You ever get that feeling that you’re all alone in the world—not literally, unless, that is, you live on some remote island where you really are all alone minus a few sand crabs and, if you’re lucky, a long lost barrel of hidden pirate’s rum. The kind of alone I’m referring to is the kind where regardless of the other seven billion human beings you share this planet with, you feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Almost as if you’ve turned invisible because for as far as you can tell, no one seems to care whether you’re there or not. You. The lone survivor adrift among strangers—imagined, or not.
It happens to all of us. Yes, even the people who appear to have it all together. The confident ones. The poised and popular—even they feel left out on a limb sometimes. And it sucks. Really, really, really sucks. Because when you feel like there’s no one there to support you, it can be hard to get out of bed in the morning let alone find the will to breathe.
When I was in the tenth grade I switched schools. Left the comfort zone of a small Catholic community, one where you know everyone because you’ve shared cubbyholes and lunchtimes with the same core group since you could read, and moved onto a much larger public school. It was my choice. I was an athlete and was convinced that the only way I could get a scholarship to a major college was if I competed on a larger level … so I told my parents I wanted to switch and they obliged. They didn’t even argue. My parents were definitely the ones who picked their battles with me and I guess they didn’t think arguing over where I attended high school was worth it. Anyway, when fall rolled in and I showed up, oddly enough, it wasn’t any big deal at all. I floated through school, made new lunchtime friends and my senior year, landed that big opportunity to run track in college. I was on cloud nine. Literally. For months.
Then, school started and I stumbled and fell face first right off of cloud nine and for the first time in my life I was alone. And I was scared. And it sucked. It didn’t matter that I belonged to a thriving sorority. Didn’t matter that I was a member of a team with (supposed) mentors and upperclassmen to guide me. And it sure as hell didn’t matter that I walked the campus with a gazillion other freshman just as scared as I was, because I didn’t know. I thought I was the only one. The outsider. Everyone else looked fine. Happy. Content. Me? I was the only survivor as far as I could tell.
Of course eventually, I found others … BUT … looking back, I wish I would have had the confidence to reach out and be someone else’s crutch—to admit that I was terrified and overwhelmed and lonely. But I didn’t. Instead I drew farther inside myself and learned how to survive within an imaginary blockade. A barrier I might add, that has at times served me well – I mean hey, there are seven billion people in this world. But, all the same, feeling alone when you’re really not can be maddening, even if you do have a long lost barrel of hidden pirate’s rum.
Today’s post inspired by the daily one-word prompt: Adrift.