Humans are social creatures. From the dawn of time we have been born into families and have lived in communities. Even our ancient ancestors knew that surrounding ourselves with other humans would significantly increase our chances of survival. I can be a pretty solitary person at times, but I’m still a human that sometimes feels the primal urge for community and companionship.
My boyfriend has gone away for a few days on a trip with a friend. Because I have been so busy with work lately, my immediate reaction to this news was positive. Some alone time meant an opportunity to work, relax and continue on my personal projects. Things went as planned in the beginning. I went to work in the office, had quiet evenings, and even managed to make significant progress on my grad school applications (yikes!). Things changed on Saturday though. I went to the office even though it was a weekend (it’s a good place to work on grad school apps). The sky through our large window was gray and the lights throughout the building were turned off. In one word, I would describe things as ‘dreary.’ However, I pushed on and finished everything on my to-do list by 1:30pm. Then, just as I was about to leave the office the rain (that nobody asked for!) started. This morning, I swear to you the chance of precipitation was under 20%, but when I picked up my phone and checked my weather app, the screen updated itself to now say 70% for the next two hours.
Of course, I could have braved the rain. I could have paid for an uber. However, I didn’t do either of those things and instead I sat in my rolling chair, stared out the window and willed the rain to stop (to no apparent avail). I feel restless sometimes, like a cooped-up chicken, however, I decided to take the rain as an ‘opportunity’ to stay put and get some other work done while I was at my desk.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was doing work on a Saturday, or maybe it was just my innate human craving for company, but I started to feel like a really lonely creature in that moment. It was as if my hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls basic processes such as hunger and thirst, was zapped with an electrical charge and made me crave company in the same way that a starving lion can think of nothing but food. So, what did I do? Naturally, I texted my boyfriend. Then, texted him again… and again. There is no room for shame, embarrassment or any other higher-level emotion when our bodies follow our primal instincts. Was I annoying? Probably. Was I being needy? In the moment, perhaps. Was this necessary? The irrational part of my brain (aka the part where my homo rather than sapien impulses are harbored) would say no, you were pursuing survival – boyfriend responded, nice work, chica!
Regardless, strong feelings, such as the loneliness I felt in a dark office in Boston, should not be ignored but managed. We should not act on every strong emotion that we feel, if we did, I’m not sure the human race would be much different than any other. I think our ability to reason as well as to reflect on and re-evaluate our feelings are the things that make us rational beings. Today I (re-)learned that I need balance. Working in a highly social environment for a few days and then spending another few in total seclusion is NOT balance. Like binge eating, the “all-or-nothing” approach just won’t work here. I can be bad with moderation sometimes, but reflecting on these moments can only help me get better at recognizing and managing these emotions. I hope you don’t feel too lonely today, Dear Reader, and if you do, it might be a good time to give this great community called humanity a second chance.