Reflections on Otherness & Loneliness

Anna R.
June 4, 2024

I think everyone feels lonely or different at some point, but maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Some sort of self-coping. Most of my life I’ve felt like some type of "other"; sometimes it’s louder than others, but it’s always been there. No matter how much I try to dissociate from it or think I’m healed or whatever delusions I tell myself to make myself feel better about being different. And in all honesty, the more I get comfortable with myself and get more in touch with my actual feelings, the more I feel like an other. And that otherness usually brings loneliness—loneliness I’m learning to make peace with. But lately, the otherness has felt so prevalent, so loud, so obvious.

I’m an only child, so you already know I have a complex and “I’m special” syndrome. My parents divorced before I was even a year old, so I have no memory of them ever being in the same room. Honestly, I don’t have many memories of childhood; I was too busy daydreaming. Daydreaming (rebranded dissociation) about being in Naboo (Star Wars nerd) or the Bridge (Star Trek nerd), or at the Olympics watching Michelle Kwan. I was always somewhere else, in my own world and head, doing weird kid stuff. I was definitely the weird other kid at school. I was obsessed with wearing suit sets, most notably a purple velvet skirt set, that I would wear both in the dead of winter and the middle of summer. Unhinged behavior. My idols were Lucille Ball and Molly Shannon's character, Mary Katherine Gallagher, from Superstar. I loved their physical comedy and unapologetic commitment to living joyfully as themselves. Quoting them and mimicking them in a suit set definitely didn’t help me escape the "weird kid" accusations at school or in my family.

Throughout my childhood, I knew I was lonely, but I dreamt it away; it hurt way less. From a young age, I remember not being happy. My parents spent more time fighting than providing actual emotional support. I spent a lot of my time with older family members and was far closer to them than my own parents. My mom spent a lot of time with her new husband (he was actually pretty cool and eventually became the adult I was closest with), and my dad wasn’t permitted to see me often. I don’t remember a ton of my childhood with my dad, but I do remember him being a weirdo in the same way I was. He daydreamed a lot, telling what I now realize are fictionalized versions of his childhood, versions he created to survive because the reality of his own childhood was too painful to accept.

My father was adopted from Greece at a young age, grew up in a small town with no one that looked like him, speaking a language that no one besides his adoptive parents knew. He was isolated, and I suspect in that isolation he daydreamed, because sometimes that’s all you have. As an adult, I have been able to explore my father's childhood with the help of my mother-in-law, an expert genealogist. The reality is that my father's childhood and life were far more traumatic than I ever could have imagined.

I spent a lot of my childhood with my mom’s side of the family. Most of my mom's side had blonde hair that was stick straight. But those aren’t the genes I got; I got the Greek genes. I had thick dark hair, was chubby, and perhaps most notably the unmerited delusions and confidence only Greeks have. I often got labeled as combative by my family; I had a snark, and a quick wit, that they didn’t appreciate, and quite frankly still don’t. Their favorite thing to tell me as a teenager and young adult is that I should be a lawyer… if only I was smart enough. Which is perhaps the most polite way to tell a child she's a dumb bitch. But I never saw myself in my mom’s side of the family. I couldn’t be that selfish, that mean, that uncouth, that blonde, that uncultured. Didn’t they know I was cultured? I ate moussaka and watched MTV.

As I grew up and became a teenager, my mother’s addiction started to consume her more, and I became the parent, a role that left me feeling even more isolated and othered. I spent a lot of those years like most of my childhood, dissociating, but this time I had the internet and money for magazines. Every Friday night after my mom passed out, I would walk a few blocks to Walgreens and get an Arizona iced tea, a cookies-and-cream candy bar (the real cry for help), and some tabloids. I would then proceed to spend the weekend getting lost in them, pretending I was friends with the Olsen twins or going to the Mean Girls premiere. I felt more at home in those magazines than I did in my own home. Through the internet, I was able to learn even more about celebrities, go down forum rabbit holes, jump into chat rooms with grown men. I felt a lot less alone when I was in their world and eventually started spending more time there than in my own reality. It felt less lonely; I wasn’t different there. I was just one of the girls, me and Lindsay making our way through Les Deux. I suspect I related so much in Lindsay because of the deeply erratic behavior on Dina and Micheal Lohan. We were just two lesbian courious girls trying to cope.

I was always deeply embarrassed about my mother. I didn’t tell a lot of people about my mother’s drinking, but more people knew than I perhaps realized at that age. Sometime in my mid-20s, I met up with someone I had gone to middle school with. We chatted over drinks and reminisced about how messy we had collectively been. Somewhere in the conversation, they recounted an experience of coming over to my house and seeing my mother drunk, a memory I had completely blocked out and, in all honesty, still don’t particularly care to revisit.

