This past week I returned to California for a brief respite from the end of cold and snow and the very beginning of mud up in Canada. We call this time of year ‘breakup’ up north, speaking to both the process of the earth itself ‘breaking up’ after a long freeze and turning to muck for a month or so, and as well, I believe, to the tension that often occurs in relationships at this time after months and months of darkness and cold. So in essence for about two months you’ve got lots of mud and lots of conflict. It’s a fun time, to say the least.
I’ve been lucky enough to return to San Francisco fairly frequently over the last year, each time leaving with this immense sense of invigoration and vibrancy, filled to my teeth with good food, lovely visits, and an excessive amount of color and plant life. Not that I have any huge issue with where I live up north—it has its own quiet, unassuming beauty in winter that explodes into full-out insane gloriousness in summer—but there is something about California that just stirs up all the little stuck places in me; inspires a need to grow that sometimes can be a little less in the hinterland. Everything is just rather over the top amazing and intense here, a clear explanation for the almost 50 million people who choose to make this area of the world their home.
But I know that I left here for a reason, and while the first couple days of my visits here I am confused as to what that reason was, within a short time I am reminded of why. Despite the beauty, despite the number of amazing people, and despite the general awesomeness of this place, there was always something lacking for me, a small town girl from the wilds of Canada: it’s lonely.
As I wrote about a couple weeks ago, I’m not a particularly ‘lonely’ person at all, and yet there is something about being in a city of this size filled with all these beautiful people and not feeling connected fully that really got to me. That really gets to me, even now on my brief visits. I want to connect with people, and yet it feels like everyone is so overwhelmed and so consumed—by work, by technology, by worry and pressure—that having a wonderful sense of connectivity eludes just about everyone. I have amazing friends here, there is no shortage of conversation and the like, and yet there is this sense that each person is silently searching for a sense of wholeness, and nothing they encounter or consume seems to fill them up completely.
It’s one thing to feel lonely up in the middle of nowhere, but a whole different intensity of feeling when you’re surrounded by millions. As human beings we have historically moved to cities for safety, reduction of stress, and for the connection to be had with other of our kind in such close proximity. And yet looking around at the experience of being in San Francisco these days, what is really achieved by living here seems much the opposite. Fear of others outweighs openness, stress far exceeds anything felt by my family living out in the wilderness, and even with such physical closeness I believe our increasing reliance on technology for some semblance of social interaction limits how close we really can get to others in real life.
In these moments of questioning what is is that humanity is trying to do and/or actually doing, I ultimately come to the conclusion that there is no real solution or right answer to the questions that plague our society, and specifically here to the loneliness that is felt by nearly all, even while we are so seemingly ‘connected’. Do we all need to just slow down and open ourselves up, and is that even possible when we have become so addicted to this pace and style of being? And even if it was, …would we want that?
What do we want here, in these beautiful cities full of like-minded and amazing people? What are we trying to achieve? I know these questions for myself, and have answered them in kind through my actions and choices of lifestyle, but would it be beneficial for us all to question our motives and reassess the basic philosophy with which we are living? It’s just a thought, as always.