I think is only slightly ironic that the word lonely appears in the title of this blog, but it took me nearly a year and a half to finally say something about this overhanging problem.
The original intent of the lonely in the title of this blog was that in January 2013 I had gone through a tumultuous 2013 where I left the comfort of high school and my adopted hometown, Paarl, where I was respected and loved. I entered the New World for the very first time with no one there from the life I had lived prior to that point. It was only then, mid the newness, that I realized how socially isolated I was.
I have never publicly admitted this before, but part of the reason for my insatiable drive to be the best in the world in athletics was that I knew people would interact with me and that I would "gain love and respect" this way. To be frank, that still is part of the reason for my drive to be the best in my sport. Numerous factors (which will be too much for one blog to dive into) created a perfect storm where the appeal of fame and the respect and love associated with living a publicly significant life became a very appealing position for me to be in. For some reason, this idea rests in my being that unless I am significant in many peoples eyes then I am a failure. I know being externally motivated is not per se the best way to approach success, life and sport, but it would be wrong to not admit that I am motivated why the social aspects of sporting glory. Maybe that's why the prevailing feeling in my heart, the feeling of shame, ruled in my heart after my less-than-perfect debut at Nationals a month ago.
Going back to the point on loneliness in a new part in my life in America, when you go somewhere where no one knows you, your hard-sought for reputation might just as well never have existed. I actually needed to reach out to other peoples lives for the first time. Too bad I didn't do that in the beginning of my American odyssey. I didn't admit it, but I was very alone and obviously not admitting to a problem makes it nigh impossible to ever solve it. However, after the efforts of my parents, I committed to change this loneliness since June 2013. I have come so so far, but am still far away from being liberated from social isolation.
I now have friends and teammates at South Alabama that have become so important to me. I actually recall a moment from the Spring semester where one friend asked me at the lunch table at the caf where I would want to be right now if I could be anywhere in the world. It might have seemed cheesy or insincere but I said that I wanted to be nowhere else in the world. Just prior to the question being asked of me I remember thinking, "Wow, I am so content right now. My lunch table was surrounded by people I care for and respect and I am sure the think the same of me." I thought the same during my birthday party last semester where 21 friends and teammates celebrated my 21st at Buffalo Wild Wings. It's interesting, ever singe semester at South Alabama has been better than the one that preceded it. Every semester I ask God how He can keep these blessings on coming - when will this end? I couldn't go on forever? I just feel so blessed.
The thing is, this summer semester has been quite lonely. Almost all my people are out of town during these hot, stormy months. I often find myself resorting to solitary video games or YouTube videos to fill the hole left in my time that used to be spent around the cafeteria table sharing in memories with the people of South. I guess my social ability has regressed somewhat in the past two months because I spend most of my time hoping for and dreaming of August when everybody will be back.
To finish off proceedings I must say that it is only in these moments of separation from my people that I realise that I am not lonely anymore. That's a seemingly contradictory statement, as I am now literally alone, but I describe myself as not so. For the first time in my life (well, maybe not the first time, but we humans have a bias towards the present) I desire to with people. I always denied this within me; the seeds of being a citizen of an overly individualistic culture left me with fully blossomed disconnect from other humans. We humans are made for interaction, for other people, to cherish and to share with others, but modern day extreme individualism has told us that you don't need others. Man is the measure of all things, not men, apparently. Though this summer has helped me to start the breaking free process from the destructive asocial ideal of Western culture. I DO miss my family back home, I DO miss my friends, teammates and the familiarity of seeing known faces as I bike across campus. My atonement from Social Anxiety Disorder has reached a new mile marker - I now truly know that I am made for others and that without others there is not much to my existence except survival. Where we not made to thrive instead of survive?