Oh, it’s Hugh again, back after almost a year to continue my story. Two years have passed since I started learning about love — what it’s like to receive it and also to give it well. In this upcoming three-part series, I want to share some of my experiences with love along the way: from praying for love, to falling in love, to being surprised by finding real love. In my first guest blog, I established that the root of my identity is in being loved by God; this new series will cover the rocky journey of learning to rest in that love . . .
The year was 2021. My fellow students and I were finally heading back to an in-person semester at college after another wave of COVID had forced us online in the fall of 2020.
Surprisingly, I did not feel lonely during the lockdown when I had no choice but to be separated from all my friends. I had actually rejected a girl earlier that spring, so I certainly did not feel desperate for attention.
It was not until I was back in person at college, surrounded by peers again, that I felt the most miserably alone. We were back together, but we weren’t allowed to gather in groups of more than a few people outside. Masking was required virtually all the time, both indoors and out. Inside, every room had a sign on the wall dictating the maximum number of people allowed inside at any time; a room that could hold 10-12 people was now limited to only four.
My main circle of friends regularly occupied two windowless classrooms that were off the beaten trail, where we broke all the COVID rules: we took off our masks, we had more than the maximum number of people inside, and we most certainly did not stay six feet away from each other. This was the only way of staying sane.
Lots of bonding happened in those rooms, as well as plenty of laughs. Everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company, all of us relating with one another’s humor, experiences, and interests. But more often than not I felt like no one appreciated my presence — or noticed my absence. I couldn’t relate to so many of the jokes and the banter being exchanged.
I clearly remember one night, leaving the classroom after hours of laughter, and having the smile vanish from my face as soon as I shut the door behind me.
How is it that I could be in a room full of people whom I knew cared about me, yet I felt so alone? They all knew me, but they didn’t really know me.
Downhearted, I made my way through the dark, cold night back to my dorm room. Once there, I undressed, grabbed my journal, and got into bed to start writing.
I wrote a flashback to fourth grade when I found myself in a unique social situation. I was the sole 8-year-old in a classroom of mostly 10- to 12-year-olds. Thanks to this setup, I always found the kids my age immature, but the older kids didn’t want me to hang out with them. I often felt so alone, but I remember deciding that I liked the solitude of my predicament.
However, the truth of that memory is a bitter one. I continued writing:
The only person I have regular and completely open conversations with is 50 and hundreds of miles away. The next two people on this list are my age, and they are both hundreds of miles away and often busy. In the past few days, I have become acutely aware of the fact that I seem to be the only one whom I know, on this campus or in the US as a whole, who can relate to me as much as I wish one could. How I wish there could be someone here, of a similar position in life, with whom I could fully relate. Someone with whom I could bare my soul, with whom I could freely express brotherly intimacy — a soul brother, one could say. That is what I crave. Someone with the same values that matter.
Writing all of this in my bed, I had a certain friend as a potential soul brother in mind. I had met him a year and a half earlier, befriending him after developing a crush on him.
He and I had been growing closer that spring, thanks to shared times in our COVID hideouts. He expressed care through touch, with a love for hugs that mirrored mine. He valued time with friends, just like I did, and he was also a Christian.
I had asked God to make that friendship flourish, and that he and others would be able to fill the “soul brother-shaped” void I had been feeling on campus. And God was very quick to respond to that prayer.
To be continued . . .
How did you cope with the loneliness of the pandemic? Have you prayed for something like a “soul brother,” and has God answered your prayer?