It’s not something we often talk about but it’s tough topic a few of my blogger friends have discussed recently so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and share my experience.
Even in our constantly connected society, a lot of people are suffering from loneliness. Why is it that we’re always messaging, always liking, commenting, lol’ing, and sending emoji’s to express every emotion that we’re still lonely? Could it be that these online interactions count for nothing and human beings still crave personal connections?
I met a new mum at a baby group last week and she almost broke down as she told me how lonely she was finding motherhood. A neighbour who has recently retired told me she walks her dog three times a day in the hope of bumping into people because she’s just so lonely at home. A blogger friend who has recently left her job to be a full time blogger is really struggling because she’s feeling so lonely.
We bloggers are so incredibly lucky to have carved out a job doing exactly what we love in the digital sphere. But like any job, there are highs and lows and pros and cons – and one of the biggest cons for bloggers is loneliness.
We work alone, usually in the cosiness of our own homes and we can easily go a day or two without actually speaking to anyone. Most bloggers I know are introverts and the thought of working by themselves in peace and quiet is a wonderful idea, in theory. But when you’re not going to an office every day, not going to meetings, not chatting to your colleagues and not going for lunch, you soon miss those every day interactions.
But no one talks about being lonely. Why is that? It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that you’re lonely, isn’t it? To admit that you’re craving some company, you just want to talk to someone. It isn’t even about spending the day with your BFF, it’s just having a chat with another human.
It’s difficult to know how to react to loneliness. Well, it’s not. You react with kindness. You react by giving someone a bit of your time, listening to them and talking to them. Yet we’re all too busy to spend our precious time listening and talking, especially when we have no ulterior motive – no need to talk to this person.
My experience with loneliness
I’m not going to pretend I experienced any kind of extreme loneliness. I’ve been reading about loneliness as I write this and some people experience such unimaginable, heart breaking extremes of loneliness. I’ve never had this but it was enough to make me feel sad and cut off from the world.
I’m what you’d call a ‘confident introvert’ (I read about it online, it’s a real thing!) I’m confident enough and I’m happy to chat in big groups and I love meeting new people – but if I spend all day in crowds, in meetings or constantly socialising then I find it exhausting. I like being alone and I like my own company so, when I worked in an office, whenever I had the opportunity to work from home I’d always take it. And I loved it! I got so much more done without any distractions and I felt peaceful at the end of the day rather than frazzled and tired.
I was really excited to work for myself and work from home. A trip to IKEA to buy my office furniture was one of the most exciting days of my career – it signalled an exciting new start and the ability to always work from the comfort of my home.
For the first 6 months I didn’t get lonely at all. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I was travelling so much, hopping from one press trip to the next, that I relished my quiet time at home. Press trips are busy and you don’t get a minute alone, so coming home to my quiet little flat in Wimbledon was paradise. I regularly went to networking events and often met friends after work for drinks, so I still felt part of a community.
But then I moved back to Wales and travelled a little less. It was a choice to travel less because I was starting to get exhausted, but it meant I could spend all week working alone from home. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, just me and my laptop in the countryside. It wasn’t like there were any co-working spaces I could join or any blogger meet-ups or creative hubs.
Jeez I was bored. I was so bored. And so lonely. I’d talk to my blogger friends online all day but it wasn’t the same.
Sam would could home from work at 5 o’clock and I’d pounce on him with questions.
‘How was your day? What did you do? Where have you been? Who did you talk to? What did you have for lunch? Shall we go out? Let’s go to the pub! Let’s go for dinner! Let’s go and do something exciting and meet people and talk to people and get away from these four walls!’
Poor Sam just wanted to crack open a beer and relax for an hour after work but I was like a puppy who has been locked in the house all day and just needed to run off some steam!
Ahh, a puppy….
Now that’s a good idea.
And that’s how Louie happened.
Getting a dog was the stupidest idea ever. I travelled a lot and Sam worked all day but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. I’d spend hours every day searching Pets 4 Homes and cooing over pictures of puppies!
I knew it didn’t make sense but, for the times I was home, having a four-legged friend there with me would make all the difference.
In January 2014, Sam and I took a trip to Oslo where we spent the entire weekend getting drunk (I have no idea why because Oslo is SO expensive!) and during a beer tasting experiment we decided we really needed a dog. We returned on Sunday and on Monday evening we went to ‘look at’ a French Bulldog puppy.
We said we were just going to ‘have a look’ but we drove for almost two hours to see this puppy in Birmingham so we all knew there was no way we’d be coming home without him.
Our tiny little bundle with bat-like ears, wobbly legs and a snuffly nose sat on my lap in the passenger seat of the car and proceeded to be sick on me all the way home. We did not get off to a good start.
He then proceeded to wreck the doors, skirting boards and laminate flooring of the adorable little cottage we were renting at the time (we managed to ‘fix’ the woodwork by colouring it in with a brown felt-tip pen when we left).
But look at that face. I couldn’t stay mad at that face.
Once we got over the initial teething issues, I realised that getting Louie was the best decision ever and he helped me during what could have been a difficult time.
He got me out of the house twice a day as we went for long walks. We met new people, we got ‘dog walking friends’, we met our neighbours and I never felt alone in the house. Louie would sit on my lap while I worked, like a furry hot water bottle that snored as it slept. He eventually got too big and would fall off in his sleep, so he moved to my desk where he would sit next to my computer monitor.
I eventually felt part of a local community and met people who also worked from home. It turned out there are a lot of people who live nearby and work from home but how else do you meet them? You can’t just sit down and chat to anyone who looks like they’re working in a café. There’s a woman with a laptop, but she might just be online shopping!
But if you sit outside a café with a dog then everyone comes and chats to you.
It’s totally acceptable to talk to a stranger’s dog – but not acceptable to talk to a stranger – which shows how messed up our society really is.
But that’s the way it is so my best option was to sit in a local pub/cafe drinking endless pots of tea and eating my way through the menu while strangers petted my dog and a handful of them became friends. And they’re still friends today.
There’s a handful of us who still work for ourselves, still walk our dogs and still end up in the pub with our laptops and sit together while we work. We all do very different things but just sitting at a table with other people is nice.
Having kids has changed everything and I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I never feel lonely. George is at an energetic, boisterous age so I have no choice but to get him out of the house every day or he’d be climbing the walls. We go to lots of groups and clubs and soft play where the boys play and I chat to the other parents there. I see a lot more of my mum who loves to spend time with the boys and, even though I can’t exactly have a proper chat with the boys, they do keep me busy!
If you’re suffering from loneliness, I’m not suggesting you should go out and buy a dog or pop out a couple of kids, but you should know you’re not alone. If you’re noticing signs of loneliness, either in yourself or someone you know, try and get out of the rut before you get too deep.
But if you’re uming and ahing about buying a dog though, let this be your little nudge to get one! Dogs are the best. Louie keeps me company, keeps me fit and, best of all, keeps me happy.
Loneliness, mental health and diversifying my income as a freelancer – Beverley from Pack Your Passport
I hate to admit I’m lonely – Elizabeth from Rosalilium