There’s a vacuum in my life, a gaping distance between me and reality. My mother left for India today and I realised this is what it means to be an adult. This is my coming of age, of me finally realising that adulthood has a ghetto, the unglamourous ‘lonelyhood’ that we navigate, and all your life you were preparing for this. I have my own room something ten-year-old me would have been very excited about.
That’s the thing I am not ten, and even if I were ten, one day I’d still get here, maybe not this city or this journey but somewhere else it would still be this moment of realisation. This exact moment when you stand in your own space wondering where did all this space come from? Did you ask for it, did you earn it, do you want it? When did the distance grow from inches to kilometres? We battle for space all our lives but want to fill that space with people. Our own people.
I know so many who’ve made people their spaces, homes in different countries who are actually people, you have reasons to visit them. We collect spaces as we go along. Now in this city I live in a lonelyhood of numerous ambitious people, some like me, some very different from me but all of us questioning our presence.
My mother said she’s a phone call away when she left, and she is going to be a phone call away. She left knowing that now it was my turn to take care of myself. I knew this was where I’d come. You know you imagine your lonelyhood as a child, you know exactly how it should look, you went browsing catalogues hoping to find your lonelyhood.
The TV version of lonelyhood is the time between being single and in a relationship, family and work or education and job or sadness and happiness. They are all binaries, but lonelyhood doesn’t fill a gap and it isn’t a gap. It’s just there between nowhere and nowhere. It’s not supposed to be this period when you’re on probation, a trial period for adulthood after which it’s decided that you can make it to the next phase.
I always thought of my life in these binaries, but lonelyhood isn’t a stop between your origin and destination, it is the whole journey. I realised yesterday when I began to miss my mother just before she left, that one must be comfortable being alone so that they can be strong enough to handle somebody joining them in that lonelyhood, otherwise the burden is on the other person.
I am not just talking about textbook love, it could be friends or family too. It’s no one’s responsibility to take care of you. It’s a privilege to be taken care of a privilege that has an expiration date. After that you better be able to take care of yourself and it doesn’t just mean paying bills, doing your work, cooking, waking up on time and washing your laundry. It’s when you have to start being your own source of encouragement, your own shoulder to cry on and your own compass of right and wrong.
All those people will still be there to help but they won’t be your ticket out of lonelyhood, they will be temporary fixes like fire extinguishers. But it’s you who has to make sure you don’t start a fire and if you do start one, they might put it out but the consequences will be borne by you.
Adulthood and lonelyhood are not the same things. The dotted red line below lonelyhood tells me that it isn’t a word, that it is something I am making up. But perhaps we need to create new words to describe moments and feelings. Why do we try so hard to fit into prescribed categories and chasing after semantics and grammar? Words wouldn’t exist if people didn’t create them.
It’s in moments like this that I realise my parents navigated lonelyhood too, so did my sister who found it equally hard as me. But if you can live alone then living with someone is a piece of cake. The more you keep yourself in a crowd the more you hear your voice less. In lonelyhood there’s a different kind of happiness. I am not talking about not having a social life I am talking about living alone.
This is the start of my lonelyhood, where I learn a bit about myself and learn to literally be my own person. There’s no point trying to prolong what was anyway going to come my way at some point. In this lonelyhood I hope I learn something, what lies past these binaries, what are the layers of the self I’ll get to unpack? How will I use the space that I now call ‘mine’? Over time I hope to fill this space, not just with people. I want some memories to myself. Do things on my own time. Make plans for myself.
We were all born to be somebody, and only in lonelyhood just past the junction of adulthood will you meet that somebody. S/he is really the person you can stay with for as long as you like. The door of that home will truly always be open for you. I suppose I’ve now found mine.