I’ve never felt more lonely than my first night in Portland, December 1, 2016.
A year ago, I went to Portland for vacation. My friend was supposed to join me but due to a family emergency, she could no longer come on the trip. I was not mentally prepared to be in Portland alone. After exploring the city for a few hours, I sat in my hotel room, crying, determined to find a flight home, ASAP. I was so lonely, I hated it. I had a rental car and my hotel was about 20 minutes outside of the city with not much to do nearby. I sent an SOS to my people…”I gotta come home ASAP” but they convinced me to stay. Why did I feel so alone in this city?
Those emotions stuck with me, in fact, sometimes, I’m reminded of the chill winds and overcast skies of Portland in the moments I feel lonely. I feel every ounce of uncertainty and unfamiliarity that I felt in that hotel room.
Here’s the thing…
I’ve learned to enjoy being alone but its outside of my personality type. As I’ve gotten older I’ve acquired some introverted tendencies but I’ve always been an extrovert.
I was lonely in Portland but I pushed past the fear and anxiety that wanted to cripple my soul, got on the meetup app, and found out a small group was gathering for a bible study at Starbucks. I figured this could go well or really bad but I wanted to meet new people so I went anyways. I was greeted by a joyful woman named Kiesha. She introduced me to everyone and they were all so welcoming.
Later that night, I went to a restaurant that a few friends recommended. I needed one seat and the bar seemed like the only place I would snag a seat…I watched as couple after couple overlooked me waiting and took a seat before me. Over time, I locked eyes with a gentleman waiting for a seat as well, we both saw a couple getting up and knew it was our chance to sit down. We began chatting and he told me he immigrated to the States from the middle east and loved Portland because people were so kind and welcoming to him. He asked if I was traveling alone, I told him yes. He proceeded to encourage me to travel more and seek out new adventures.
It’s in the moments of loneliness that I feel the ache of singleness the most. I ended a relationship earlier this year and it was the right thing to do but very difficult. I knew the end of that relationship meant the feelings of loneliness would come sweeping back in. Growing up in church, they told us to kiss dating goodbye and “wait” because your husband will appear just when you “least expect it”. A perspective I kissed dating goodbye author Joshua Harris is re-evaluating. The reality is, there is no formula for meeting the person you decide to spend forever with. Every story is unique. While marriage isn’t the ultimate goal of fulfillment for my life, I am keenly aware of my desire to love and be loved by a significant other. We are all wired for connection (thanks, Brene Brown for studying this). I know I am not the only one who feels this way, I’ve talked to girlfriends who are now dreaming about the future for themselves with no one else in mind. This isn’t what most of us had planned but its where we’re at. Welcoming peace and stillness to our hearts is where we learn to walk in the “dark” without fear. Its where we bow out of the rat race and learn to fly.
It’s been a whole year since Portland and I am well-acquainted with the feelings of loneliness; familiar with the change in seasons with friendships; and well aware of my own sadness when I wish I had a boo. BUT this year, I deepened my friendship with adventure, 7 countries, and 10 US cities later I am more confident, empowered, and determined.
I’m no longer anxious on lonely days.
I am aware.
From that awareness, I choose to wake up and ignore the self-imposed deadlines I’m “behind” on. Because who’s keeping track of the time anyway?