Loneliness has been my close friend for most of my childhood, adolescent and adult life. I have always felt a gnawing sense of loneliness for as long as I can remember. I was the quiet one in school, which teachers and peers concluded that I was a shy kid. But, really, I was just introverted and a little eccentric. Books has always been my best companion as it allowed me to travel into places away from the sexual abuse.
I did not have a lot of pocket money growing up. My mother was very strict and felt that giving too much pocket money means spoiling the child. I was given 20 cents for school days and none for the weekends. That money was just enough for me to buy a bowl of plain noodle soup, but I never did spend that money. I kept it so that I could rent books or buy them. The public library where I grew up was small and modest. It didn’t take me long to finish reading all the books that it had. My school library was similar as well; small and modest.
I was fortunate to have a friend in school that would let me read her Enid Blyton books that lined her bookshelf at home. She used to invite me over after school to read, and I will always remember those moments. Since we parted ways for university, I have lost touch with her. I have no idea why I have never initiated to rekindle the friendship. It would be so easy with Facebook. I saw her profile some years back, but never reached out. Maybe, I was afraid that she could no longer remember how close we used to be when we were 9 years old.
My mother was never keen on encouraging my love for reading. She always pulled me away from bookstores as she was afraid I would want to buy a book. She felt that books are a waste of money because you only read them once. She also felt because of this, books take up a lot of storage place in the house and we didn’t have a bookshelf at home. As a child, I have always felt that my mother was unloving as she never showed much affection for me. As a child would, I equated her resistance of getting me books as part of her indifference towards me.
So, I was a lonely child. By the age of 7, my sisters have moved to another city for university. I was left with my brother as a “play mate”. He was 14 at the time. As he was the only siblings that I could play with, the abuse was inevitable. It didn’t stop until I turned 13. Throughout the years of the abuse, I felt more and more alone because it was not something I could tell anyone, as my brother would always threaten that he would hit me if I ever did say anything. He had a temper. I was terrified of him as a child.
I have been trying to think differently about loneliness but it only fuels my thoughts about how lonely I feel. I’ve got a loving partner but that doesn’t mean one would not feel lonely. Loneliness is our perception of how connected we are with other people compared to what our idea of what level of social connections we think is ideal. I have tried getting to know new people via volunteering, clubs, sports & work. But, nothing really have worked. Maybe, there is something fundamentally wrong with how and who I am. Maybe it is also the cultural barriers as I am Asian and a migrant in a western country. It is a murky conundrum.