How to escape the spiral of loneliness
December 14, 2014 3:28 PM   Subscribe

How do carry on living in the world and trying to make connections when your lack of validation and friendships over all of your life has worn away at you so much it feels impossible? When you're so lonely and sad you need so much from other people that you're bound to frighten them off? I feel like I am turning into stone.

It hurts me so much to see other people make friends as though by magic while I've never had a 'friend' who wasn't a man who wanted to have sex with me. It's not that I'm a terrible person I just don't have the thing which makes people friends with each other, I'm ok to be around but nothing basically. And it wears me down so much. I don't know how I can carry on living like this.

I'm looking for people who can relate because they've been consistently lonely and unwanted for years and years but then started making friends or having successful relationships in like their thirties to answer and say what they did. Unlike most bootstrapping type philosophies I'm coming to this from the perspective that human contact isn't actually optional, that it's pretty much vital for human beings to survive, that we learn to love ourselves on some level in the context of other people loving us, and that people who feel differently it's mostly because they've had enough emotional and social validation that it's invisible to them, the way the state of not being in pain is pretty much invisible when you're not in pain. (I am in a pretty fragile state so please bear this in mind even though this question might seem annoying)
posted by ninjablob to Human Relations (14 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm ok to be around but nothing basically

This is sad, but I can relate. Wow, I could've written this, especially last night when I was going through a rough time second guessing myself and trying to not fall into my depression/anxiety/panic spiral. Sometimes my loneliness gets unbearable and coupled with anxiety and depression it's really tough. Taking care of yourself and realizing your faults is important because you are working through those weaknesses and coming out in the end a better person. Slowly, over time, you build these relationships and have a solid network. I'm in my mid-20's so I can't say that I have figured it out and am doing fantastic. But slowly, I'm getting better. And it's really hard when you get most of your needs met in a relationship and then once it's over your left holding the bag so to speak. So try to cultivate some of your needs being met within yourself, find out what it is that you need. Then try to get that from other sources, be it friends, relationships, volunteering, hobbies/skills, etc.

I have dealt with feeling lonely, unwanted, and unlovable for years. Almost my entire life I've had these thoughts/feelings. I felt like it would be so much easier to not have to deal with the pain if I just wasn't around anymore. Then I realized life is worth living, and you only get to live how you want if you do something about it. I didn't want to live like that anymore, so little step by little step I am creating the life I wish to live. I know you can too, you just have to visualize it and work hard towards it just like accomplishing any other goal you have. Good luck, keep at it, and embrace setbacks for life lessons along your own personal journey.
posted by lunastellasol at 3:40 PM on December 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


It takes effort, risk, perseverance, and belief in yourself that you worth being around. All those things are hard, and it's scary as hell to risk rejection, but if you're willing to put all of that in, you will make friends.

I have never been a person with a lot of friends. Always one or two, but never loads. When I turned 40, the loneliness was getting to be too much so I started to make a real effort to connect with others. I joined meetups. After spending a couple of meetups interacting with a few people I liked, I took a risk and asked if they wanted to get together outside of the meetups. And if those get togethers for coffee, lunch, or hiking (one was a hiking meetup) went well, I would try to set up something else and see if we had other things in common they might like to do with me like movies, or musicals, or having them over for dinner, shopping, etc. And I would say yes to anything they suggested we do, even if it was not up my alley. And even then I ended up having fun just being with them. If I got turned down, I would ask again another time. I now have more friends I do things with regularly than I think I ever have.

So you can do it! But believe me, no matter who you are or what you like or how many friends you have, you are so much more than nothing! I have felt about myself as you feel about yourself and none of it is true. Those things are just low-self-esteem and depression talking.
posted by cecic at 4:12 PM on December 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Hi, I'm in my mid-50s and doing OK now, but felt very lonely and unlovable in the past. I still have few friends and little social life, but the big difference is that now I have one excellent friend - my husband. Casual interactions with coworkers satisfy the need for light socializing and coming home to Hubby makes me feel lovable, and for a hardcore introvert that's enough, it seems.

Finding friends is like dating - it's a numbers game. You can stack the deck in your favor by doing things you enjoy with groups of like-minded enthusiasts: hiking, knitting, dancing, whatever. Focusing on the activity also helps take the pressure off in terms of being charming and "on" all the time. Some of these friends may introduce you to their friends, which is a great way to jump-start a social life.

