Mother Teresa said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." I am not sure what Mother Teresa saw or experienced after she said this, but she knew. She knew what true loneliness felt like.
I have been thinking a lot about loneliness. I never considered myself to be a lonely person. Then again, I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is a quaint town that embraces small talk at the grocery store, smiling at strangers, and inviting your neighbors who you barely know over to the house. Then I moved to Los Angeles. I'm not saying Los Angeles is a terrible place. It's not. It's just massive, and a huge city does not breed friendly small talk. How could it? With the high cost of living, every minute counts out here. Chatter seems like a waste of time, and being around swarms of people gets to be exhausting.
Yet, people were made to be in community! We were meant to have conversations with others and experience life together. Unfortunately, city dwellers tend to forget the importance of this. I know I sure did. With crazy high rent, ridiculous insurance rates, and expenses that go into an artistic career, I drifted from small talk at groceries, smiling at strangers, and eventually community. I have my husband, sure. He's great, but nobody was meant to spend every waking moment with one person. It's healthy to be around different personalities.
I used to dream about bumping into a friend in the checkout line at Trader Joes. I imagined what joy it would bring me to see a familiar face after work. After reflecting on this idea: That I would gain great joy from seeing someone I knew rummaging through the produce section, I realized my life called for some major changes. Before I set out to figure out how to combat loneliness in this big city, I had to first accept the following things:
1) Los Angeles is not a small town nor will it ever be.
2) Los Angeles will never mean as much to me as my hometown.
3) The phrase, "there's no place like home" is true. I accept this and move forward.
My biggest challenge, however; was to stop blaming Los Angeles for breeding my loneliness. It's a massive city. What did I expect? After accepting these things, I set out to combat being lonely, and this is what I learned:
Three Things To Combat Loneliness In A Big City:
1) Join a weekly group and stick to it! This can be a women's group or something that caters to your interests like a writers group. Sign up for something that forces you to see the same people each week. In a big city you will quickly realize it's not about the quantity of people you know. It's about the quality, and to have quality friends you have to invest in the time to get to know them.
One of the best writer's groups I joined: https://www.vickiabelson.com
2) Sign up for a class. This is a great way to develop community and find quality people. I've taken improv, acting, stand up, and writing classes since being in LA. These are huge interests of mine. When I signed up for these classes, I found likeminded people that lead to true friendships.
One of my favorite classes that lead to quality friendships: https://franklin.ucbtheatre.com
3) Get involved at a church. Above everything else I sought out in Los Angeles to find community, nothing warmed my soul as much as getting involved in a church. When I first moved to LA, I served on a coffee team at a church for two years. I met, interacted, and shared meals with mothers, wives, and grandmothers. I gained wisdom and valuable big city lessons from people who were born and raised here. There's nothing that combats a lonely heart more than the prayers and comforting words of older people.
One of my favorite churches: https://www.legacycitychurch.com