Last night I was getting ready to go to bed and noticed that the water glass I keep on my nightstand at all times was a little low. I picked it up to take it to the kitchen to refill it, and then I saw the bowl containing the remnants of the night before last’s cereal (my favorite bedtime snack), so I figured I’d take it to the kitchen too, since I was already headed that way, and I don’t like to make a habit of keeping dirty dishes on my nightstand.
As I was walking down the hallway from my bedroom to the kitchen, which, it should be noted, is not very long, something broke inside of me, and I thought, my God, I’m lonely.
My therapist once told me that the feeling of loneliness is often the result of not sharing ourselves fully with those in our lives. We hold back the innermost parts of ourselves from others, and they never get the chance to love those parts too, which results in an overwhelming sense of isolation.
But this wasn’t that. The people in my life have seen all the innermost parts of me, the ugly parts and the beautiful parts, and they love them. And I’m so grateful for that. No, this wasn’t that. This was different.
As I washed the yellowed day-old milk out from the bottom of the bowl, I considered what kind of loneliness it is. What I came up with surprised me a little: I’m tired of taking care of myself all the time.
I thought back to when I still lived with my family. How nice it was to share a space with a group of people who all shared your blood, all looked out for you, all did things for you if you needed them to. And how I couldn’t wait to leave. Why couldn’t I wait to leave? I guess the answer is because it was all I knew. I couldn’t imagine what life would feel like without it.
For the most part, I enjoy being so self-sufficient. And, for the most part, I’ve come to terms with the fact of my adulthood. But I seem to be missing this one essential component that I think we’re all wired to need. And that component is a word any alumnus of John Brown University knows well: COMMUNITY.
In college, that word was drilled into us constantly. So much that it became a cliche and then a running joke. People would use it excessively and put air quotes around it. We would grimace and roll our eyes whenever someone said the word in chapel. If we drank, we would’ve made it a drinking game. But we didn’t drink, even though it was college. We’d all signed a COMMUNITY covenant saying we wouldn’t. (Okay, we did a little.)
And, just like the houses from whence we came, none of us could wait to leave it. The funny thing is, immediately after leaving, our little worlds fell to pieces and we realized just how good we had it, there, in our JBU bubble. Some people never left, and though we made fun of them at first, we came to acknowledge that they were right. Some people moved back after a little while with their tails between their legs. But among those of us who, for whatever reason, still haven’t gone back, there’s a sense of understanding and camaraderie that was certainly not present when we actually were at school together. This camaraderie extends to people I didn’t even go to school with. We all miss it. The COMMUNITY.
For a little while I had a semblance of it here in Dallas. A bunch of my JBU friends moved here, and we would gather every Sunday evening for a potluck dinner. Most weeknights we were together too. One by one, they all moved away and found other communities to be a part of. I’m the only one left. And I’m very much alone. No family. Only a couple of friends. And a dog whom I dote on far too much.
I’m in Austin most weekends now. I have a community there waiting for me, made up of Boyfriend and Best Friend and friends of friends and some old friends, fragmented pieces of other communities I once belonged to that have all somehow found their way to the same place like magnets.
I desperately want to be there. But I’m still here for at least the next several months. So for now I guess I’ll continue to take care of myself, filling up my water glasses, rinsing out my dirty bowls, tucking myself into bed every night, with the hope that this small, routinized life will soon be huge and full again.
And, when it is, I promise you, I won’t want to leave it.