Loneliness is among the most universal of human experiences, but sometimes I wonder if those who say they are lonely are really understanding the term. Certainly each individual's point of view is to be respected, but sometimes I wonder if some individuals who claim to be dealing with loneliness really are not just suffering from boredom.
For me, loneliness is that horrible feeling of not being cared for. That's very distinct (and much worse) than simply being in your apartment alone without much to do. The fact of the matter is that, even when I am alone, I am confident in my knowledge that I am loved and cared for by my family, friends, and most importantly, God. It is this confidence that, to me, is the distinction between loneliness and the state of being alone.
Now, that kind of confidence has a rational basis. Love needs to be affirmed. To paraphrase Ursula Le Guin, love does not just sit there like a stone. It has to be made and re-made often, with actual actions to express it. Otherwise, it is simply an empty four-letter word.
Now, I think to be shown that you are loved is an important thing. However, I think different people can go for different amounts of time between such affirmations. Personally, I can go for rather long periods of time by myself without feeling particularly lonely. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the reasons for this are.
Perhaps it has to do with the quality of the interactions, few and far between as they are. For instance, I only get to talk to my brother once a week, sometimes even less than that. He is, after all, a very busy father, husband, and school principal. However, our brief conversations are enough to reassure me that he loves me (and I hope the same works in reverse).
Perhaps a part of the reason that I do well without much social interaction is because I see most types of interaction as fluff. I have little tolerance for small talk, and I can't say I am very drawn to parties. For my interactions, I prefer personal, deep, intelligent conversations with only a handful of people.
Maybe, then, this is why I am able to deal well with being alone. I don't give much of my time to trivial social interactions that don't do anything for me, and instead I work on my studies and my various academic and creative pursuits (one of which is this blog).
This is not to say that I never get lonely, but it's happening less and less. Everyone has different levels of what they need from others. Since, at this stage of my life, I seem to need relatively little, it gives me more opportunities to show other people they are cared for, so they don't experience loneliness themselves.