The Lonely Millennial

‘How can I be only 27 years old, living in the centre of London whilst surrounded by an incredible network of amazing friends, yet feel so profoundly lonely?’

That’s the question I was asking myself at lunchtime today. Hidden away in the staff toilets; ear pressed against the door so I could time an exit/run to my classroom that involved minimal interactions with prying students who would inevitably ask after my squishy face and red eyes.

Four hours on and I’ve brooded about it (on my back brain, I did still have work to do – I know how to have an efficient crisis) but I still don’t have the answers. Nothing clear cut anyway. I do have a few ponderings though.

There’s the practical side of things, in that I’ve really struggled to sleep this week. Since Sunday evening, when the back-to-school feeling was in full effect after the Christmas holidays, I’ve scarcely slept at all. I snatched the odd hour here or there, but deep sleep has been out of reach. It’s become an awful cycle, I can’t sleep because I’m worried yet become worried because I can’t sleep. That’s when the negative thinking kicks in.

I’ve beaten myself up a lot emotionally during these spells of not-sleep. Forget negative thoughts crawling out of the woodwork, they’ve emerged to dance a noisy and treacherous 3am jig upon the surface of my brain. And most of these thoughts and worries link to how lonely I’ve felt recently. These thoughts just don’t appear on their own, they’ll have been hovering on the periphery whether I’ve acknowledged them or not.

I’m at an age that feels like a transition period, but I’m not sure how or why – or what this transition even looks like. All I know for sure is that I feel as if I’m getting left behind by my peer group. Instagram has become a mood board for all the things I am not doing or am failing to do. Whilst the majority of friends, family and acquaintances are reaching these life milestones, I am not. As the announcements of engagements, weddings, children, home ownership, travels-of-a-lifetime and postgraduates qualifications begin to flood my news-feed, I feel as if I have nothing to report in return.

Thanks to the recent turn of the year, and new decade, it’ll be ten years since I started university. A lovely round number for some enforced reflection. Aside from geography, and many friendships, I don’t feel as if all that much has changed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I feel like a failure or a fraud for not having used that decade wisely – that I’ve not done enough or not been enough. Expectation and comparison play a huge part here. I expect so much from myself and compare myself to everyone else from such a skewed perspective that I consistently set myself up for beratement and emotional self-flagellation. Just like in gambling, the house always wins.

I’m well aware of the toxicity of this thinking, and that I’m undermining and undervaluing everything and everyone within my life. But the problem is, I’m not lonely because of what anyone else has said or done – I feel lonely within myself. Achingly, desperately lonely and lost; as if I’m living life through the glass, removed and separated from it all. It’s an omnipresent feeling, just dialed at varying degrees of potency and presence.

I don’t even know what I wanted to achieve from writing this. An attempt to dislodge the weight I feel like I’m currently carrying? Trying to use the written word to organise my thoughts? Some subconscious form of SOS? A try for catharsis in my desperate pursuit of sleep?

The only thing I do know is that I’ve become unanchored internally. Adrift, like a balloon separated from its weight. And I’m not sure how to get back down.

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