Thanks to everyone who participated in my Facebook Q&A last week! It was super fun. So fun that I’m planning another one for later this summer with an international giveaway of City Love. Thanks also to No BS Book Reviews for taking it all off in this City Love edition of Novel Nudity. And this Justin’s Book Blog interview in which I was asked only one question: How has your life impacted your writing? I could have rambled forever on that one!
There was one question during the Q&A that I started to answer, but decided to answer more completely here when it was taking up too much time. Catherine S. asked, “What advice do you have for dealing with loneliness?”
I know what it’s like to feel so alone that you can hardy breathe. To feel like no one will ever love you or even understand you. To feel like you will never have a true best friend or find people who are really your people. Feeling alone makes everything in your life an enormous struggle. Things that seem easy for everyone else are almost impossible for you. You feel like you’re living in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language and don’t know the local customs. I wish I could have told myself back then what I know now. But I can tell you, and if you are feeling alone, hopefully it will help.
Here’s the first thing I need you to know: You are not alone. This phrase gets thrown around a lot. Kind of like It gets better and You are loved. These three encouragements would have done pretty much nothing to make me feel better in my teen years. My argument would have shot them down like this: Yes I am totally alone, things getting better later does nothing to help me now, and no one loves me. I felt so trapped in my small world that it was extremely difficult to see the bigger picture.
The thing that helped me survive the most in high school was hope. Hope that I would eventually create a happy life. That life felt like it was a million years away, but I knew it was actually four years away, then three, then two. Senior year was much easier since every experience was the last. The best advice I can offer is to find your hope. What do you hope for that will make your life better? Carry that hope in your heart. Remind yourself of that hope every morning, every night, and as many times during the day as you need to. Believe with everything you are that what you hope for will happen. Hope is a really good reason to keep holding on.
You are the architect of your own destiny. That means whatever you are hoping for is in your hands. Your actions in this present moment are shaping your future life. How will you achieve your most important goals? What can you start doing right now to begin working towards turning your dreams into reality? Identify at least one thing you can do every day that will bring you a step closer to achieving your goals. Then make that action a daily priority. Taking control of the things you can in a situation where so much is out of your control will make you feel more connected to your world, and inspire you to build connections with new people who are on your wavelength.
Books were my best friends in high school. My favorite time of day was after school when I could go home and read on my bed. Books, shows, movies, and of course music saved me. They made me feel less alone. Because even if I was only connecting with characters in books and on TV, that sense of connection and validation helped me feel understood. The work that authors, show writers, directors, and musicians were creating inspired me. They gave me safe places. They gave me a sense of community. Now you can go online and find actual communities of people who love what you do. Find your happy. Let the things that make you happy show you that people are out there who are dealing with the same challenges you are.
Are there already people in your life who want to help you, but you’re not letting them in? I kept my high school friends at a distance. There were so many embarrassing parts of my life I was too busy hiding from my friends to show them the real me. But if I had opened up to them, I would have realized that I was not alone. And I was already loved. And it could have gotten better just by reaching out to the people who were right in front of me.
Volunteer work helped me feel less alone in high school. I was a candy striper and a Girl Scout leader-in-training, both of which gave me a sense of purpose and places to belong. Find your people in the places you love. If you love bookstores, coffeehouses, and parks, your people love them, too. Connect with them. Build new friendships. Do not let fear hold you back. A world of possibility is waiting for you to discover abundant happiness. What are you waiting for?
You are loved.
It gets better.
You are not alone.