When I was in 7th grade my family moved from a suburb to a small town. Making new friends can be tough – especially as I was a pretty awkward middle schooler (hard to believe I know). But I had two big things going for me. 1. My family was moving with me – we might be in a new house but the same five people were there every day, and 2. I had to sit in class for eight hours a day with all these new people. In other words I had forced community.
After high school, I went to college. Again, there was forced community. I played football so I met 80 people before class even started. I had a suite full of 8 other people that I was forced to share space with. Many of these people became my friends.
What’s interesting is that when you are younger, whenever you take the next step, while it might be hard to leave some people, there’s a whole new group of people waiting. You are almost forced to make friends.
Even as most of us start out in our early 20’s community is relatively easy. Everyone is in the same boat. For the first few years out of college, I always had roommates my age, people that were in the same place in life.
But as you get older and remain single, this becomes harder. Every time you move, you start all over. This became really apparent to me when I moved to St. Louis. If you are married and you move it can be tough, but you still have each other. You wake up with the same friend every day. As a single, you don’t have that.
In our culture, the older you get, the more you are alone.
Some people would say we choose this and there is some truth to that. But if you think about it some of it is just reality. We don’t have as many jobs where you work in large group anymore. People also switch jobs more often and don’t even stay with the same company for 5 years let alone 20.
As a single person it is really easy to become more and more isolated. Our peers are getting married and our roommates keep getting younger and younger. Know what I’m saying? I had a time where I was the only one in the office. I went to work alone, I did ministry alone, I went to Church alone and I went home alone. I remember one time my boss was saying we needed to make sure we had times of solitude. I thought – yeah I’ve got that covered.
This is a dangerous situation for us as singles.
First of all it can lead to more time in our own head or what I call The Pretend. I’ve written about this previously but it’s not good. It can lead to us being disengaged and isolated. This, in turn, can make our interaction with others less full even when we are with people. All this is bad, not to mention it can decrease our ability to engage the opposite sex. In fact as we have less and less engagement with the opposite sex, our ability to pursue a marriage relationship takes a beating. Finally, it also leads to more selfishness. I can just do what I want, when I want.
We have to fight this. There are no perfect answers but I want to give just a few practical ones.
- Fight for community. You can’t just hope it happens. They don’t have to be like you or even your age. Do what it takes, you have to do this.
- Have a roommate or several. I know, I know, you’re thirty something and the only option is a 25 year old – I say do it anyway. It’s better than the alternative. Take someone in who you mentor. Buy a house and rent out a room. Don’t go home alone.
- Don’t lose your friends because they get married. Your friends should be your friends no matter what. I get that it might look different but if you are only going to have single friends you are in trouble.
- Serve. Even if it is in a small way this is one of the main places where community happens – around a common mission.
- Listen to sermons and talk radio now and then – not just music. Trust me on this – it makes you engage and helps keep you out of the pretend
Finally, as “Churchy” as this sounds, you have to engage God. Learn to talk with God. If we could take half the time we spent in our own heads and pray we would be changed forever.
So how do you keep from being isolated? How do keep from being all alone?
Excellent post, and great advice on getting into community with people. A year or so ago I moved countries, and have just now realised how much I NEED community. Back in my home country I took community for granted. Now I am in a situation where I have to be very intentional about forming friendships and arranging to meet people to keep from isolation. Living with room mates definitely helps to decrease the ‘aloneness’.