Dealing With The Melancholy Of Big City Life
Overcoming the feeling of loneliness while surrounded by people.
It’s past midnight and I’m on my way home from work. It’s been an exhausting day, the kind that doesn’t hold much promise of getting better, and all I want to do is go home and sleep until tomorrow. There are less people on the train than I have fingers and I can tell the ones that are here are barely even here at all. Most of them are asleep. The one man that is awake is sitting in the far corner and seems to be petting the empty seat beside him.
There’s something about nights like this, when you lose your headphones and the sounds of the city will have to suffice, at least until you get home and can drown out the stillness with some Netflix. And it makes you wonder why, while you’re surrounded by people, you still feel so isolated and alone.
Dealing with the big-city-blues when you’ve just moved can be difficult. Once the high of feeling liberated wears off, you’re often met with an emptiness that’s hard to place. Especially when all your new acquaintances, coworkers and roommates are living at a different pace or are at different points in their lives. Feeling like this is totally normal. It does pass. But what can you do to make the time in-between more bearable? Here are a couple of tips that helped me combat the urge to bury myself in the melancholy of loneliness when I first moved to the city.
1. Create a routine to anchor yourself
The first and most important thing for me was to have a certain basic routine to stick to. It sounds conservative, I know. But just this mental framework for myself helped me a lot. Having a couple of small tasks to do every day gave me stability in an otherwise easily overwhelming environment. Even when I had a bad day, say, hungover from a night of partying (purely hypothetical of course), I still had an anchor to hold me back from getting lost in the city and my own emotional chaos.
2. Get out there!
I have all these things that I normally do to make myself feel better after a long day, like reading a book or sketching something. It really made a huge difference once I began taking those things out of the comfort of my own apartment. For example, went to a park, café or public space. Even if I often don’t instantly engage with other people, just being around them created a feeling of connected-ness that I knew I wouldn’t reach if I had just isolated myself at home.
3. Expand what you call “home”
Even just physically expanding what I called home in my head helped me a lot. For instance, I started going to the same cafés or parks regular, got to know them, and created my own safe places outside of my apartment. This might also help with feeling more at home.
4. Breathe. Relax. Socialize… even though it’s hard at first.
Listen, I’m not saying everyone can just walk up to strangers and start a conversation. But there’s tons of ways to connect, even for a brief moment, with another human being. Whether it’s befriending your roommates or neighbors over some coffee or just saying “YES” to an invitation you’re not sure about. Or you could sign up for a sports or dance class. Or stroll around the city, get an after work drink with someone, call old friends up and have a cigarette via skype on the balcony. Because the key to not feeling alone in this world is realizing that no one really is. Sometimes you just need a little reminder of that.
Next up, how to make friends and keep them as an adult