Adjusting to loneliness can take time. Illustration: Christine Wang.

I think the most challenging thing about adulthood is being struck by loneliness. It doesn’t happen gradually and you never see it in your peripheral vision. You find yourself standing in a storm with the sky raging at you, and without warning you are hit by anguish. You remember how you were guided through life, but weren’t given room to learn. Laying on the pavement you try to pick yourself up, but composure slips through your fingers as you muster the will to peel off of the side of the road and learn to adjust to this new life. Whether you love it or hate it, you learn to accept the solitude that comes with growing up. 

I learned that when I moved away from home. I lived with my parents until I was 19 and I depended on their constant presence in my life. Moving away was difficult, to say the very least. My parents are overbearing, and I’m saying this in the nicest way possible, because it wasn’t vicious, but in a very mama bear protective fashion. But many times, it stood in the way of self-growth, because they wanted to do everything for me; they guided me and tried to protect me from everything. All of this left me thinking the world was easier than it turned out to be. The day I left for  a new continent, all the feelings of security came crashing down as I stood at the doors of the airport. I said my last goodbyes and walked over to customs and broke down. I turned away so they didn’t see the tears streaming down my cheeks, because they also taught me to be strong. It was hard when they were the protective blanket I wore around me. I had to walk to my terminal and never look back because I was determined to be the brave and strong person they wanted me to be.

I made it to the other side of the world, and little did I know I had more difficulties waiting for me. One of the hardest things was eating alone. It was calm, but empty. The air was so still I could hear the refrigerator humming. I never noticed it before. I sat down to eat, and it was only me who prayed, only me who chewed. It was only me when I lifted my head up from my plate. The realization of the utter silence in the room made me appreciate food. I savoured every bite, I took my time and I heard myself think. I wasn’t talking over anyone. I wasn’t arguing with anyone. But being in such a big space and not having to share it was so foreign to me.

Watching television was a whole other experience. I laughed from my gut, my heart, and soul, but no one else was laughing. I was loud, with no one to disturb. It was concerning and comforting at the same time. In the first few months away from home I constantly waited for the doorbell to ring, hoping someone would come by and keep me company. I would hear cars pass by from my bedroom window and I would look out, but they were just passersby, it was never for me. After a while the solitude became comforting. I never had a crazy social life, but all I needed was my group of friends. It was difficult because they too were on different continents. It was easy to think I was alone in this home because I quantified it by distance, but when my parents or my friends called via video chat it made me realize I don’t have to be surrounded with people to not feel this discomfort. I just had to learn to be okay with being in my own space.