A Lesson In Loneliness

As I alluded to in a previous post, life in Australia hasn’t always been easy. There have been challenges that have tested me. Where my significant other found a job immediately, I still haven’t been able to land one. He also starting playing competitive soccer, and so, when he wasn’t at work he was at training. Consequently, I have been alone a lot.

In all honestly, at first this solo time was great. We had been in each others company 24/7 since we both quit our jobs last October — I was ready for some time apart. In the first week, I tackled chores in the house we had been putting off, reworked my resume, caught up on television, went on some long walks and baked more cookies than we could should eat.

However, I soon found myself envious of the fact that he got to go into the city each day. Had people to talk to at work. Though I was never short of things to do, he was often the only person I saw or communicated with in a day. I would be feeling great, and then suddenly become irritable and down. The littlest thing would have me spiralling into despair. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and then it hit me — I realized I was lonely.

I don’t consider myself to be the most extroverted person. I haven’t formed many new friendships since finishing school. (How do adults who don’t play sports or have hobbies make new friends anyway?) But I had collected a small group of good people in Toronto that I used to see on a fairly regular basis. In fact, I was usually the facilitator of these gatherings. I would host themed parties and organize outings. I enjoyed the planning this entailed — it gave me something to work towards and look forward to.

After spending some time feeling sorry for myself I decided I needed to do something about how I felt. The first thing I did was reach out to friends at home. I found everyone was happy to hear from me and eager to learn how I was finding Melbourne. Most have continued to check in and we chat just as much as we did while I was at home. I always knew this, but this experience has reaffirmed it — true friends will find a way to stay in your life, distance or not.

Next, I started a bullet journal. For those unfamiliar with what it is, a bullet journal is an organizational tool to keep track of to-do lists, daily tasks, monthly tasks and behavioural habits. My monthly “Habit Tracker” monitors the days I take my supplements, walk over 10,000 steps, exercise, floss and don’t spend any money. I find it helps me hold myself accountable to habits and behaviours I’m trying to cultivate. You can also add “Collections Pages” to your journal. I have two — one for books I want to read and one for restaurants I want to try — where I can continually add new items and check them off as I go. As a person who enjoys creating lists and crossing things off, bullet journaling provides the daily structure I crave while also encouraging self-improvement.

I created this blog. Part of the motivation behind Trading Cities is that I find writing therapeutic. It encourages self-reflection and allows the time to sort through my thoughts. It’s also a great forum for my planning skills. On the other hand, it’s deeply scary. I am constantly fearful that what I create is not good enough, and so, though starting a blog is an endeavour I have thought about for a while, I always previously made excuses to not pursue it. However, I kept putting “work on blog” on my bullet journal’s daily task list, so here we are, despite my reservations.

Finally, I started exploring on my own. I had never previously shied away solo outings — I frequently took myself out for coffee or to see a movie on my own in Toronto — but something, lack of familiarity perhaps, was holding me back from doing that here. I let it go. Now, if I’m feeling lonely or isolated I just look at a map, pick a street or part of the city I haven’t yet been to, go there and just wander. I’ve found some great places this way. A hidden taco spot with a fun vibe that I will definitely go back to when hungry. A great discount clothing store that also offers free coffee. I wish I had thought to do this in Toronto. Even though I felt like I knew my city, you never know what hidden gems you might find.

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