Another truism is that romance - and even regular old friendship - often happens when you're not looking for it. I think this is related to not feeling pressure to be charming, always at your best, "selling" yourself like at job interviews. Having been on both sides of the situation I know this is cold comfort, but in my case it was completely true.

Lastly, you may be the sort of person for whom one or two good friends is enough. Not everybody needs a large group of friends all up in their business all the time! You find the good friends by finding casual friends first, then getting to know them better and maybe a few will turn out to be gems. So you need a largish pool of casual friends but maybe not that many close friends, which is a much more achievable goal I think.

Good luck! It sucks to be lonely but it might turn out that you can be happy with a smaller social support system than you currently suppose you need.
posted by Quietgal at 4:58 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I now have close friends, but after a very socially isolated childhood and teenage years, it took awhile.

Treat depression:
First, do all the standard treatment for depression. Therapy, meds if required, exercise, sunlight etc.


Check your conversational style - leave room for dialogue:
Having been deeply socially isolated, my conversational style was subpar. Books were my friends, and books are just monologues, so I'd monologue and then sit and wait for the other person to monologue back at me.
This is actually ok in some situations, such as parties where you get circles of people where one person tells a funny story, and it goes round - just don't monopolise, and assess the crowd as to whether the story was actually interesting/received well. Try and consciously leave breaks for responses (count in your head for a couple of seconds before resuming, if you need to!).


Introvert breaks, rather than fleeing social situations:
I like people, but I can get exhausted/need an 'introvert break' after a couple of hours of interaction (my endurance has increased over time). Rather than excusing myself from group social situations entirely, I'd just go off by myself (outside, into an empty room) for 15 to 30 minutes, sit and read quietly to myself, then - this is the crucial part, I would REJOIN the social situation.
I am both notorious for being found sitting and reading a book by myself at parties (often found on the shelf at the house, and yes, there was a few times I finished the book!), but also staying at parties with the late-late night owls, because my friends know that I actually will rejoin them after a break.


Building social skills by doing/teaching/taking responsibility:
I also moderated an online forum (kudos to the Mefi Mods by the way), which gave me practice in monitoring OTHER peoples social interactions, and stepping in before things got fighty. I then took over running a regular in-person Meetup group, despite being in no way a 'leader'-type person. This actually meant I didn't get a lot of one on one time. I had the responsibility of trying to welcome and introduce new people to the group, I would say hello, try and get a sense of their interests, and seat them next to people who might share them.
If people weren't talking to people next to them, or worse, were dominating conversations, or talking across people at the opposite end of the table (sidenote: It's not 'your Aspergers' if you KNOW you're making other people uncomfortable and doing it anyway. Argh!).
I'd move round the table then ask if people wanted to 'swap seats' with me so I could 'catch up with people at this end of the table' until we had a better configuration. It was nerve wracking, but really built social 'hosting' skills. I made one of my two best friends through that meetup.



Find something to do, when you are socialising:
Further to the above. So, join groups, and VOLUNTEER. There is always more things to do than people to do them. It doesn't matter what sort of event it is, party, festival, go up to people in charge and ask what you can do to help - often you get a job that involves interacting with a lot of people. Walk round with snack foods! Take photos of people who want pictures!
Groups that are entirely about volunteering are great, but find social opportunities where you are DOING SOMETHING.
A traditional pursuit of the socially nervous is boardgaming, because you have something enjoyable to *do* while you are socialising. Many group exercise things, hiking, team sports, are along the same lines. This allows you to slowly build connections.
Suggested groups to join: Boardgaming, environmental volunteering, and a team sport. Yes, all three!


When to suggest one on one socialising:
If you find yourself gravitating towards having one on one conversations with someone across several events (at least 3), feel free to suggest that you'd be happy to hang out with them outside of the event, preferably about something you have in common. For even less pressure, just suggest an activity that isn't one on one, but is maybe just 3 or 4 people.
Friendships are built on one on one time, but, slowly work your way up to it, until you are comfortable with the person in question, and can hang out.


Getting social needs met by Strangers:
Try and get 7 positive social interactions per day. This doesn't require words. A supermarket assistant who doesn't look you in the eye doesn't. Going for a walk and getting a smile or a head nod from a stranger *counts*. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it really does. Go back to shops and takeaways where the staff seem happy to see you. Bring friends to those stores! Social proof is a thing!
On the days you have a meetup/group event, 7 people will be easy, on days where you don't, you'll have to go for that walk.
I think it just reinforces to part of your brain that you are part of a larger, supportive group/tribe.


