I’m twenty-three, live in a £800 a month studio flat on my own in North London and work full-time in a nine-to-five job in South London. My family live a mere thirty-five minute train journey away and my best friend lives around the corner.
Yet I’m still lonely.
Someone once told me that twenty-three is supposed to be the worst age of your life. You’ve just finished any kind of full-time education, are in the lowest ranking job of your career and the system of constantly having your friends around you in classes or in dorms is gone. You’re on your own. This is where I think the all-encompassing loneliness stems from.
Upon realising I was lonely did the one thing I thought would help me get back on the social path - I moved into my own flat.
It was backwards thinking born out of desperation, and a brief period of depression which caused me to isolate myself without even realising it.
I came home to silence every evening, having no company and no one to share my day with. So I did the one thing that everyone told me I should be doing at twenty-three, I went on Tinder.
After sieving through the weirdos and the rebounders I went on a few dates. Highlights included the writer/actor who was writing a play on masturbation - ’Cumming Soon’ - who was very interested in my masturbation habits, and the guy from the Treasury who wanted to discuss my pension plan in depth.
None of these dates helped with my loneliness. In fact, they made me feel worse.
The only good thing that came out of them was having something to tell my friends about. These friends encouraged me to keep going on dates and utilise them; use my dating life as a social life for hire. Visit museums, pubs and different parts of London with a companion who I might pay back with a kiss or a ‘last night was fun’ text in the morning.
But it wasn’t long before the novelty of dating for a social life began to wear off and I felt more lonely than ever.
I pushed myself to start getting in touch with old friends from university. Catching up only to find out that they were getting married and I wasn’t getting an invite, or that they had moved into their partner’s house and the housewarming party was the week before.
While I was pleased for them I also felt guilty that I hadn’t made the effort to stay in touch, and frustrated that they hadn’t either.
With each year another friend leaves a WhatsApp group and whilst this curation of lasting friendship is starting to get stronger, as natural evolution takes place, it also leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Is it because I live in London and they don’t? Is it because they do live in London and have a more exciting life than me?
How do you make new friends in your twenties? A question I’m only just beginning to find the answer to.
After deciding twenty-three wasn’t going to be the worst age of my life, I’ve finally started to find ways to cull my loneliness.
Firstly, I got a therapist. I call them my paid-to-gossip therapist. He sits back and asks me about my life and every week I get to pour out all my feelings and we work on them together. He feels like a friend, and has actually helped me to feel confident and comfortable in contacting people I have been, or want to be, friends with.
I set myself monthly challenges to have experiences. I go to exhibitions on my own, have dinner with a different friend every week and go to the theatre once a month with someone I’m close too.
I visit my family every fortnight and call my close relatives whenever I feel like a chat. I talk to people on social media about my different hobbies and my career. I comment on old school friends Facebook pictures and private message my younger cousins about their GCSE results and my older cousins about their newborn babies.
Loneliness can often feel like British weather. Suddenly the clouds disperse and you have a long unexpected heatwave of joy, of feeling included. Other days it starts raining with no warning and you run inside and isolate yourself until it feels safe to venture outside again.
The one thing I’ve learnt is how normal it is to feel lonely in a city, particularly when you’re away from the communities of friendships and family you have built over time. But there’s no reason why you can’t try to be included.
After all, if I’m feeling lonely in this city then someone else must be too.
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