The Emotional Labor Union
Our voices are power.

Commentary

The ELU is a safe space and a platform to talk about your experiences. Devoting time to critical thinking and interaction empowers us to sharpen our speaking skills and define the source of our feelings as well as reminds us we have voices that deserve to be heard.

Voices as Power

Table for 1, please

Making friends as an adult
“Hello, my name is Charlie and I’d like to be your friend.”

Nope!

“Hi, I’m Charlie and I just moved here and I don’t know a soul.”

Okay, that’s better.

“Hey, what’s up? Come here often? I just moved here.”

Ahhh!

Hello, I’m Charlie and I just moved across the country - alone - without a dog or a child or an office job #freelancelife and I’m lonely AS F****. Without getting too much into my whole life story, I moved to California in May. Originally from Texas, I had spent the end half of my 20s and start of my 30s in Washington, DC (almost 8 years!). After losing my government job last year, I knew I wanted to leave the city. I wanted to be closer to my family (but not like popover on a Sunday close) and I also wanted to be in a place that was #resisting - Cali sounded like the dream!

It is the dream, I promise. I love it here, the weather, the totally chill vibes and the ocean make it hard to stress out like I did on the East Coast (plus the whole recreational marijuana thing is helpful too!). I knew it would be hard, I’m not naive. I knew moving without having an office job or some other thing that forces human interaction would make it a bit isolating. But DAMN!

The realization for me came after a wonderful spa day. I treated myself to an afternoon in the Ojai Mountains. I had moved across the country and into my own studio apartment in Long Beach but found myself pet sitting in spa country, so why not?!? I deserved it! I had the very best day! It wasn’t my first time at a spa or getting a massage/pampered treatment. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it but something made this experience INCREDIBLE. And about 2 days later I realized, that was the first time since May another human being actually touched my body.

To each their very own and I totally respect healthy boundaries. However, I am a hugger, I am an empath, I love people and energies and I hadn’t even had another person tap me on the shoulder or hug me goodbye in almost 2 months. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I was alone. Then, of course, I went down the rabbit hole - how long would it take for someone to notice I died in my apartment? How long would my mom wait before she called someone? Who would she call? I went down it! Ugly cried myself to sleep for a couple of days about it. The whole works.

Maybe a week or so later, still feeling a bit blue I headed to a local spot for a vodka soda and potential friend making. I was into my second drink when a dude next to me struck up a conversation. He was a native Californian who had just moved to the LBC too. He had spent a large chunk of his time in...prison, most of his life actually. He was so chatty, personable and honest, I was enjoying the conversation. I spoke about how isolating it felt to be alone here. And he FLOORED me when he said he knew exactly what I was talking about because he had spent over a decade in solitary confinement. What?!?! I’m over here bitching about living by myself, 8-minute walk to the beach and he spent years in a cell by himself. Now, mind you this is not my first or second vodka soda so I am paraphrasing a bit but he basically told me he got through it by adapting a monk/hermit lifestyle. Reading, writing and learning as much as he could. He said “I never felt lonely because that is something selfish that humans feel. You can be truly alone and be very happy.” WOW!

Now, I am in no way an advocate for solitary confinement. To say our judicial system and the prison-for-profit model popular in the US is fucked up is an understatement. Some recommended reading on the subject (while I’m at it): Private Prisons Lock Up Thousands Of Americans With Almost No Oversight, Why are for-profit US prisons subjecting detainees to forced labor? And one more: 10 staggering statistics about the US prison system.

We continued discussing life and some of the events beyond his control (and some that completely weren't) that lead to that life. But then, just like that, he said “I’m almost too drunk to ride my skateboard home,” he motioned to the bartender (magical skateboard appeared from behind the bar) and he was gone. Just like that.

This conversation has stayed in mind almost every day since. And yes, I am still looking for friends (hardcore!!) but I’m attempting to live happy, alone. I also look back on some of my relationships in DC and the amount of bullshit and unequal friendships I let navigate my time. Was that just to keep loneliness in check? Possibly.

I am beholden to no one. So until my life is occupied with a partner and/or dog, I have an entire life completely to myself and it’s sort of liberating. Plus, all those long phone calls and emails from my dear friends back east, it’s been great to connect like the old days!

But also, if you are in Long Beach or Long Beach-adjacent, anywhere in LA really and want to grab coffee, I’m totally down!

Charlie Heck

ELU Contributor

Charlie has over 10 years experience in social media, creative copy and multimedia. She runs Checkmark Creative, a marketing boutique for the small biz folks and freelancers. She just moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and is looking for IRL connections. Find her on Twitter & Instagram