To the Lonely Friend . . .
Earlier this week, I heard another person acknowledge the 4-word feeling I’ve been carrying in my gut for 21 years: “It’s lonely being different.”
I’ve never really been one to call myself a loner. I’ve never found myself without friends, nor have I found myself unable to relate with those around me on at least some level. I’ve never fit the mold of a loner.
I have, however, been one to call myself lonely. Surrounded by friends, doing typical teenage (and now early-20s) things, going to the popular places at the popular times…and yet, a deep loneliness abounds. Never feeling like I fit. Feeling like that piece of the puzzle that always lines up on three sides, but never the fourth. Feeling like I’m a bright blue chair in a world that ordered the black ones.
I felt this most deeply in the 2012 school year. For five days a week, I was an official, full-time college freshman. But, on Sunday, I was a senior in my youth group. Both labels were accurate – I had graduated a year early, so life was dictated by my academic year on weekdays and my age on Sundays.
Behind my collegiate peers in age, but ahead of my age group in grade level. No matter where I went, something kept me from being able to fully relate to the people I was with. Though this was the most obvious instance, there has never been a time when I have not been intimately aware of being different.
If I could just learn how to fix myself, life would be easier. If I could figure out why I’m always on a different page, maybe I could turn to the one my friends are on. If I could just . . .
Ever think those kinds of things? Ever silently, ruthlessly criticize yourself for being different?
Oh, how I wish this could be the moment when I bring out 5 Steps to Overcoming Loneliness When You’re Different. How I wish I knew what I would say to help my past self. But I don’t. Sometimes, when you’re different, I think loneliness is just part of the deal.
It’s lonely to pursue a calling where there are few people who will look like you along the way.
It’s lonely to feel truth so deeply and have others think you’re overreacting.
It is lonely to try to communicate the things you see, feel, and desire to the people surrounding you when – forget being on the same page – you’re not even in the same book anymore.
But I have learned the differences that have made me lonely for so long are the exact unique traits God gave me in order to prepare me for a good work. When I look at the times I went in the complete opposite direction of the people I so desperately wanted to fit in with, I also see my biggest times of growth, the biggest moments of God’s faithfulness.
Lonely friend, I won’t lie to you, it is hard to not fit in. Sometimes, it’s all you want. When fitting in would be a breath of fresh air, it’s hard to understand why you should keep gasping. These lonely times are challenging. They are heartbreaking, and some of them will stay with you for a long time.
But the moments I have been the most heartbroken by my differences are the same moments that define why I write. Why I preach. Why I keep choosing to be the bright blue chair.
You, lonely friend, are being crafted. You are being chiseled and painted and made into something incredible. The world is begging for your unique perspective, whether anyone realizes it or not.
And you know what? The people who don’t see the world like anyone else are the people who are going to change it. That includes you.