London is a lonely place.”
I remember hearing that a lot from new friends when I moved back to London from Essex. I was working in admin doing data entry at the time, saving up to fund an introductory counselling course and looking for ways the get the hell out of Essex. And when I finally did, I had grandiose dreams of returning to my home city and finally gathering that cool, lifelong group of friends I had seen on all those city-based sitcoms. But as it turns out, London really is a lonely place.
Sure I already had friends when I got here, but not many. I realised that actually my close friends at the time still resided in Essex, and none of my university friends had actually settled in London. All my school friends (when I had gone to school in London) had lives and families and although we connected on Facebook, that was as far as our commonalities went. I was still awkward as hell and too used to people coming to me to making the effort to find new friends felt almost alien to me. On the flipside though, having no social life meant I saved LOADS of money.
So what makes it so lonely I hear you cry? We’re in a city of literally millions of people, surely there has to be someone around to keep you company? Perhaps you’re just inherently lonely Maame?
Well that’s enough questions, and this isn’t really about me; it’s about London and her many characteristics.
I’ve dedicated a blog post to London before and recounted all the reasons I love it; but there are also many things about it I don’t like. I think like any big city (Paris, New York, Chicago), it’s very easy to get lost and lose yourself in the process. There are so many people in London yes, people doing wonderfully interesting things with their lives. But these people often have well-established friendship groups and routines, and sometimes being new to the city can be like trying to infiltrate that clique at school that looked so damn cool that you just had to get into it (I was never that kid personally, not before the age of 18 anyway, but I imagine it was a lot like Mean Girls or every high school drama ever).
Now if you have a job you love with people that you like, that’s probably your best chance at making friends in London, especially if you’re not a natural social butterfly like me. Still, what makes a place with transportation that forces us to get into close and intimate encounters with strangers, feel so isolating at times?
There’s that saying that it’s not the place that makes the home but the people. Yet somehow I always find myself loving London the most when the streets are empty, the night is young, and I get a quiet moment with my own thoughts – not too long though because I might start to get lonely, and no one wants that.
Loneliness I think is a contagion and can often be caught when you’re surrounded by other people who also seem lonely (the logical solution would be for all the lonely people to find each other and solve their problem but this isn’t a post about logic so…). If like me, you’ve always struggled to find where you fit in the world, loneliness can be pretty easy to catch. I think I’ve been so use to spending small amounts of time in one place and being the mysterious friend who moves in and out of people’s lives, that when I finally stopped in one place, I had few long time friends left.
OK so maybe this is about me (much like EVERY POST ON HERE), but it’s also about the people who feel lonely in this city. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, my friendship group has grown smaller, and that’s to be expected as you form opinions and your personality becomes more defined, and you no longer care about making friends with every single person you meet.
But we are all so damn busy in London that it can be a struggle to even meet with the friends you do have, and sometimes you don’t notice that you’re feeling lonely until you’ve got two days off and no plans with anyone except yourself. And sure it’s good to take time for yourself, but that can prove difficult if you’re feeling like it’s company that you need.
Perhaps it’s just a case of being a little fish in a big pond, and you just have to find other little fish so you feel less alone. And if those little fish become big fish, try to get them to help you also become a bigger fish, because why not.
As I reach the end of this post, I think that yes, my predisposition for loneliness may well be inherent, so perhaps my only option is to figure out how I can make a career off of it. I mean, I may as well get paid for my struggles.
Image credit: Urbanite by Gan Khoon Lay from the Noun Project