Wednesday, March 14, 2012

breaking free of isolation

I used to live in a big city, or just outside it. It often took 30 minutes to drive 3 miles (for comparison’s sake, let me point out that I can run that far in less time). I lived with two girls who I rarely saw. And even though the apartment complex I lived in was full of people, I didn’t know a single neighbor’s name.

I’d ride the train system into the heart of the city and not say a word to anyone. No, “Hi. Have a nice day.”  No, “What’s your name?” It wasn’t just me. People road the train with their headphones on or their noses in books. They walked with their heads down or gaze averted. They strode with purpose always rushing off to the next thing. And I soon learned that same behavior. Don’t smile. Don’t make eye contact. Mind your own business.

I was surrounded by thousands of people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds, but I had never felt so alone and I grew tired of that isolated life. I was ready for a change of pace when I moved to the mountain town where I live now. 

This town offered a place where I could walk to work in 10 minutes. A place where I might not only learn the names of my neighbors, but visit with them about life and family over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

The funny thing is, even though I interact with far fewer people on a daily basis and I don’t have roommates splitting my rent, I feel less alone than I did amidst all those people. It’s not an easy thing to break out of isolation. It takes work. It requires intention. But it can be learned.

Just as I once learned to walk with my head down, I now have learned to smile at passersby. To strike up a conversation with a stranger. To seek out people when I’d otherwise be alone.

I came across an Oswald Chambers quote today that says to beware of isolation or you will become an oddity, “Something utterly unlike what God wants you to be.”

Are you living an isolated life? What do you do to combat it? 


  1. I experienced the same thing in Chicago and again when I moved to Portland. Getting grounded in a good church family and later forming a core group of friends I "live life with" as part of a house church I am feeling less alone. I do still long for small town life, though.

    1. Groups like church and clubs do help ease isolation. I've also learned to create opportunities to meet new people, not just surrounding myself with the same handful of people I already know. It isn't easy to decide to go to an event alone, but I've meet some fun new friends by going out on my own.

  2. Living in community. We are called to it. I love your neighborhood, Missy.