I expect some of you have also seen my second blog, ‘Touching Space’, it is intended to be separate from this one but I am sure that like today they will reach out to each other and become one, you can’t separate life from emotion so I guess it is permitted. I wrote a small piece today on loneliness, to write it I pulled on my own memories of a couple of point in my life when I could have changed totally the path I went down or even ended it. These days it seems unthinkable that anyone should be lonely. We have such an interconnected life style with social media invading and strengthening our ties to others, it seems almost impossible to have no interaction with another person for one whole hour far less days. Those born from the 80’s onwards I am sure have no idea what being on there own means, Adam I know frequently forgets how different life was just a handful of years ago. What I am going to tell you now is not only true, but it is still hard to write and may be hard to read.
I was 13 years old, due to my parents getting divorced there had been a shattering of my whole family structure. At first I stayed with my father and his new wife but she had made it totally clear that I was unrequited in their new life. Over just a few months I was isolated and felt locked outside everything I had known. The relationship between me and my father was unhealthy to say the least and destructive at it’s best. I have mentioned this in the past and detailed that I left his home with a broken nose and dislocated fingers. I also left without a big brother and a much loved auntie, his family were now as cut off from me as my mothers had been for months.
At first the social work department found me a great foster family, they were Dutch and lived in Aberdeen like many other due to the Oil industry. Mia and Jan mad me welcome and I was happy with them for over a year, during that time Mia became pregnant and they had their own little girl. I was a noisy annoying teenager who clearly didn’t make life easy for them and I was one my own again, this time that was where I stayed. At 15 finding a new foster family was unlikely and I was a very grown-up teenager. You were never talked to in those days and asked what you wanted to do, the modern thing of taking a child’s opinion into consideration was unheard of. I was found a room at the YWCA and left there.
Heading for 16 next February meant that under Scottish law in the 70’s my father was allowed to cut me off completely. He contacted me through the social work Dep and informed me that was what my birthday present was to be. Without support I would have no choice but to leave school and get a job. The money that put a roof over my head was about to end. I wasn’t going to be able to sit my all important O’levels as I couldn’t stay there until May, I left school still aged 15 in the November, as I had found a job.
I had few friends, it’s hard to be friends at that age with people who have no understanding of how you live. I didn’t know one single person my age who was like me. My job was OK but I was by far the youngest in the office, so the chance of a friend there was zero. It was Christmas and the office was shut until January, the hostile was almost empty and I had nowhere else to go. Outside the temperature was below freezing and in my room they weren’t much better. My room, that was a bit of a laugh. The YWCA was a charitable organization, all the furniture had clearly been left in wills to them or given by families that didn’t know what to do with it. There was little there that was mine, a few clothes and even fewer bit’s and pieces. Beside the old furniture there was a 2 bar fire that ran off a coin meter, it ate money, if I fed it I didn’t eat.
On Christmas eve I finished work and headed to my room. There was ice on the inside of my window and no other single thing to say it was Christmas. That next week was when I first learned what lonely really meant. I went to the kitchen to cook some food and saw no one, the cleaners at the hostile were also on holiday, so no hoovering to remind me of normal life. It felt like I was the only person in that huge building. No one called on the pay phone in the hallway. No one knocked on my door. I lay in my bed all day every day, it was the warmest place to be. There was no TV, a radio that played Christmas songs I didn’t want to hear. On my lowest day I forced myself out. I dressed and headed the short walk to the city center. Remember as you read on this it was 1976, there wasn’t even Sunday shopping, no shop ever opened on a Sunday or bank holiday. No bars either, nothing. The city was silent and as empty as the hostile. I walked through the empty streets and headed to Duthie park, but apart from a couple of people walking their dogs, I was still alone.
For the first time in my life I found myself sitting on the cold hard ground by the river wondering how easy it would be to die. Not casual thoughts, dark painful thoughts, ones that counted the people I had in my life as one, just me. I was 15 and so alone, so hurt and so scared of the future,was this what life was, more of exactly what I had at that moment, that life was unbearable. Why would anyone want to live like that? I sat there totally lost inside myself because there wasn’t anything out there other than me. That is lonely.
The figure that formed my age then, are now reversed, but I have never forgotten it. Because I am housebound so many people ask me the question, ‘Don’t you get lonely?’ I have to be honest and say no. I have few but rich friendships that I treasure and recently I have found friends who I will never meet but I can talk to at anytime. That is the gift of the modern world that technology has brought us. I think the future will bring all of us a less lonely life as long as we have access but don’t forget those who don’t have a PC, ipad, or smartphone.