer. I have spent weeks trying to finish this article and link my points to something uplifting and positive. But at the same time, I want to write honestly. The honest thing to say is that right now is that I have no idea what to do anymore. I really don’t. I no longer know what path I want to follow, who I want to follow it with, what kind of person I want to be. I feel I can no longer make myself happy on my own and being with someone compatible seems impossible.


I know the answer to my problems. To find a way to begin enjoying my own company again. To fall in love with myself all over again. But that is hard. I’m my own worst critic and my situation seems hard to change. My own company now feels like that friend who has outstayed their welcome.


Or adversely to this, I could take pride in the fact that for the first time in a long time I could picture myself being happy with someone else and not alone. Either way, when standing at a crossroads it is hard to know which route to go down. Even harder when you are glued to the ground and feel as if you can’t go down either.


Generally, I think I am ok at admitting when I am wrong and at fault. I am sure there would be people who disagree. But I like the feeling of being able to take the blame for something myself. It makes me feel mature. However, in this case, I am going to pass the majority of the blame onto 2020.


Maybe 2020 will evolve to more than just a year. Maybe it’ll be a word we call people we hate. I’ve been called a lot of things, but if someone called me “the 2020 of people”, that would cut deep. A far more insulting word than ‘loner’. Maybe the year will be so offensive you can’t mention it on TV before 9pm.


It’s not necessarily being single in London that made me happy. It was the independence. The power that I have control over nearly all aspects of my life. The fact that even when I made mistakes they were MY mistakes. I could own them and learn from them. But now that power is largely gone. This year has taken away a lot of my ability to take charge of my own actions. So I wonder if much of the woes in my life are out of my control and that maybe the only thing I can do now is wait it out.


Annoying, because if you told me in March I would still be saying this at the end of the year, I wouldn’t believe you. Didn’t we all think we would be in some grotty club on New Year's eve? But maybe I just need to learn to get past the fear of not being in control. Just for a little while longer.


I admit I am terrible at this. This feeling. I hurt. But I am doing my best.


We are so close to the end though. I am constantly fearful that I am putting too much pressure on 2021 to be the saviour and that it will end up being a false dawn. But who doesn't love an underdog?


I know this year has been the hardest I will ever have to go through. As it is for a lot of us. But now I find myself in its final week, looking back and seeing the good moments shine brighter than the dark ones. I am grateful for that. Finally, I feel able to put down some of the baggage I have been carrying. Finally, I can begin packing up the pieces of the life I used to love. I’m ready to move on from this point in my life.


I am a loner. I am lonely. But, I know I won’t be forever.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

© 2020 by Mental Magazine