“I'm lonely,” I told my therapist sitting in one of the CPS offices in Lerner. “I just feel so lonely sometimes.” The moment took hold of me, and I was surprised that I was saying it out loud. I hadn't even acknowledged it myself until that moment: I, Sabina Jones, the talkative, social, loudmouth, was lonely, and I had been lonely for as long as I could remember. When I said it, I was surprised that this feeling that had melted into my everyday being had a name. I was lonely, but aren't most of us?
My loneliness was romantic and self-isolating. It was full of confusion, misunderstanding, and frustration because I would always reach the same obstacles no matter what I did differently; because I was doing everything but admitting that I was lonely.
This loneliness manifested itself clearly in my romantic life. Dating at Columbia, for me, has been marked with crying and arguments, sex and affection, being coupled and being alone. It has been many different things, but one constant was that in all of these situations, I was still fighting to maintain my loneliness. When a partner wanted to know me intimately, to see the good and the bad in me, I was hesitant at times to let them in because I knew they would see the things I was hiding. There are things I am just now beginning to open up about—my history with restrictive eating, my complex relationship with my family, and my childhood. As I recall them now to my therapist or my close friends, I am reminded of all the people who wanted to love me—who could have loved me—but I wouldn’t let them. I was settled in my loneliness, unwilling to change, and at the time having someone so close wouldn’t have served that end goal. So, I put distance between these would-be-lovers and the truth of who I am.
Yet with the lovers who held my attention—those distant enough not to scare me, but interested enough to validate me—I found my tenacity. Those were the lovers who were there when they wanted to, but not when I needed them. These were the lovers who didn’t value me. They didn’t see me as I see myself: beautiful, kind, intelligent, caring, curious, and affectionate. As far as I am concerned, I am one of the best women to walk across College Walk everyday, because I believe in the good in myself. Yet, I was intent on showing this only to people who couldn’t see it, but I soon learned that my path out of loneliness is one that is more complicated and holistic than simple romance
I recognized this last Saturday in John Jay Lounge, when one of my close friends sat me down and asked me to elaborate on what my admission of loneliness meant to me, even though she was hungover from the night before. I told her everything. I looked at her beautiful face and told her all the small things I had hidden, all the things I had been told throughout my life, so that I could square it away and be more palatable to others. My friend just listened, and when it was hard, she gave me space. When I was crying, she held me tight. And when I was done, she told me a truth I had been ignoring: I wasn’t alone anymore. I don’t have to live like I am.
There are so many girls I am proud to call my sisters. There are so many friends who love me dearly. I’ve had professors who have cared about me. This campus was filled with people I could’ve relied on this whole time, but after so long, I had blinded myself to them. The truth is, I am loved on this campus, I was just a little scared to admit it, to be open to it. But now I know, and I am trying to learn what it means to be comfortable in that love and to learn to rely on others. It’s overwhelming at times to go from this idea of being in solitude to being surrounded by warmth, and at times I want to shrink back into my coping mechanism of being too independent to need to be loved. But, I stop myself.
I know the difference, logistically, between romance and friendship. Having platonic love isn’t an exact replacement for the romantic love that I want, even if that platonic love is in abundance. I have had to work to admit that I want to be married—in a monogamous relationship—at some point in the future, even if not sometime soon. I want to share kids and a house with someone. This goal requires romantic love and openness to change in my life, but it does not take away the amount of love I have in my life now. When the time comes, it will bring new types of love to me.
In the meantime, I have the love of those around me, which is invaluable. I am deserving of that love and I cherish the possibility of loving them back. So when the time comes for me to invite in these new forms of love, these romantic loves, that we, in our early adulthood, clamour to for validation and affection, there will no longer have to be that push and pull of being wanted too much or not wanted enough. I will know I was wanted all along, and I will know how to feel comfortable with that intimacy—albeit in a different way.
Sabina Jones is a senior at Columbia College majoring in English and Hispanic studies. Her column, Transatlantic Trade, runs alternate Fridays.
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