By: Prianca Naik
Twenty years ago, we begged my grandmother to live with us in our home in Western New York. She was adamant about returning to her two bedroom flat in Pune, India. There she had a couple of live in maids and neighbors one wall over. Here, in the United States, the houses are spread far apart. There, everyone is crammed into small spaces and almost forced to be friends. She recounted countless drop-by visits by neighbors who would stop in for an impromptu chai and of course, she was always talking to someone arranging for something to get done from the comfort of her easy chair. Loneliness is an inevitable part of our American culture. To fight against this force requires unbounded effort.
I recently had one of the most meaningful conversations with a family friend that I’ve had in quite some time. I told her about my isolation from a family member of mine and how hard it had been for me to deal with. I struggle a lot with trusting people and opening up to them. I had actually weeks prior shared this pain with another friend of mine. She replied that my situation was unique and that this type of familial conflict was unique. I immediately regretted my candidness.
However, my family friend’s situation juxtaposed with this prior dialogue was refreshing. She reported having had a similar estrangement from said family member. She and this person had overcome various hurdles and emerged better off. Things were not perfect, but they were definitely more palatable. Her story gave me hope. There it was. Indeed, I was not alone.
The physical distance between us in the suburbs is vast. The mental distance between us is increasing as we no longer take the time to call each other, yet are constantly on our phones. We fail to make eye contact while walking down the street or hallway. We are isolating ourselves from one another and depression rates are on the rise. The constant stimulation from the phone feeds into our anxiety. Furthermore, ironically, we turn to them for company. In the elevator, to avoid talking to other people, we look down and plan our day’s next move.
We are not alone; we are surrounded by other people on that plane or street. Those are the people who share similar stories, lives, and narratives. We are all struggling with the same plights. We are together and yet so far apart. Perhaps if we look up, make that phone call, or go out of our way to meet a friend for coffee and speak our truth we can begin to bridge that gap.