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Adulthood and loneliness

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JUNE 26, 2023

I grew up in the Bay Area, visiting San Francisco via the ferry and buses with my friends to explore all the nooks and crannies of the city. My fondest memories are of seeing new parts of the eclectic city for the first time, just my friends and me against this huge city with almost a magical sense of possibility and freedom. We would go weekend after weekend — Haight Street for thrifting, Union Square to pretend to be able to afford stuff from the luxury stores, Twin Peaks for the best views and Chinatown for the best food. 

My favorite, though, was to lay on Dolores Park and fantasize about what the next years ahead of us had to hold. We would giggle and swoon over being out as late as we wanted, meeting new boys, and just having no one to tell us what to do. It was endless and exciting. 

I recently returned to Dolores Park. The incredible view was the same, but I was years older and there was a sense of emptiness and worry for the future that I previously imagined to be so fulfilled. I looked out onto the skyline and instead of possibility and adventure, I felt lonely. The buildings were so big and vast and I felt so small. At the park I saw a group of people a bit older than me having a little party of sorts with wine and pizza. I wondered how they all knew each other in this huge town. I wondered how they managed to find each other amid millions of other people and are now sharing this special moment together on a Thursday afternoon. I hope to find something like this, but I worry that I won’t. 

As I grow older it has been difficult not only to keep in touch with those I shared these early optimistic years with, but also to make new friends. Life gets so busy and there is so much to do that the world feels like it’s moving so quickly without me. I miss the feeling that time was on my side because now I feel like we are in conflict with each other and I’m losing. 

My inner circle has grown smaller and smaller as the responsibilities and expectations have piled on, and it frightens me. I think the culture here at UC Berkeley of intense study along with my severe imposter syndrome has implemented this sense of competition and inadequacy into my social life. We are so driven and eager to enter the real world that this career-based identity becomes much of what we make of one another, and I think this contributes to my difficulty with making stronger friendships. My own insecurity of where I am in my career, paired with my lack of knowing what I want to do and acquiring the proper internships or jobs towards these goals, has hindered me from truly connecting with people. 

I want to be more confident in what I am capable of and able to offer beyond my credentials or tangible goals. I get so caught up trying to make something of myself and being envious and intimidated by those around me that I’ve become isolated and stuck. I’m used to making friends just by sheer proximity: going to high school together, being neighbors in the same complex or just knowing a mutual friend. Making these connections now requires having so much more in common, and I’m afraid that maybe I’m just not interesting enough. 

I’ve regressed into this elementary feeling of, “What if they don’t like me?” that I never thought I’d feel again. When I looked out on Dolores Park toward the city with so many buildings filled with so many people, this bleakness creeped in: I’m afraid of adulthood because I don’t want to be lonely. I’ve barely grown the courage to make and maintain a few friends in my time at UC Berkeley — how am I supposed to manage a huge and entirely new city? 

This dread is discouraging and it makes me disappointed in myself, allowing this sense of sorrow to diminish the image for the future I once had for myself. I feel like it’s a lack of effort on my part, but maybe this is just something that naturally happens as we grow older. I’d like to think this experience is more universal and less depressing and isolating than it feels. 

I’m trying to tackle this perpetual fear of being on my own, especially going into my senior year, because I don’t want to graduate thinking my future is this horribly lonesome thing that awaits me. It’s almost juvenile in the way I’ve allowed myself to be consumed by my own fears of not having any friends. It feels so silly because I always hit this kind of block in my life whenever I experience a new change, this pessimism that nothing could possibly go my way and I’ll just be alone. 

I’m trying to remember that friendships are something that simultaneously require a bit of work but also form naturally. There are people in my life that have seemed to appear out of nowhere, finding their way to me in an almost magical way. I still have hope that the world just surprises us sometimes in these ways. 

However fulfilling (or not) my future may become, I’ve been trying to remember that I still have myself, and this singular existence is still something special that I have as my own. I want to show more gratitude for the ways I take care of myself, like reading, cooking or showing my love for the people I do have. Looking forward, I just want to appreciate the experience of the life I have now, attempting to preserve the glimmer of hope and magic that I felt so intensely in my youth for a future that is still as bright and exciting as it was before. 

Contact Mary Huynh at 


JUNE 26, 2023