Observing Alex

Casually organized thoughts

Vague Relationships

July 02, 2019

I have a friend here in San Francisco who is in his late-20s and travels a lot for work. He is leaving San Francisco in July. In the past 8 years, he has lived in over 20 cities across the world, and he mostly travels alone.

One time when we were hanging out, I asked him how he makes friends during his travels. He shared a realization that took some exploring to come to: most people are lonelier than they let on.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Most of the time, we get into routines and when we’re asked what we do “normally,” we struggle to find a worthy response. Since I’ve been gone, I’ve made an effort to talk with my friends somewhat frequently. With three of my friends, I make sure to have a nice, deep catch-ups every week. Snapchat multiple times a day. Keeping in touch. Because of the distance and therefore the need to create dedicated times to talk, I actually in some ways feel closer to those I love because we’re sharing more than I would otherwise. This being said, it is still common for me to feel lonely out here, especially at night when all my friends back on Eastern time are asleep.

A few weeks ago, I was in an Uber and talking with the driver who was a teacher. He was a high school math teacher, whose main focus was trying to prevent kids from making the same financial mistakes that he did. As I talked and shared my story, he made note of the loneliness factor. “Yeah, people forget to tell you how lonely day-to-day life is once you’re out of school,” he said. It’s incredible to me how much nothingness goes on in day-to-day life. I’m currently working on five projects in addition to this book, and still, sometimes find myself with free time—bored and lonely.

How do I fight this loneliness? Of course, there is entertainment, but that only last for so long. The second trick is self-reflection. Spending time sitting with your feelings, writing what you’re thinking, helps me become more comfortable with myself and with understanding my motives, which is what I find most troubling when lonely and bored. And finally, there are relationships—conversations with friends; connections.

In college, there’s a framework for you to make friends, but in normal, modern life, there isn’t. This is becoming even truer as more people work as independent contractors. What I have resorted to is relying on vague relationships. It’s easy to forget that we are really similar to the people we’re around most often. Most people feel the same way you do and want the same things you do. This being said, I’ve found that any way you can relate to others, as long as you have wholesome intent, is welcomed more often than I used to think.