Feeling less lonely before socialising:
Try reminding yourself of the social ties you do have, or doing something that relaxes you before you socialise - it sucks, and it's a double bind, but it's easier to make friends when you aren't lonely, because it feels to the other person (even subconsciously) like you are pressuring them to accept the job of "Make me less lonely", which is a little nervewracking.
Keep some tokens of the fact that you are lovable as a person on you (notes you can read?). Try calling someone long distance and have a chat, before a social interaction with new people. Or send a nice email to someone.
Or, get a 15 minute massage - there are really cheap ones in my town. This last one especially if you are not in a relationship, as it helps fill that human need for touch.
This is also why you should try and join at least three regular 'groups' - even if you don't have close friends at a given activity, it is filling some of your social needs, and causing you to be less desperate for social interactions. I find I really notice when someone comes back to a group after an absence, as to whether or not they've been getting social time or not.


Don't do favours for people without letting them repay you in someway:
I like doing nice things for people, but it makes people feel uncomfortable if they feel like the balance is 'unequal', and less like being your friend. If you do something for someone, immediately suggest something THEY can easily do, that would 'repay' the favour, even if you don't really need it.
I'm trying to think of a silly example, but if you buy someone with no money a coffee, and they're on their way to the library, hand them your library books to take back, so they feel like they don't "owe you something" for the coffee.
For a person who likes driving, maybe they can drop you off somewhere (this is for someone who genuinely REALLY likes driving, so it might actually be an additional nice thing for them).
Friends are made from balanced, reciprocal relationships. The best, are when you do things that are easy for YOU to do, and they do things that are easy for THEM to do, and you don't feel like anyone owes anything. If you can't think of something for them to do, stress how much you were happy just to see them, and that you really liked the social opportunity.
Rather than doing a favor for someone new, try asking THEM for a favour, then make a point of heartily repaying it! This is what builds relationships!
Try reading "Influence: The psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdani for further explanations on this.


Alcohol:
Ah, the social lubricant of the masses. This is not a coincidence, interaction with new people is stressful, and small doses of alcohol are basically the equivalent of benzodiazepines.
Even if you don't drink (as I didn't for many years), it can reassure you to know that everyone else is actually medicating themselves into being slightly less nervous. If you are ok with drinking, have no more than 1 or 2 drinks to start, then 1 an hour, moderated to your own tolerance, just to take the nervous edge off.
Same with pot, actually, if you're not one of the people whom it makes paranoid. And both of them give you something to do with your hands.
If you have an anxiety condition and have benzos etc instead, take a very low dose, as appropriately prescribed to you, before social interactions. That's what they are for. When you're less nervous, people are less nervous to talk to you.


But yeah, find three group activities, and offer to help out whenever you can.
Mine were - boardgaming (not something I do anymore, but, it clearly filled the social need), judo, and a religious discussion group (with related potlucks).
posted by Elysum at 5:31 PM on December 14, 2014 [44 favorites]


This sounds terribly hard. I think all of us can relate at some level - even those who, from the outside, seem to easily make friends. I don't know if that's comforting to hear, but from my point of view as someone who does have close relationships but still feels overwhelmed with crushing loneliness at times, i think the most helpful thing is to find meaningful ways to engage in the world, and that often means working on something important to you, with like-minded people. Telling you to volunteer is overly facile, and volunteer work is often meaningless in itself, but finding, for example, a political campaign with a lot of energy behind it, or a passionate community centered on a shared interest that could use engaged volunteer labor, these things are basically what get a lot of people up in the morning. Finding something that takes a lot of intense work that must be shared, and throwing yourself into it. This is a way where human interaction, while still often awkward or at first "unsuccessful", is essential, and it seems difficult to avoid building bonds with people if you stick with this kind of thing for a while.

I'm sure you're dealing with more pain than I can understand, but I do genuinely believe anyone who has enough smarts and self compassion to post what you did has the ability and potential to build close ties over time. I think you can do it, for what it's worth.
posted by latkes at 5:35 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry you're going through this. I struggle with these kinds of feelings sometimes. I think I give off a vibe that I don't need other people and that leads them to think I am doing just fine. Things have gotten better in my thirties, not so much because of something I did (aside from showing up, consistently - I used to skip out on social events a lot due to anxiety), but because those gatherings I do go to happen on a regular, more-or-less scheduled basis. Waiting for someone to make plans meant that friends wouldn't actually see each other for many months - but joining a book club with some of them meant that there's a monthly gathering always, even if some of us can't make it. Other regular things could be a happy hour (monthly?), a trivia night, a potluck dinner, any kind of outing.

