Over 10 years ago, when I first decided to travel and try to make a career out of it, my aunt connected me to a childhood friend of hers. The man was 60+ years old, living in Thailand, and had made a career out of living and working abroad.
I remember that she said one thing to me that always stuck with me. She said that whenever she speaks to him, the first thing that she asks is if he ever gets lonely. Seems that he lives a great life, but also seems like a lonely life. He’s never had a problem with it, but she herself never traveled to the extent she wanted to because of the fear of loneliness.
For whatever reason, that always stuck with me. Yet as I traveled the world these last 10 years, it was something that I’ve never really had a problem with. Every step of the way, every country I’ve lived in, I’ve made incredible lifelong friendships. From Seoul to Bangalore to Kuala Lumpur to Rio and now Florianopolis, I’ve always been surrounded by a great community of people.
However, if I’m honest with myself, over the last few years I’ve noticed the feelings of loneliness creeping in. That I have people by my side here, but I feel alone in my journey. Like I don’t have enough people to relate to.
I’ve noticed throughout my life that I need to be stimulated by the people I am around. I love to talk to people who are passionate. Who have dreams and goals and ambitions they are working towards to achieve. They they are working on improving themselves and getting to the top of their game.
If I’m around the contrary of that. I have a hard time staying engaged. I zone out. Retreat into my head.
It’s why I love the work that I do with the Flow Research Collective. I talk to fascinating people all day, many of whom are at the top of their game in their respective fields, from entrepreneurs to athletes to scientists to artists and more.
I feel like these are the types of conversations I want to have. The type of people I want to meet and connect with. To be inspired by. But equally stand on the same ground as them. Hold my own.
Same goes for the team of people I work with. It’s a dream come true. All of them amazing at what they do. Everyone embodying what we teach and performing at the top of their game. Equally with incredible back stories of how they arrived where they are today and got involved in this work.
But there’s a downside to this. When you talk to and work with incredible people – the average person, the regular everyday individual, the average Joe – seems less interesting.
It’s why over the years I feel like I’ve grown apart from many friends I’ve grown up with. I feel like I have grown in dog years, but many of them have remained largely in the same place. They haven’t sought out the path of mastery and self improvement. They don’t really want to meditate or talk about big ideas, don’t really have goals for themselves. Nothing wrong with that either, but for me I have a hard time connecting with people who don’t have this drive and ambition to master themselves. It’s led to a bit of a disconnect.
I remember shortly before this whole global pandemic and quarantine I had a conversation with a friend where I complained about this. I said that I find it hard to find people who genuinely interest me outside of work. Women wise as well, I’ve been really finding it hard to find someone to relate to. I felt like I was getting a bit bored in life, I was’t feeling the same enthusiasm to meet new people.
Overall I’ve felt a bit disconnected. Like the majority of people that I interact with bore me. They are just too vanilla. They can’t engage and stimulate me in the way that I am used to.
…and then the quarantine arrived. Suddenly I’m on lock down. Alone in a small apartment. No friends or family I live with. On my own in a strange land with no one to support me or talk to face to face. I think I went the first 3 months of quarantine without seeing a single person face to face.
I quickly realised that the best way to pass the time during quarantine is talking to friends and family. Connecting with others. Despite having conversations with people on the phone all day for work, I somehow found myself craving more conversations with everyone. That I craved the connection with family and friends who I already know and love.
It’s like I thought I loved hanging out by myself. I thought I loved my solitude. But then when the quarantine arrived and that solitude stared me in the face, I realised what I really craved was connection with other humans. I really craved having people to be able to talk to.
But not just over the phone no – as the quarantine dragged on I realised that although phone and video calls are great, what I really craved was to be around people face to face. In person. Feel someone’s physical presence.
I remember the first time I hung out with a group of people again after around 3 months of quarantine it was one of the most deliciously refreshing experiences of my life. To be around PEOPLE again! Face to face!!! To feel someone’s presence again. Talk and converse and get drunk. It was amazing.
That feeling has stuck with me ever since. I have a newfound appreciation for face to face contact. I love everyone I meet. I’m so excited to just be able to meet new people face to face, to hear people’s stories in person. To feel their presence. To leave the cave and re-enter society!
The biggest takeaway from this whole quarantine experience is that I’ve done a complete 180 and flipped. I love people now!!! I love humanity. Bore me, I don’t give a shit. I’m happy you’re alive and well and we’re here to share this human experience together. That we’re all going through this insanity together. I don’t give a fuck if you have goals or ambitions or even care about improving yourself in any way. Even more so, I’m more curious to understand if you don’t and how to learn from that sense of inner peace! In any sense, just the ability to talk and shoot the shit and be in person together is absolutely incredible.
