By Pari Tavate
Loneliness is like an uninvited guest at a party. No one really acknowledges that she’s there, but her presence is omniscient, unavoidable in a way. She comes in without any intimation, all set to make your insides churn and burst that bubble of discomfort.
In the party of my move to the UK for my postgrad, she knew that she had to make her entrance grand. My life in university during my undergrad was nothing short of a coming-of-age movie. The minute I got there, I found the group of friends that I’m still very close to. I had the cleanest and friendliest roommate; my best friends lived only a floor down and everyone just seemed to click. For a girl who’d spent her childhood either switching country or school every three years, this permanency startled me. There was never a moment where I would have to feel like I was, or had to be, alone.
There’s a beauty in the way relationships develop in university – with your friends, with someone you fancy or even yourself. The first time you do your own laundry feels like winning a marathon. The first time you go out drinking with the people you suspect you could find decent friends in, and then they end up having your back every time you’ve had one too many. You end up growing up, however, you also end up relying on them a lot more than you’re supposed to.
When I moved to Manchester, all alone, I’d underestimated how different life was going to be.
It’ll be like first year all over again, right?
If only I could go back three months and nip that delusion in the bud.
Postgraduate loneliness is an unexplored topic altogether. The longer hours dedicated to readings, classes having a range of people anywhere from their early twenties to their late fifties. The seminar that I’m a part of only has three girls under twenty five – which kind of throws the whole “hanging out” prospect out of the window. The aspect of being an international student was the cherry on top of this cake.
I never really saw how slithering loneliness was when she started pooping on my party. I guess I just kept ignoring her, distracting myself with parties or video calls to my family and friends. She’d pop up and say ‘Hi’ – every time I spent countless hours in the library, never uttering a word. If I tried to avoid her by burying myself in submissions, she’d come and sit beside me in bed. Smiling.
But she did pull the rug of delusion out from under me, eventually. The days that I had no contact with another human being became more frequent. The only texts I sent were to either my family or friends back home. The flock of international students I end up becoming ‘friends’ with, didn’t end up being the one’s I’d usually be comfortable with. It all fell apart, the carefully constructed Jenga stack.
There’s motivational YouTube videos, there are societies, there are those things university organises to force you interact with other people – but nothing really works, until you actually acknowledge that you are really lonely. We spend so much time telling ourselves that it’s not as bad. That we’re just being dramatic. What we fail to realise is, the longer we avoid it, the harder it gets to come out of it.
Loneliness, though exhausting, doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. For me, it gave me time to understand who I actually was outside my friends and work. It helped me face the issues I’d always avoid by being in their company, and acknowledge that I was still a work-in-progress.
So what’s the answer to this? How do we get rid of Loneliness?
My answer would be: do we have to?
I’ve come to the conclusion now that she kind of does need to come, to shake things up a bit. To give you the first taste of life as an adult. To help you understand who you truly are, outside of the world you’d made for yourself before moving away. Honestly, you’ll know yourself a tad better, once you learn how to tolerate her at the party.
Pari Tavate is a MA Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University.