“Embrace your duality!” This was some very good advice I received at a workshop I attended recently. What the speaker meant by this, is that often we can have two seemingly opposite sides of us, which both need to be acknowledged at different times. So, for example you might be very confident and self assured in the work place, but shy and reserved in social situations. Neither of these is more valid than the other. In order to avoid conflict within ourselves, we need to acknowledge and accept all of our many facets. Easy, right? In theory, yes. In practice, not so much!
I have always been a fiercely independent person. I enjoy my own company and usually gravitate towards solo activities. Nothing makes me happier than curling up with a cup of tea and a good book. I love taking long walks with a Podcast and the pupper. I recognise that time spent alone and quiet is vitally important to allow me to restore and renew, especially at those times when it feels like everyone wants a piece of me! Even when I was a little girl, I would often retreat for hours. Infinitely more comfortable alone, or in small groups, than in the crowd.
A few years ago, I went through a rough time. I was starting out in my career, and in typical Arwen fashion, I was determined to do anything I could fast track it. I left a job, which was close to home, to work somewhere farther away, because I felt it was a step up. I saw it as a necessary evil. The country was deep into a recession and opportunities were few and far between. In making the change, I was also leaving behind so much familiarity. I was walking away from friends and colleagues I had been working with for years. I was leaving the little pond to go be a little fish in a much bigger one.
When I started the new job, it was immediately apparent that it might not have been the “right” decision. The commute was hellish and the workload was insane. It was nothing overly complicated, I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. It wasn’t long before I was skipping lunch and bringing work home with me in a vain attempt to catch up. I was in college at the time too and I honestly felt I was spending all my whole life working, studying or driving. I had no time to see friends or do any of the things I enjoy.
However, this wasn’t worst part of it. I am not afraid of hard work and I can usually gut out most difficult situations. The thing, which impacted me most negatively was the people. I DID NOT fit in. The girls I worked with were cliquey and unfriendly (think Mean Girls) I enjoy a gossip as much as the next girl, as long as it’s harmless. Theirs wasn’t. So, in order to avoid getting drawn in to the nastiness, I kept contact to a minimum. I would often go through an entire day without having a single conversation that wasn’t work related with anyone. It was awful.
I couldn’t understand why I was so upset by it. It wasn’t like I was looking for a new best friend. It took me a long time to understand what I was feeling. I was lonely. Desperately lonely. Even someone was happy in their own company as I am, needs some level of human interaction during the day. Going from 7am to 7pm each day without even a chat about what was on TV last night is extremely difficult. If you don’t believe me, try it for a few hours. I was totally isolated and felt like I had been sent to Siberia (think Erin Brockovich)
Thankfully, I wasn’t in that situation for too long. I changed jobs again and met a whole load of like minded people. I relished in the sense of camaraderie I had so sorely missed. I joined a Strength and Conditioning gym where I made a lot of great pals, and began feeling so much better. I was connected! I had found my tribe!
Since then, there have been so many changes in my life. New jobs, new gyms, new business ventures etc. There have been times during all of that when I have felt disconnected and alone. Feeling lonely is, at least for me, a difficult thing to recognise and an even more difficult thing to admit. Especially when it seems like I have no “reason” to feel that way. I am getting a little better and I have started to notice a things which trigger it.
I have experienced these feelings most acutely when a situation or dynamic changes. For instance, when I went from being one of the team to being a “manager.” This small change put a huge distance between myself and those reporting to me. Even the transition from Zumba student to Zumba instructor hasn’t been an easy one. It has set me apart from the rest of the tribe and I have found myself feeling like I am on the outside looking in!
Obviously these changes are a normal part of life and anyone who wants to forge ahead will probably experience these periods of loneliness. Times spent wondering where, if anywhere, you fit in. Times when you don’t feel part of a tribe at all. In these times, it’s important to remember than everything is transient. If you feel lonely and isolated now, remind yourself that you won’t feel like this forever. Try to reach out to those who know you best and draw them closer to you. It’s okay to say “I feel lonely.” It’s okay to admit that you are struggling and need help.
I try to avoid regret, but I do honestly wish I had done something, anything differently when I was in that awful job. I wish I hadn’t been afraid to let me friends know how much I needed them. I wish I hadn’t seen it as a failure to say “I don’t fit in.” It was many years later before I was able to tell anyone what I had been going through. Those Mean Girls were definitely not my tribe, and I now realise how lucky I was to have avoided being indoctrinated! Be well xxx