I was indulging in perhaps too much introspection the other day as I told my husband that sometimes I feel like very few people in my life are at the same stage in their lives as I am. He countered with the view that every person is a unique place at a particular time, so really everyone probably feels like this.
I know in a lot of ways he is right, but at certain moments, I feel like an outsider. For example, while a lot of my friends have recently gotten engaged, only a couple of them are married. That isn’t a huge deal, but our social lives are certainly somewhat different as a result. The married people I do know all seem to be having babies left and right, and for the most part, they have (thankfully) had very healthy and uncomplicated pregnancies. Everyone knows about infertility, but few people I know have any personal perspective on it.
While a lot of my friends are in corporate environments where they have lots of co-workers or are in graduate programs with a heavy emphasis on social events and bonding, I am a writer and often work alone from my home office. I love the interaction with my college writing students and thrive in being in the classroom, but though I like many things about the adjunct life, it makes it very difficult to get to know other colleagues. Sometimes our office hours overlap and we catch up or grab a cup of coffee, and those conversations are always refreshing and energizing for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts about the choices I’ve made and I love what I do, but some days it feels like my social circle gets smaller while everyone else’s gets wider.
None of these points are monumental on their own—it’s only when I combine them with having chronic illnesses that they can sometimes seem isolating. I don’t know many 26-year-olds like me. I have conditions few people have heard of, have had more random and ridiculous medical mishaps (enlarged organs, rare infections, unexpected complications, etc) than I can even remember accurately, and I have simply never known what it feels like to be healthy. My parents are obviously both sick, so in that sense I have people in my daily life who understand what it is like. But on days when it is a struggle to get out the door and make it through the day and I pretend to my students and colleagues that I am well, I feel alone…and the days where I am forced to stay in the house because of an infection or a flare, I feel that more acutely.
Certainly I feel the physical isolation of illness during those times, but more profound is the emotional isolation of it. I'm in my own little world when I want to be part of the one that keeps on churning outside my window.
Then I happened upon a wonderful post discussing similar thoughts, and it made me realize that it’s okay to recognize these feelings now and again. I don’t want to dwell on them too much, but they are real to me and real to other people as well, and while there isn’t one magical panacea that can “fix” them, just putting them into words is a start.
And I began to appreciate the power of shared experiences and the accessibility the Internet offers the millions of people like me out there—I may not know too many people like me in person, but while everyone’s medical constellations are different, there are certainly people who experience the same types of frustrations and occasional isolation as I do. It’s not often that I write about writing (or blogging, as it were), but this meta-conversation lifted me out of my indulgent cloud and made me realize there are many people like me--and if I click onto the right site, I may just find some commiseration.