Monday, January 7, 2008

How to Fight Loneliness

Having now not worked for nearly a month, the ironic point has been proven to me: not working can make one feel incredibly lonely.

Looking back, the jobs that I liked the most were the office job I had while going to UB where I was surrounded by more than 40 people each day; the convenient store job that had me face-to-face with dozens of customers every hour, as well as some of the funnest co-workers I've ever had; and even the office job that I had at Buff. St. that had enough people there to offset a numerous amount of over-bearing co-workers.

The bottom line is that each of those jobs had me daily surrounded by people. Whereas, my recent job had me driving around for eight hours to nearby factories with drop-offs and pickups that would last ten minutes, at most, at each stop, before I was alone in the cab again for another half an hour. From there I would wait for the bus on my own before ultimately getting onto the bus and walking home from there all by myself.

Now that I've fallen into my inevitable nocturnal schedule, I can sometimes go the entire day with little more than a couple of hours of interaction with my roommates and no one else. That's not to say they aren't enough, or even to suggest that I despise being alone. But even being back in Buffalo, surrounded by more than a dozen friends, we always go our separate ways once it's time to turn in.

And that's never felt more than on Sunday night. And Sunday nights have a way of especially bringing out the loneliness within me. Last night, after my roommates went to bed, I tried for hours to force myself into my bedroom and write. But the very act of writing is a lonely act. And not wanting to feel even lonelier at that point, I turned to places that offer a temporary, at best, respite for the lonely the world over: I began to watch TV.

Generally, I dislike TV because I'm allowing myself to be entertained by something other than my imagination, something other than my own creation. Likewise movies. And music.

But to completely remove myself from TV, or movies and music, is to remove myself even further from my friends. So much of our collective conversation is rooted in shared experiences (last Friday night, the Bills game, etc) and a shared canon of television and movies (Seinfeld, Simpsons, They Live, to name an incredible few) that even I don't know just how much I miss out in our general conversations by not being as well rehearsed in the movies I've watched or the music I've listened to or the comedians whose material I haven't heard.

And in turning to TV last night, I was simply looking for some sort of connection to something outside my own little world. That's got to be the only reason that news and weather--or work for that matter, as well as the inane sports talk radio I would listen to while alone in the truck I was driving--are so popular: to give us something to talk about with otherwise total strangers (even if they are co-workers or family), just to be able to interact and connect for a short moment. It's better than being lonely for that moment.

But then I turned on the TV and saw only American Gladiators and numerous headlines about Britney Spears and I remembered I would rather be lonely than know about this literal horse shit. If that's the price of sacrificing my own ideals, my own identity, I'd rather be the last person alive.

The act of writing is, by definition, lonely. A main reason that I returned to Buffalo was to not only be around my friends again, but to work on some writing projects (beyond just this one) in a place that was cheap enough to give me the space and time necessary to do so. So in quitting work, I was aware that I was setting out to do something inherently lonely.

But as I've also now come to realize, just in being unwilling to so willingly work, I always put just enough space between me and others that there is yet one more way I have cut myself off. And last night, in finally getting myself to make even the most basic of posts last night, I became even lonelier. Because I also realized the more I remove myself from watching TV or movies, the more I do so.

So it goes.


Talkin_Proud said...

If only you would watch movies because there's a great example in The Neverending Story on how to fight lonliness.

Instead you're stuck setting yourself up for 'ole "Guess you don't have a ..... to play with?"

The Inactivist said...

If you referenced, maybe, a movie called, say, The Shortest Story Ever Told, I would take up the task of researching this reference.

As it is, I already barely find time for movies and you're arguing against this with The Neverending Story?

I wonder how Lionel Hutz ever fared with his lawsuit against that movie.