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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand

Lonely at Home (with people I love)

Growing pains mean coming home after a shift to your dad on a conference call in the living room. The reverberation of his voice transporting you to a car ride to lacrosse practice at age 12. "Hey Richard, what can I do for ya?". His voice was chipper, ten decibels louder than it needed to be. I would get so angry, angling my body towards the sidewalk, promising to give him the silent treatment the minute the call was over. He would say "Cheers," to end the call and then turn up the music, dancing stupidly to Billy Joel or the Eagles, usually. I was stubborn, like him, but only stubborn enough to keep it up for a minute or two. His goofiness, which I inherited, always effectively broke my angry spell.

At 23, it is the familiarity of this feeling that makes me feel stuck. My body is older, and my responsibilities are greater, but my fists still curl when my mom tells me to press my shirt or my dad calls up the stairs to wake me up. I want to be appreciative of the help, for the support, for the backhanded compliments, but I feel like a toddler in the midst of throwing a tantrum. My parents are the only people I see and we have developed a hive mind. They have become my peer group. We watch the same show every night, we have the same interests, and we inhabit the same spaces. I'm now the third adult in the room, and yet, I still feel like a little kid.

The hardest part of my day used to be when my parent took a phone call on speaker. Now, the most impossible task seems to be getting out of bed. To start another cycle of another week that will lead into another month and another year where I'm older, wiser, and still looking over my shoulder for the people who make me feel small. The idea of leaving my parents, the comfort of my bedroom, and the small town in New Jersey where I reside makes me sad and uncomfortable. When I think about it, I convince myself that I'm not ready to grow up, not for real at least. As redundant as the routine has become, it feels safe. Living at home is a warm blanket I'm so afraid to shed.

Even so, I'm itching for the independence that I'm missing. To be able to spend time with people my age and to gain those life experiences that seem to be passing me by. To see my friends more often than every few months. I wish that youth would wait for me to become financially stable. In a similar vein that I have grown too close to my parents, they have grown too close to me. As the audience of my grievances, they have grown tired of my repressed energy and repeated stories. I often find myself interrupting their peace with my stories of rude customers or exploded candles. My voice often falls on exhausted, decompressing ears.

Where do these stories go? The feelings of excitement, despair, of frustration. They become trapped inside my head and it's a new feeling for me. To not be able to just blindly shoot out my daily experiences and feelings into a group chat or GroupMe. This loneliness has been something I have grappled with since I graduated from college. With friends entering their careers and busy with their ordeals, I have had to spend so much time alone with myself. I guess this is normal. This state of life where I'm the only person who has time to deal with me. It's been harder than I expected.

As an introvert, I always have loved to do things alone. Now it seems to be all that I do, and has created a close proximity with my thoughts. This has been scary and distressing and ultimately, cathartic, even when I have not wanted it to be. I have healed from things I never expected I would come back from. I have also accepted that there will be things I can never run away from, which is part of life. I could push away a thought as long as I wanted, but it would always come racing back into my mind. That's the scary thing about being alone. If we aren't friends with ourselves, then being alone is just the same as being with someone who hates us.

Maybe life will always be lonely. I could be just as sad surrounded by a huge amount of people as I am surrounded by two people who know everything about me. I don't think I will ever feel like anyone completely understands me. In an age of digital literacy, I could connect with anyone I wanted to, but, I don't go out of my way to try. I could ask a coworker to grab a cup of coffee, but I go home instead. It will be easier to have those connections, I tell myself, when I live in the city. Until then, maybe life will just feel lonely. When I think about those car rides and the business lingo and the way I watched the traffic buzz past, I remember a sense of possibility. I was capable of ignoring the bad for the sake of the future. Maybe that's what's missing now, an indubitable sense of assuredness in myself. 12-year-old me was outgoing and overly confident. 23-year-old me knows herself too well ever to want to be arrogant. When I talk about this loneliness with a friend, I don't feel so alone. 23 is a terrible age, but no age will be great until I find myself settled down in who I am and who I want to be.

I'm lonely, actually. There's really no way of getting past that. Maybe loneliness doesn't have to be done all alone.

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