Last year on Valentine’s Day, I cried during the cross-campus walk to my dorm. I was the co-president of the Black Student Union, and we had just concluded our annual Black Love concert. Our headliner, Luke James, anchored a night of beautiful performances, and we thankfully hosted another successful event.
I joined others in cleaning up the venue once the concert ended – unrolling rugs, moving couches, and throwing away trash while praying that my debris would remain tucked inside. Once the space was cleaned, I said my goodbyes, and escaped.
By the time my limbs carried me to the center of campus, my eyes were leaking with tears. A few minutes later, I heard the approaching ramble of bike wheels, and a voice screaming “Jess!” Perfect timing, right? Absolutely not. My friend stopped beside me, and quickly realized that I was not okay. The last thing I wanted was someone to know how I was honestly feeling, but at that moment, it was companionship that I needed most.
I told her that I was still struggling to love myself. I felt ashamed that on Valentine’s Day, albeit a hyper-commercialized occasion to celebrate love, I could barely recollect any reasons to embrace myself. I admitted that I care so much about being kind to others because I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way that I’ve felt when depleted of self-love. She listened and encouraged me. She reminded me that I am worthy of love and that it is a sustaining gift is to take ownership of that. She reinforced the power of friendship.
When Loneliness Feels Routine
Since moving back to Detroit, most of my time has been spent at work or with family. While I am blessed to have both of these things, I have also felt overwhelmingly lonely.
My friends from college and my friends from home, most of whom no longer live in the city, are all, like me, navigating the highs and lows of adulthood. Often, life gets in the way of frequent communication, so I try to savor every opportunity that arises for a Skype chat, phone call, or face-to-face reunion. Still, nothing quite parallels a friend’s physical presence.
As an introvert, too, I am not a traditional social butterfly. I will never be the most outgoing person in the room, but I have always had a huge heart for people. I struggle with surface-level small talk, but I thrive off of deep conversations and community.
Since returning in June, I have visited almost ten churches in hopes of finding a Christ-centered home, but I still don’t know where God wants me. I continue to dream of encouraging others with my testimony and poetry, and I am hungry to connect with genuine people. Yet, I am afraid to put myself out there, and take risks like going to an open mic night by myself (read: social anxiety). But, I am even more fearful of losing grasp of the confidence that I gained in college by taking empowering chances.
This season of isolation has been challenging, but it is pushing me to seek God’s presence in every situation. To have faith that unwavering love can radiate in even the thick of loneliness. To remind myself that faith without active courage is fuel unused.