This year has made me realise the importance of community. Of people side by side, in person, hugging and laughing and chatting. It’s a shame so much of the world is arguing right now, when we should just be happy that we’re alive and surviving and that this could have all been a lot worse (and could still get worse). Where’s the gratitude in all this shit going down in the world!? Can we take a second to appreciate that most of us are alive and healthy and living a relatively normal life?!
At the essence of community lies connection. Loneliness is disconnection from community. Therefore, the antidote to loneliness is community. Connection where there is disconnection.
Since that first interaction a few months ago there’s been a distinct shift in the way I approach people and relationships. I’m fortunate to say that things have really started to blossom as a result. I’ve had a great group of people emerge and we have a good quarantine crew. I’m getting back on the highline and have that crew as well. I’ve also been very fortunate to have a few love interests come into my life. I also bought a huge ass house I move into next week just so that I can invite people over and have a common space for everyone. Relationships have become my top priority outside of work and my physical/mental health.
Edit – Since writing this article I’ve moved into that huge ass house and it’s been amazing. I hired a buddy of mine who is now a full time chef and is living here with me. Have another friend just living here and helping out. This last weekend had a bunch of people who stayed over all weekend. It’s been absolutely incredible. A giant house where everyone was learning. Slacklines, dart boards, billiards, chess, yoga and acro, punching bags, you name it, we were playing with it. A giant adult playground. My vision coming to fruition.
It’s been amazing to have people around me all day everyday. To have that human contact and face to face communication on a daily basis. It’s made me realize how much pent up energy I used to have at the end of a day. I will frequently come downstairs after a round of calls bursting with energy and a need to talk. Previously when I was at home by myself, that same energy was there, but with no one to talk to. It was a lot of excess energy to handle. Having these outlets to let it out of my system have not only been refreshing, but apparently much needed as well.
All of this reminds me of an article I wrote a while back called “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”. In that article I wrote about how I was a student still waiting for the teacher to appear. I was in preparation waiting. But then I realised, instead of waiting, what if I just looked at everyone as my teacher? What if I treated everyone as a teacher, someone to learn from?
I feel like I have reconnected with this philosophy. I was reminded of it. Something I had previously written and already knew but had lost sight of. Remembering to treat everyone as an opportunity to learn. To connect. To appreciate life and our fragile existence. To really see the collective consciousness and see the interconnectedness of us all. To be happy simply sharing the experience of human life!
Now more than ever we need to search for connection with each other. Seek like minded people who are going through the same struggles. Open up to each other and allow ourselves to really connect and build thriving communities.
And no, this doesn’t mean just find people who you agree with. Equally find the people you disagree with. Find the people who you seem to be at odds with, and see if you can learn to get along with them all the same, to connect with them all the same. This is the real battle we are all facing.
I’m not here to preach though, just to journal my recent experience on my thoughts of loneliness. The recent realisation that my desire for solitude was the very thing contributing to my loneliness, that my ways of filtering for interest was really just being judgemental. The realisation that I love people in all shapes and sizes and flavours and levels of passion or lack thereof. That community is really what we need right now!
Now I can honestly say I don’t feel nearly as lonely as I did before. It’s still there, subtly, lingering and looking for connection – but I think that’s largely in the love category more than anything, and that’s a separate topic in and of itself haha! For now the community part is being worked on, and who knows, through more community and connection maybe that will lead to filling out the final piece of the puzzle in this abundantly gostoso life of mine.
What about you? How has this quarantine made you feel? Have you felt lonely? What have you done to connect with others, what’s worked best for you? Leave me something in the comments below, I love interacting with you all 🙂
Have a beautiful day ahead and go get some face to face interactions!!!
2 thoughts on “On Loneliness”
another great article that I can really relate to. Being alone for 4 months at the begining of last year I did fell lonely, but now lots of interactions with Mom, golf guys and some good friends have changed everything.
As always so proud to have you as my son.
Hey Troy, always love reading your blogs. I have been hibernating lately to focus on some interesting project I am working but I love keep seeing your blogs hitting my inbox and read it during free time. I think we all do feel lonely time to time depending on our internal and external situations we are surrounded by…The way I treat my loneliness is diving into the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness also brings lots of unpleasant emotions so I dive into those unpleasant emotions as well to see the bottom surface of the loneliness or the mighty source of loneliness. After deep diving into loneliness, I found it’s a disconnection between myself and the external world I have projected. We can feel lonely with hundred folks around us or we don’t feel lonely at all without having no one around us. I feel like I am working on myself to connect with everyone from a human level, even with the person who doesn’t have a same drive or ambition as mine but when I am talking to that person, I am just connecting with him from pure human level. I think when we truly realize that we all are One and interconnected with each other as a human then the feelings of loneliness started to faded away..