Honestly, I recommend joining a book club if you can find one that suits you. Or put up a flyer at a library or bookstore or use Meetup and start one? It has been pretty great for making friends and keeping up with them. I thought the idea of it was kind of lame until I realized the point of it was not really the books, even though we've read some good stuff. The point is for a group of women who all have jobs and most have kids and are busy a lot to schedule some time each month to get together and catch up and talk about whatever and just kind of check in with how life is going and support each other when it's needed. Give it a try? I also do a lot of yoga. I don't hang out with anyone from the studio as friends, maybe I will some day because who knows, but the point is that any evening or weekend when I really need to get exercise and meditate (because it's kind of that too) and spend time around other people I can always go to a welcoming, familiar place to practice where I know the instructors. It could be any physical activity with this kind of group practice/training, I have friends who are in running clubs, ju jitsu, cycling, hiking, rock climbing. I don't know what options are in your area but the hiking groups around where I am offer everything from 18-milers with significant elevation gains to easy, sneaker hikes that are only a couple miles, so it's not like you need to be super outdoorsy/athletic to consider it.
posted by citron at 6:02 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just don't have the thing which makes people friends with each other
I know you feel this is true, but it isn't! Sometimes it's hard to find your people, but they are out there. Though it will be hard to find them if you are so far in the dumps that you don't recognize them (or they don't recognize you) when they appear.

And I totally agree with you, that human interaction is a necessary component of happiness for most people. And it's really hard! One thing you might do is think about communities of people who may also be lonely.

How would you feel about volunteering some time to read or just talk to folks in a nursing home, for instance? Some of them are just like you, alone in the world, but they can't even leave the building they are housed in. I have done this a few times, and it can be hard. But worthwhile. With the potential added benefits of learning to be a good listener (most people aren't!), gaining some confidence, and picking up a few bits of wisdom from folks who have lived in the world a lot longer.

Once you've gotten out in the world like that a bit more, you might be surprised what kind of opportunities for social activities and even friendship, might follow.
posted by Glinn at 6:15 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of people are much more lonely than we think they are, because most people are very good at hiding it, and if they're truly alone, we don't even know they exist. I say this because you're concerned about glomming on to someone and demanding too much of them, but there's every possibility that you might be able to find people who need just as much from you as you need from them. Just something to keep in mind, to try to help you reach out and ask for what you want.

There's definitely stigma in vocally craving something that others appear to attain easily. Our current society is built around people who just don't work like me and you. There are, luckily, constructs remaining from the past that enabled people to stay in touch before technology caught up with our desire for privacy and space. I'm talking about things like church, clubs, organizations. There are actually many religions that welcome people who don't even believe in a god at all. Do you have any options in your area for a religious community that meshes with your beliefs and comfort level? Religion exists in great part because of the way it enables friendships and relationships of all types and there's no shame in taking advantage of that.

Another suggestion which might seem flippant, but really isn't, is to get a pet. Pets give you purpose, something to talk about with to other people, and tons of affection with zero expectations other than a good scratch behind the ears. And for me, for some reason, the times when I have pets are times when I'm more capable of pushing myself to be social. It's like they can prime me for dealing with humans.

My biggest piece of advice for making real friendships is to imagine the person you would like to be friends with, and try to become that person yourself. Certainly it's great to be friends with people who have very different life experiences and knowledge, but imagine a best friend. When you're sad, what would you like a best friend to do for you? If you want company to do something, would your best friend proactively offer to go? What would interest you about another person - what could they know about; now go learn about it yourself so you can talk about it with someone else.

Then, as you're interacting with others, you'll be attracting people who want to be friends with the kind of people you'd like to be friends with. It's sort of a self fulfilling prophecy deal. If you get used to thinking "in this case I would want to go see this movie with my friend" then when someone mentions a movie they'd like to see, you might more easily say "oh hey, would you like to see it together?" If you get used to thinking "in this case I would want my friend to push me to do some research to figure out this problem" then when someone is worrying about not knowing about something that's becoming an issue, you might more easily say "come on, I'll help you figure this out." And you apply this to yourself. Go to the movies with yourself, help yourself to do research, listen to yourself, be interested in the things that fascinate you.

