A student asked me:
Do you have any advice for dealing with loneliness while chasing one’s dreams?
Here’s my reply:
I’m not sure what you mean by loneliness. Loneliness in the sense that you don’t have close friends; or don’t have friends who share your dreams/interest; or loneliness that you don’t have a romantic partner?
When I was an undergrad, I knew many people but felt very lonely. That was because I had shitty friends who did great at making me feel lonely (they’d hang out together without inviting me because I didn’t stay in Katong/Siglap like the rest of them, or if they did invite me, it was to very expensive eateries, so I’d opt out). Eventually, I realised I didn’t need this sort of shitty friends. Better to have a few close friends than to have many shitty ones.
Having pursued the academic path, I can tell you that it’s a bloody lonely journey. I’m envious of my peers who work in teams. I’m just a solo player here. It can be very lonely and miserable at times. But I also recognise how that gives me so much freedom to pursue all kinds of projects at my own pace.
Now, I don’t know what kind of loneliness you are referring to, so I will refrain from advice on dealing with loneliness.
What I will say is this: Since you have dreams you want to chase, you can channel all that lonely energy into being productive towards that dream. I know loneliness usually compels people to write emo poems or sing emo songs or shit like that. But you can tap on that energy and funnel it towards more creative expressions. It can be hard because the thing you do doesn’t match the mood (that’s why it’s easier to write pages and pages of emo poems instead), but the more you try, the easier it gets.
But at all times, be kind to yourself when the loneliness gets to you so bad it’s hard to work. Don’t suppress it, as it’ll only make it worse. Instead, let the feelings run its course to completion. If you need to take a day to emo, just do that. But don’t dwell into it and at all costs, don’t wallow in self-pity.
I always tell myself: Misery is the white noise of existence. Like white noise, once your attention is locked onto something else, you’ll pay no notice to the loneliness. But even if you do notice the misery, don’t be alarmed. It’s white noise and not actually an alarm. So we need to remind ourselves that it’s not as bad as we often perceive it to be.