being me, community

Who Are the Lonely?

I have never been good at making friends.  Acquaintances I have mastered, but people who reach out and check on you, people who notice when you are not there, yeah, those I am not good at finding.   Sure, I am part of larger groups and I know, sometimes, too many people, but those connections that sustain us, those that travel with us, have proven themselves elusive to me; a fully functioning adult.  It didn’t use to be this way, in Denmark where I fit better into society I wasn’t lonely, but in America where the social rules are so different and everyone’s friendships seems to have been cemented way back when, it is hard for foreigners to fit in.

Yet there sits Thea, my 3 year old, who makes friends at the drop of a hat.  Whose whole personally exudes friendliness and “play with me.”  Who is not afraid to approach or include, who is not afraid to reach out.  I wish I could be more like her because in the end as Ms. Night writes; we all need people.

I wonder which of my students go home lonely?  Which of my students may seem like they have plenty of people but then no one comes over to play?  No one reaches out or worries about when their seat is empty.  I wonder if they hide it like I do, whether they follow the rules of friendships and pretend they feel they belong, hoping that someday it will come true.  How can we integrate them, whether they are new or old students,  into friendships?  How can we help them feel like they belong, because in the end, community is what can make or break school.

I am not sure I am the one with the answers here, after all, I am still trying to fit in myself.

7 thoughts on “Who Are the Lonely?”

  1. I admire your honesty in this post. For myself, my true friends can be counted on one hand. While there are a lot of people in my life as well, only a few really care and will help you out when needed. I may not have an answer to your questions, but a thought. Maybe we should encourage quality over quantity.

  2. Thank you both for your comments and for reading the post. Sometimes I write these mostly for myself as a reminder to watch out for students who look like they are fine but really are lonely. And yes always quantity over quality.

  3. As always Pernille, you state things so eloquently. I truly look forward to meeting you face to face someday. Perhaps we will meet at a workshop sometime, but I look forward to chatting face to face with the person that has made me think much deeper at times. Love your posts and I am sorry I don't leave more replies, but your posts do provide my wife and I great talking points. Suppose that we are somewhat like you. We have both moved from teaching into Building Administration positions and our contact with friends has greatly reduced over the years. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Hi Pernille. I stumbled upon your blog post and enjoyed reading it very much. I am a college student double majoring in microbiology and chemistry and I find myself just like this – just like how you explained. the student who people think is okay, but isn't. Some just have no idea how bad it is. I've been living alone for the past three years. my older (and only) brother passed 3 years ago at the age of 36 (im 25). I'm still grieving and pretty sure i wont recover. a few months after that my ex left me because of reasons that she felt she couldn't explain to me. I don't share this with anyone really. my classmates and peers think im great and helpful, and some even tell me im smart (which i'm not). I love helping out whenever i can. I tutor trigonometry on weekends and anatomy and physiology during the week. i hold myself together pretty well on campus, but as I start to wrap up all my studying and tutoring for the day, I go home to no one. I feel pathetic. I don't have the friends I used to have, where people would just come over and hang out. everyone that was close to me now have girlfriends and families. I understand, so i don't bother anyone. I end up just studying and looking at peer reviewed journals or watching a TED Talks lecture. I'm pretty lonely. I know that there are physiological effects with people who don't have much love in their lives – and im afraid i might go early, y'know? I usually tell myself to "toughen up" or "suck it up" however I can't keep that up anymore. I bottled up too much. My point is, that you're absolutely right about your students and that one of them may look like they're fine on the outside, and some may even admit to it if asked. But I do think with teachers and professors like yourself, who care about the well-being of their students can make a difference in their lives. especially if they come up to you and decide to open up a little. Thank you for writing this blog. I wish you and your family a happy halloween!

  5. Dear Anonymous,I can relate, there are many nights that I sit in front of my computer hoping someone reaches out to me and takes a step toward friendship. It is a strange feeling when you can appear to be so well connected and yet there you are, lonely. I want you to know that you are not alone, unfortunately, and yet b]perhaps not being alone in being lonely is exactly what we need to know. Perhaps knowing that there are others out there like us help us when we feel the loneliest. I don't have any sage advice on how to make friends, I struggle with it, I want to join things to meet new people but then never know what to talk to them about. So I wonder, who knows how to make friends anymore? And sometimes I wish I could be that person that others called. It s amazing how we can be lonely when when we have people around us. If you ever need a friend, please email me at p@pernilleripp.com – I would love to hear more.

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