Our theme for the month of June is “snapshots.” Writers were asked to submit a piece with a cover photo that they took or created.
I caught up with an old friend who moved to a new state for graduate school, and she told me that she can’t relate to the other students. They liked staying out late at bars on weeknights, but she needed to get her eight hours to function at work. She can’t tell when they’re being sarcastic, and they can’t tell when she’s joking. She found herself surrounded by other people her age with similar professional interests, but it didn’t help if they had nothing else in common.
I met another friend for lunch at the Chapbook Cafe. It had been over a month since we’d seen each other, and we were in the phase of friendship where we slowly revealed personal information to test the vulnerability waters. I might be a chronic oversharer, but I found myself holding back as I saw the faces of onlooking strangers listening to our conversation.
My friend confided that she struggled with loneliness when she first came to Grand Rapids. She moved during the pandemic, when it was painful to be an extrovert starting over in a new city. I told her that I experienced something similar when I graduated and my friends scattered across the country.
Her expression tightened as she said, “At least you had a couple friends in the city.” I acknowledge it, looking down into my coffee cup, thinking about last year’s empty summer weeks when I told myself that crocheting was the same as going out.
I tried to pivot and ask her if it’s been improving lately. She didn’t give a straight answer.
My roommate skyped with one of her friends. I’ve met this person a handful of times—a game night, a trip to the movies, swing dancing—and we had joked around about trying impressions or dungeons and dragons, but we barely knew each other. We hadn’t seen each other recently since she’d moved to the West coast, but when she saw me in the background of the call, she yelled, “Hey, you should come visit me in California!”
I paused for a moment, unsure of how to respond to such a big offer. “That sounds fun,” I said. My roommate told me that she’d gotten the same invitation a few minutes ago.
Her friend’s voice caught when she said, “Yeah, it would be really nice to see a familiar face.”
As several of my friends talked to me about their loneliness, I started to wonder if to be twenty-two and alive is to be lonely. It’s a bit of a paradox, really, that so many people feel isolated and are unable to find each other. It’s especially strange when you have new friendships, but there’s some barrier to deeper connection, like scheduling or location.
Lately, though, I’ve been finding a strange sort of comfort in knowing that I’m not the only young person not living their indie-movie dream life. The comfort isn’t necessarily in that there are other people experiencing this (which there is admittedly something nice in knowing you’re not the only one), but that there are other people who want to connect.
I’m just past my one year anniversary of starting my new job in Grand Rapids, one year of trying to meet new people. I started swing dancing, joined a dungeons and dragons campaign, and started volunteering at the children’s museum—and every time I’ve gone looking to meet new people, I’ve met other smiling faces looking for a friend. While I—and plenty of other people I know—might not have the relationships that we’re looking for yet, we’re all trying to get there, and we’re all looking for each other. And as long as we’re trying, there’s hope.
Tiffany Kajiwara graduated from Calvin in 2022 with majors in literature and writing. Now, she continues to live in Grand Rapids and works at Baker Academic Publishing as a marketing assistant. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, thrifting, and psychoanalyzing cartoon characters.