The truth is, for a lot of that part of my teenage life, I felt like a fucking loser, a fucking weirdo, in part because of my affinity for Slipknot, but also because I had this weird home situation. I was embarrassed; I didn’t want my mother’s behaviors to reflect who I was. Yet, in all this, I still deeply wanted my mother. I just wanted her to be a normal fucking person, to love me, to show interest in me, to see me, to advocate for me. It felt like I was screaming at the top of my fucking lungs for someone to love me, for something from someone, but someone never came, and so back to Les Deux I went.

A lot of my mother’s addiction made it hard for me to connect with people. And while that was a big part of what made connection difficult, it wasn’t the entirety of it. I was always a little different, a little weird, a little too sensitive, a little too excited, a little too emotional. I yearned for some type of closeness, and so started my struggles with friendship dynamics. I put a lot of my eggs in the friendship basket, still do, just because it felt safer than putting eggs in any family baskets.

I eventually started to realize I was some type of not straight. And admittedly sometimes I felt othered by it, sometimes I didn’t. By middle school, I was out, and in high school, I had a number of queer friends that I went to school with and others I knew from youth groups. I remember feeling really different from the other queer kids at my high school. They already had their own friend group, and I was just the socially awkward loser with a trove of friends from internet chat rooms. I was a really intense person, mostly out of a deep desire to be liked. I felt so lonely, but I never wanted to project that; I wanted to be cool. But as you might imagine, I wasn’t a particularly good actor, so instead I was just weird and loud and excited and sometimes blunt, which more often than not got read as bitchiness—a problem that still plagues me today, except sometimes I am intentionally being a bitch.

As I got older, the loneliness waxed and waned. I moved further away from being close to my feelings, muffling them with distractions until I eventually became so divorced from them. It became like I totally didn’t realize how I felt. I convinced myself that I must be healed. Yeah, I was sad, but I was healed. I was evolved. I went to therapy, I wrote, I read theory, I had friends, I was cool. I was doing everything the internet told me to heal, so therefore I must be okay. But then 28 hit. Some say a Saturn return; I say perhaps, or perhaps just a breaking point.

That year kicked off a longer season of change, one that I’m starting to see the end of—well, at least I think, but who really knows. During that year, I ended up having a significant health scare, one that would cause me to completely overhaul my health and unintentionally my relationships. I had to start prioritizing taking care of my body, something I neglected. I also started to get serious about other parts of my life, mostly my career. I started to give myself permission to dream for more. To want something bigger. But to also get to know myself, and like actually get to know myself. Not some #selflove shit. 

It’s funny—the more I get to know myself, the more I realize I had it all right when I was younger, and somewhere along the way, I lost it. Lost it in the ideas of what queerness was, or how I should look, or in between the muffled screams of me begging people to like me. It’s like I was begging them to see me, but I couldn’t even see myself.

In seeing my authentic self, I started to see my authentic needs and wants. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s affected a lot of my relationships. In some ways, it’s made me feel a lot more misunderstood and just a bit lonely. I still feel like I’m begging to be seen and understood in some of my relationships, and lately, it’s felt a lot more like screaming. I’m still that little kid just wanting to be loved, wanting someone to tear up Les Deux with. I feel like there are some relationships where my ambition has been seen as a detriment, other relationships where my excitability has been seen as desperation or other relationships where my sensory issues are seen as me being uptight or dramatic. I have unfortunately had too many moments in relationships where things that might not distress other people, deeply distress me, and instead of being understood, I’m met with comments about my diva behavior. It’s in those moments where the otherness feels really loud again.

I spend a lot of time wishing away some of my otherness. Too often, it makes me feel like the problem. Like maybe if I were more casual, I’d be easier to understand. Like maybe if I didn’t need structure, I’d be more fun, and people would like me more. Maybe if I didn’t have all this stuff, then people would want to be my friend. My very own “I thought you liked me” Pearl monologue.

All this to say, I get jealous—jealous of people I perceive as being able to navigate the world easily, whether it’s because they don’t have weird sensory issues, the energy of an Energizer bunny, their ability to go off schedule, or just their ability to be “chill.” It comes in waves, and sometimes it gets really loud, especially when I feel misunderstood by those closest to me. I treasure the people that truly see me, they feel rare.

And listen, I know I’m far from perfect. I know I need to get better about certain things. I’m clearly still a work in progress, but a very committed work in progress. I just am tired of being other.

I wish I could wrap this up with a pretty bow, but I can’t. It wouldn’t be true to me. The truth is, a lot of the time I still feel other, even in some of my longest relationships, even through growth, even through success, even through visibility. Sometimes it feels like the more visibility I have, the less people actually see me and the more different I feel. I suppose that’s because people are too busy projecting their own ideas of who I am onto me. Projections that stem from their own shit. I’m in a transitional period of my life, and so I suppose this is more like a diary entry, one I’ll probably be embarrassed about in the months to come. But I suppose I’m writing to just say, no one has their shit figured out, everyone is probably secretly faking it, everyone is probably working through shit, everyone at some point feels othered, and the only thing we probably have in common is some form of loneliness, whether we realize it or not. But who knows, maybe it’s me projecting. Probably. All I know is that I send my love to all the othered, lonely, weird losers.


Sub to my email newsletter.