For me the hardest part is physically putting myself in situations with other people around. But it sounds like for you, the people are there but you're just not clicking with any of them. You have to give yourself things for other people to click with. Freely share of your stories, passions, jokes, dislikes and wishes. And if you don't have any of those, do what you can to get some.
posted by Mizu at 8:40 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


" I've never had a 'friend' who wasn't a man who wanted to have sex with me."

I just want to say that I can completely relate to this and I know how it feels. You feel like you want this person's company, but at the same time you know they are only with you because they 'want' something from you. And once they find out you're not willing to give it to them, they disappear. Or worse- they get really bitter about the fact that you don't want to be with them so they hang around and try to think of ways to enact their revenge. This even happened to me with a woman once. She was my best friend in high school. I had no idea she was a lesbian for the first year I knew her (although the valentine gifts and cards probably should've tipped me off). I found out later she was actually in love with me, but that "friendship" disintegrated when she set her sights on another straight girl.

" ...human contact isn't actually optional, that it's pretty much vital for human beings to survive,..."

Human contact is relatively vital yes... but friendship is not. You can get your fill of human contact just going out and buying your groceries, lunch, bagels and coffee every day...going to bars.... getting a job in a department store and dealing with customers. etc. And to be honest, even the idea that ANY human contact is necessary can be debated when you look at the very rare and few solitary monks who live in complete isolation. Who miraculously are incredibly socially well adapted when they come down from their solitary mountains to meet the towns people once every few years. But yes- I think you have to be pretty well trained in the art of meditation to be able to pull that off. Most of us definitely need some human contact to stay sane and a lot of people do it just by being social with strangers every day. The people you engage with regularly don't have to be your best buddy.

In my own case I've had very few friends in my life due to a variety of reasons, but many of the people I thought were my friends actually ended up betraying me down the road. After several betrayals I decided I didn't really want to have any friends after all. It always caused me too much pain. Now my attitude is: If a platonic friendship happens then it happens, but I'm not seeking one. I don't have that "need" for a close friendship anymore. Maybe it would help if you imagined what would happen if you got your wish, and then found out that this "friend" was going behind your back and doing something terrible to you. It's funny because just yesterday I was reading all these HORRIBLE online accounts of people who had found out their best friends of 10+ or 20+ years was sleeping with their spouse! Glad I haven't gone through that one. Now I know these things don't happen to everyone, but they're also not uncommon and going through these scenerios in your head can help alleviate you of that clinging neediness for a close friendship, which is the real goal here- Getting rid of your clinging desire. Once you no longer really want a friendship this badly you can be ok with just random daily human contact and if you do happen to develop a friendship with someone it'll just be a bonus rather than something you feel you need to be happy.
posted by rancher at 9:45 PM on December 14, 2014


Counterpoint to the above post:
I think the whole point of the advanced spiritual practices that solitary monks engage in, is that they allow you to cope with emotional equilibrium even in situations of deprivation.

In any case, I don't think meditating on the idea that "people suck and will inevitably betray you" will be helpful, or get you where you want to go in life.
Especially because the practices for solitary meditation, that I know of, are quite different.
If you do want a spiritual practices to cope with loneliness, first is extended periods of mindfulness or vipassana meditation, which is aimed at letting go of your attachment, and pain, both physical or emotional, but it is recommended that you finish this style of meditation with Metta/compassion/loving-kindness meditation, where you practice feeling love for yourself, your loved ones, strangers, your 'enemies', and finally, the whole universe.
posted by Elysum at 12:46 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


This post really resonates with me. If you ever want to MeMail me to kvetch about the difficulties of social interaction/making friends, please do (I'm serious!)

Things that have helped me make friends in the past:

It's ideal to befriend someone who is connected to a large, nerdy friend group. Spend enough time hanging on the periphery of this group and eventually some of these friends can be yours! Of course, this one is tricky, because you can't really mandate making friends with a certain type of individual.

Another thing is to keep going to stuff and/or hanging out with a particular person, even if it feels horribly awkward. My best friend of all time (who now lives across the country, sadly) was made when I forced myself to hang out with her even as my stupid depressed brain was telling me that I suck, I'm not funny, she thinks I'm boring, blah blah blah. All of that stuff turned out to be totally untrue.

Good luck.
posted by whistle pig at 5:34 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really agree with those above who have posted who say that the key is to treat depression. Those feelings of being unwanted, unloved and unworthy of human companionship twist your social interactions into this funhouse mirror of fear and rejection. Breaking free from those thoughts enables you to connect without loaded, worst-case-scenario expectations and fears.

