Updated: Feb 27
Loneliness is not only experienced by old people.
Chances are you're lonely, too.
Let's do some maths.
I honestly do not remember much algebra from my high school maths classes. I am much more comfortable with words than I am with numbers. What I do remember is all my maths teachers telling me that it’s one thing to plug in numbers on a calculator and write down the answer. The magic in mathematics happens when we share our workings out on the page so others can see it. So while you think about your x, let me share with you my working out.
For me, x = lonely, but there wasn't any tapping of numbers into a cosmic calculator and writing down the answer. It was a slow-burn and, from what I understand, a very common realisation for people as we reach middle age. But I didn't feel lonely. Lonely was for old people. But I knew that there was a problem to solve. My life was an unbalanced equation and it needed attention.
I got brave and I got curious. I got support from an awesome community. I got stuck into the problem and soon, my page was filled with my scratchings and other workings out. I realised that I'd been trying and trying to solve x through working more; doing more of what other people expected of me; communicating more; communicating less; filling my days with the important business of the day. Busy, busy, busy and I was eager to take on more and more responsibilities lest I be seen as unable to do it all. I had to be smarter, faster, better than everyone else to get ahead.
Sure, I was by any contemporary measure successful and my career was going places. But for what? And for whom?
I was approaching middle age and realised that I was disconnected from myself and that which is important to me, and disconnected from the world and those around me.
I was surrounded by people but felt incredibly lonely and isolated. I was telling myself stories about how I was not worthy. I numbed my feelings of inadequacy through more work. I was looking for validation in everyone else but myself.
You can read my loneliness story here.
We all seek to numb the feelings that we don’t like, but it is never successful for long. We keep having to apply more and more of our chosen numbing agent to keep ahead of the thoughts and feelings we are frightened to confront if we stop doing what we are doing. So while we diplomats have chosen a dynamic career that has us spinning around the world representing our countries, we are still human. We want comfort. We want stability. We want safe. We want all of the good stuff in life, but none of the bad.
Well, we both know it doesn’t work that way.
So, what’s x for you? Does x equal ‘stressed’? ‘Overweight’? 'Checked out'? ‘Borderline alcoholic’? 'Controlling'? What about ‘anxious’? ‘Depressed’? ‘Frustrated with it all’?
Could you be a lonely diplomat, too?
As a mid-career diplomat, what feelings are you suppressing or choosing to express? Are you curious about what numbing agents you use?
What's your go-to numbing agent to deal with the discomfort? Alcohol? Work? Drugs? Exercise? Gaming? Gambling? Sex? Social media?
Thanks for reading!
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Important notice: All views expressed above do not reflect any official position. The words published above are intended to support, challenge and inspire diplomats and those living the diplomatic life as they reconnect with themselves and the world around them. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional.