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It’s the Most Lonely Time of the Year

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I’ve always been independent. I flew across the Pacific Ocean alone at 8 years old, just a couple days after my eighth birthday. I never made friends my age — most of my “friends” were my teachers.

Making friends only became harder, and in leaving high school for college, I left without a solid friend group to look forward to returning to during the holidays. My start to college was no different — I didn’t really make any friends, despite starting my first year with a five-week intensive program. I had hoped to meet some close friends in this summer intensive. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen. When Thanksgiving came around, classmates began to leave. Those who were local went home and those from further away either got a ticket home or an invitation to spend time with friends’ families that were local.

I didn’t know anyone well. My roommates left on that Wednesday after classes, leaving me to an empty dorm room. You see, my family lived about 350 miles from campus, at a different part of the state. Driving might have been a stretch — a six-hour drive could easily turn into an 8-10-hour trip with the holiday traffic. This trip might not have been worth it for just a couple days at home. However, a flight was only an hour and the travel would end up about three to four hours total. That seemed fair and reasonable for a four-day visit.

My parents did not support me coming back. They said it cost too much to justify three days, especially since the December break was just shortly after Thanksgiving. I spent Thanksgiving in an empty dorm room, eating a frozen meal on the floor of my room, with no call from family or friends.

My first Thanksgiving as a legal adult (18 years old) paved the way for many more solitary holidays. Growing up, the holidays were rarely celebrated and often ended up in fighting and arguments between my parents. This resulted in me running to my room to hide. What stands out is I was alone, even if my parents were in the other room. Not much has changed. Yes, for a couple years while I was in graduate school, I had a place at the table and a family to spend Thanksgiving with. These visits always felt short lived and even amongst my friend’s family, I felt an outcast.

Holidays were always spent alone. Even if I visited my parents’ house, we did not eat together, we did not spend time watching movies or playing games or just catching up. I was always alone in my room, alone on runs, or alone on the backyard deck.

I pass a lot of time alone. The holidays are no different. They are not anything special as it is just another lonely day. I pass my time doing homework. I pass my time making slides for my students and creating content to teach. I stay to myself, with my anxieties and thoughts, confined to my apartment. The isolation makes my symptoms worse. I ruminate. I look at how others are with loved ones, friends, and families. I ruminate on how I cannot be loved, how I am not smart or pretty or athletic or anything. I equate all my supposed imperfections with why I am alone: I am simply not enough and that is why I am alone. I cannot be loved.

Holidays are hard. The isolation is unbearable at times. At other times, the isolation is comforting. It is my only friend. It is my depression‘s way of telling me it is there to comfort me, showing me I only deserve to be lonely.

At the end of the day, I keep to myself. I keep moving. I hide from the world because all I can do is bury my feelings away and just keep moving along.

Unsplash image by Anthony Tran

Originally published: November 22, 2021
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