The Venn Diagram Theory, or, A Word About Loneliness

I recently rediscovered an e-mail from 2007 in which I list what scared me at the time.  They are as follows: “spiders, being in open water and not being able to see the shore, failing, loneliness, betrayal, letting people down.”  Not much has changed.  All of that would still be on my list of fear.  Today I want to explore the subject of loneliness, and, on a related note, friendship.

I approach friendship in a different way than a lot of people, I think.  I heard on the radio one morning that statistically, women get a new best friend about every fourteen years.  I have never found that to be the case.  I rarely have a best friend in the sense of a true confidant…someone who knows everything about me.  When I do, it usually doesn’t last more than a couple of years.  I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s me, or them, or circumstances change, or we change, or some combination of all of the above.  There has been a lot of pain associated with all of these friendship break-ups, which is why I rarely even go there to begin with.  I tend to have wide-sweeping friendships rather than invest everything in one person; in Junior High, my friend Katie compared me to the center portion of a Venn Diagram because I was the common thread between so many groups of friends (go ahead and chuckle and a bunch of 10 year olds having a serious conversation involving Venn Diagrams).  Still today, I find myself still investing in my high school friends, sorority friends, Oregon friends, writer friends, friends from certain dorms, work friends, and even friends of friends, and ex-boyfriends and their girlfriends.  Parties at our apartment are always an odd mix of people, to say the least.

On a good day, this theory towards friendship is awesome.  I feel like the luckiest person in the world because I have friends all over the country–the world, even–and friends in every walk of life.  It’s safe, too.  If someone decides they don’t want me as a friend, that’s okay because they only know a small portion of who I am.  They’re not rejecting my whole self.  On a bad day, the emphasis falls on the multidimensionality.  I start to feel like I don’t have anyone out there who truly knows me in full, but rather only the parts we have in common.  I realize just how good I am at being exactly what people want me to be instead of letting them see me for myself.  I start to envy those people who have the incredibly tight-knit group that has been the same for years, and I envy that majority of women who can hang on to a best friend for fourteen years.

I’m writing about this today because I just spent the whole day alone.  Aside from a brief phone conversation with my mom and a few texts, the person I’ve interacted with the most was with the barista at my local coffee shop, or maybe with the guy who asked me if there was free WiFi available.

Now, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to be alone–my joy in it, even.  It’s a key component to reading, to journaling and writing, to being introspective, all of which I really enjoy.  It’s been a lot of alone time lately, though, and I think the lonely feeling is linked to the change between living near so many of my friends in college, to all of a sudden being scattered all over the place after graduation.  Today, that was very raw for me.  It’s amazing that we can be surrounded by people at coffee shops, at stores–at Christmastime for goodness sakes!–and still feel like we are completely alone.

At work yesterday, I asked a woman if she was ready for Christmas.  She told me she was, but mentioned she was a therapist, so she was going to be very busy.  “It’s a hard time of year for a lot of people,” she told me.

I’d like to close with a link to a great video I found on a friend’s Facebook called “How to Be Alone.”  Thanks, all!

How To Be Alone