There has been a lot of discussion lately about the toll loneliness is taking on American society. And while material wealth is necessary to have a good life, I think it is the quality of our relationships which makes for a truly good life. Theoretically, I always knew this, but when we moved I came to really appreciate how it is other people who give life color. I also learned that although making friends and building community is hard work, it is worth it.
About 2 years ago, we moved about 45 minutes away from where my husband grew up and we had lived for eight years. When we first decided to move, we had tried to simply move to single family home in that area, but my husband wanted land for his hobbies and I wanted top quality schools so that I could stop homeschooling, and we couldn’t find it. So in order to find something we could afford with those criteria that also wasn’t too far away from my husband’s work, we finally ended up looking in a different county. There, we found a beautiful home we could afford with a blue ribbon school and community park a half mile away. However, the location we were moving to was just far enough that while we could still visit where we came from, we were in a totally new community where we knew no one. And after the excitement of moving wore off, I found myself lonely and disconnected. On top of that, even though where we lived was beautiful and peaceful, it was very isolating and it was hard to figure out how to meet the neighbors in our spread out homes without looking like a creepy stalker, much less figuring out how to form a community to belong to.
So we tried lots of different things and met lots of new people in an attempt to find friends. Since I was often meeting people for the first time during our quest, I felt like I constantly had to be “on” so that people would like me and not get a first impression that I was grumpy or unfriendly. I also felt that the house had to constantly be clean in case anyone came over because I didn’t want them to get a first impression that I’m a slob. In my loneliness, I fretted about coming on too strong and dreamed of ways of casually bumping into other moms I had met over and over so that we could get to know each other naturally. But without a place in our community people naturally gather, like a central shopping area, community pool or school drop off/pick up, it was really hard to see people more than once. And while we loved the church we had joined, we came to realize that most of the other christians there didn’t live near us and the schools their kids attended where on a different schedule.
I wasn’t sure what to do. My husband had his job to go to and the kids their schools, but as a SAHP, I could go days without seeing another adult. I am an introvert, but everyone needs to feel like they belong and I felt as if I didn’t. I felt I had become invisible as our community back home went on without us. I cried to my husband, more than once, that I felt as if I were trapped in a pretty box. I tried to get a part time job to get me out of the house, but there were none with family schedule friendly hours nearby and to travel to something further wouldn’t be economically worth it. My husband reassured me that it takes at least one to three years to feel like you are part of a new place when you move and he was right. Now, at almost two and a half years later I finally feel settled in.
It took a lot of work to form a new community but it has been worth it. We became the type of people who were constantly inviting people over. This was often stressful because we all live busy lives and it would often be difficult to figure out whether anyone was coming or not and how many there would be so that we could plan accordingly. We took walks around our neighborhood despite the lack of sidewalks and even knocked on people’s doors to meet them, which made me anxious every time we did it. We also joined various groups and activities and switched churches to one in our county. All these efforts had varying degrees of success, but over time the number of people we knew grew and we eventually got to the point that we found people we really liked who were in the same stage of life as us and also had room in their lives to include us in it.
The point I really finally felt like we belonged about 2 years in, when we visited our first church we had attended when we moved and realized how many people we knew there and also that more congregants where moving to our area since it was cheaper. At that point, we decided to switch back to that church and also joined the neighborhood group that they had started in our town since we had left. We’re also friendly with a lot of the neighbors around us and more homes around us are being sold to young families as the youngest children of the original owners are coming to college age. We’re excited to see who moves in and to watch our community grow.
So if you find yourself lonely, don’t be discouraged. If you are lonely, you aren’t alone. It takes lots of work to find community, just like it does to find a spouse or start a career. Sometimes you’ll feel like your efforts don’t amount to anything. You’ll find that a person you think is great doesn’t have time for you in their lives or that you don’t have as much in common as you thought after all. But eventually you’ll find someone who can become a true friend and a place you really fit.
So how about you? Have you had a similar season in your life or are you going though this right now? If so, I’d appreciate hearing about it.