Creative

Pick Your Own Adventure: A Guide to Being Alone at 2AM

23 October 2020

  1. You’ve found yourself here again. 2am, seated at a cluttered table, lost in your thoughts. A few years shy of 25, you think you’ve lived enough years to feel wiser than you do.  Instead, you’re sitting here with more questions than answers, unable to shake off an overwhelming sense of unease and dread about the future. Things seem pretty bleak right now, especially when you’ve been stuck at home for so long, but these feelings aren’t strangers to you.
    Stop it, you tell yourself. You have your health, your safety and your sanity. You just need to take your mind off things.
    To grab your phone, go to 2.
    To grab your laptop, go to 3.
    To grab a glass of water, go to 4.
  2. You pick up your phone. No new notifications. You do the usual rounds over your socials: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. Celebrations, anniversaries, promotions all come and go at the swipe of a finger. You know, logically, that what you’re looking at is the highlight reel of all these lives, all of the good moments melded together sweet and saccharine like a drop of honey. But you can’t help feeling a prick of dissatisfaction. And under that, a throb of loneliness. You wouldn’t have expected to be invited to any of these parties, but part of you still wishes you were.
    Go to bed, go to 5.
  3. You open your laptop. On your desktop sits a note—APPLY FOR GRAD JOBS—but you know you haven’t made any progress. How are you supposed to graduate and find a job when you don’t know what you want to do? You feel like there are so many different jobs you’d tolerate, but none you’d fight for.
    To open a job listing site, go to 6.
    To get a glass of water, go to 4.
  4. You go to the kitchen, thinking maybe you’re just feeling a bit restless and antsy. Perhaps some water will straighten you out. Maybe all of this uncertainty is just a symptom of young adulthood. After all, just a few years ago you were still a high school student, with every day predetermined down to the minute. You gulp down the water, but it doesn’t help.
    To stay in the kitchen, go to 7.
    To get your phone, go to 2.
  5. You decide to lay down for a bit. Making your way to your bed, you keep thinking about why you feel so alone right now. Is it possible to feel totally alone even when you know you are loved? Things feel better when you have someone to hold, but when you don’t, your days pass falling for strangers, yearning for someone you’re not even sure exists. You hate the fact that you care so much. The soft, animal part of you that wants to find someone who’ll understand everything, gather your mental flotsam and small neuroses and lay them out like stars or freckles across a cheek and point at each single one and say “I’ll keep this one too”. You wonder if anyone else feels the same. Maybe everyone does.
    You don’t feel like sleeping yet, so:
    To look at the pictures on your wall, go to 9.
    To go back out to the hallway, go to 10.
  6. You decide you’d better start by doing something. You scroll through some job listings for a while, but nothing seems particularly appealing. Is it possible to just not have a passion? Maybe you’re just built to cart yourself off in any trajectory, and stay somewhat apathetic about it all the same. It feels a bit ironic that you grew up part of a generation raised to believe they could do anything they put their mind to. You just can’t seem to settle on any dreams to chase. The world is at your fingertips, but it doesn’t seem to have a place for you.
    You close your laptop.
    To look at your phone, go to 2.
    To go to the couch, go to 8.
  7. You stand in the kitchen for a while, staring at the countertop.
    When you were still at school, you worked hard because you wanted something better. But you knew how to do better. Success was much easier within the defined microcosm of tests, exams and sports houses. Now it’s less clear cut.
    Go to the hallway, go to 10.
  8. You sprawl across the couch and shut your eyes.
    A while back, you realised the next 10 years are going to hold the most change you’ll ever encounter in your life. Your last 10 years were swathed in the balmy embrace of hazy afterschool evenings and long calls with friends; a time before you were sorely aware of how much your father’s hair has greyed and the new crow’s feet at your mother’s eyes.
    The thought leaves you restless and you spring back up. No point in dwelling on the past, not when you know there’s more to look forward to in the future.
    Go back into the hallway, go to 11.
  9. Scattered across your bedroom wall are pictures of you, your friends and your family and yourself in various ages and places. You look through the faces of your loved ones, pets. Sure, maybe you get lonely sometimes.
    But love isn’t just found in one other person. Maybe love is meant to be the crinkle in your friend’s eyes as they sling their arm around your shoulder, or the dog wagging its tail at you from behind the fence. Love is in 2am calls and home cooked meals and as long as there’s an ounce of love to be squeezed out there, you know you’ll always be reaching out to find it.
    To get a glass of water, go to 4.
    To go back out to the couch, go to 8.
  10. Walking through the hallway, you can’t help but wish things were as simple as they were back in school. Now, the future stretches out beyond your sight, and the markers of success which used to be so neatly defined are now just hazy blips in the horizon. Good grades? Good job? Good partner? Good health? There’s no formula now—everyone you know seems to be fumbling through it just like you are.
    To go to the couch, go to 8.
    To get your laptop, go to 3.
  11. Walking through the hallway, your resolution falters for a moment. What will the next 10 years will look like? It’s hard to look past the long workdays, an empty flat, parents growing older day by day and friends who will piece together their own families and disentangle their lives from yours an inch at a time. Sometimes it feels a little bleak. But surely that’s not all there is to it. Shaking off the beads of sleepiness from your head, you decide you need a breath of fresh air.
    Go outside, go to 12.
  12. You step out into the night. The air is crisp and the sky is clear. The stars are out tonight, however faint. You have no idea if life will even return to normal the way things are, let alone when. But in spite of it all, there’s also so much to look forward to. This too shall pass. Happiness will crop up in the smallest of moments. Maybe it’ll look like a balmy day at the beach, toes in sand. Or an empty freeway at 2am, windows rolled down and cold wind nipping at your cheeks. A small flat with freshly cut flowers, friends cooking dinner, bumping hips, late nights playing Catan. Maybe it’ll look like this, maybe it won’t. Happiness always crops up when you least expect it. You know that it won’t come easy—that was never part of the deal. But you just have to keep on going, because it’ll always be waiting for you on the other side.

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