I also want to nth the people who say that having friends is not the end of feeling lonely. There are always going to be ebbs and flows in the relationships you have, people move and change, and you may feel more or less emotionally close to people at various times. If you are feeling isolated you may be looking at social media, people walking by, TV/movies etc. and assuming that everyone around you is 100% happy and connected with the people they're with. That's not the case at all.

I had a couple other ideas/thoughts to add that may be about the symptoms, not the problem. I went through a lonely patch a while ago where I had no close local friends, that was related to situational depression. One of the things that I did during that time was to utterly fail at "keeping the ball rolling" on the friendships. Friendships, especially new friendships, need momentum. So if you are invited to something, quickly get back to the inviter and let them know yes/no. Follow up after the hang out to say "thanks" and "I enjoyed it" and invite them to something else. If the person you spend time with shares news/a challenge/a worry, make a note to follow up with them a few days afterward and check in. Don't let weeks go by without contact. In short, if it's a person you want in your life, model the kind of friendship you need (while making sure to respect their boundaries and communication styles). Having friendships takes time, energy and work. It's incredibly rewarding but as adults there is a lot of "grunt work" involved in just keeping things rolling at first. Hugs and good luck.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:39 AM on December 15, 2014


Okay, so I'm not in my 30s, but I suck at making friends. I'm an introvert, and I have social anxiety and a pretty flat affect on top of that. I think I had like six friends total over the years between pre-school and high school. I was almost always the weird kid who got bullied. I read a lot of books.

The key for me has been finding environments with similar people (introverted nerds with obsessive hobbies, basically). I made close friends in high school (some of whom I still talk to and meet up with) because I chose the teeny tiny public magnet high school. I made a couple of "meet for coffee" friends and a couple of "you can stay at my house if you're in the area" friends and some "I'll give you a ride" friends and a bunch of friendly acquaintances in college because I pursued leadership roles in the film club and the college radio club.

College was really hard for me, because it was unstructured, and because I was either living alone or with spoiled rich kids (didn't clean, didn't do the dishes, broke or stole your things, threw loud parties at 3 a.m. and turned the music up louder if you told them you were trying to get sleep before a test, asked you not to practice guitar quietly in your room with the door closed even though their bff was "allowed" to play cello in the hallway or common room; you get it). If I just went to class and studied and ate/slept, I might never talk to anyone over the course of a day. But seeing other people and working with other people every week in a defined space (i.e. the film club's meeting room, the radio station) helped me get more human contact, and helped me make friends.

It's also easier for me to get over myself and talk/make jokes like a normal person when I'm doing something, particularly if I'm interested in and/or good at that thing, so I'd help plan the radio station's outdoor BBQ and serve as the event photographer, and skip the "we're going to stand around in this room and drink alcohol while making small talk" parties.

After I graduated and couldn't find an office job, I moved back home to my semi-rural hometown and got a retail job. It's a mix of customer service (registers, phones, helping people find items, etc.), making the store look pretty (folding product, putting away product, bringing more product out) and warehousing (fulfilling online orders, etc.), so I don't have to be on all the time. But I get tons of contact with other people (customers or coworkers), so I'm never lonely. It also helps that I get a lot of positive feedback from my managers.

I'm not planning on working retail for the rest of my life, but if I ever find myself in a situation where I'm living alone again, it's definitely something I would pursue as a side gig. The pay is shit, but the exercise (so much exercise) and people time make me feel pretty good and almost make up for that.

There's also volunteering! I tutor with 826NYC, and let me tell you, helping struggling kids with their homework will make you feel awesome. I haven't really become friends with the other tutors (I spend the whole session working with the kids), but they're pretty friendly and nice. If I had more time and wanted to make friends with the other volunteers, I'd work in the .org's retail store or do the bookbinding for the writing workshops or what-have-you.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:10 AM on December 15, 2014


This shit is learnable, even tho it feels like it's not. I spent *decades* thinking I just wasn't like those people who could connect. I'd go to events or meetups and watch as everyone else seemed to pair up and bond, while I sat alone. Every dinner event, the people on my left and right would engage in conversation while I sat silent. But then someone pointed out to me that I didn't really know that those people were "naturally" social. All I could observe is how they acted and what they said, and that I could learn to act that way and say those things, and that all of these skills and comfort levels could be learned. The paradigm helped me to see it as fixable. The specific class I did was with a company called Jaunty, but I think there are lots of these focused on social fluency.
posted by mabelstreet at 10:47 PM on December 19, 2014


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