Place — take two

OK, so I think the last post might have been a bit vague. Let me try again.

I’m interested in how people use place as a response to loneliness (or how you see place as a contributor to feelings of isolation). How, in other words, does place help or hinder feelings of loneliness? Are you attached to a specific place? Does your neighbourhood feel cold and unfriendly? Is your home your refuge, or do you find that living alone (and being alone in the home) makes loneliness much worse?

Basically, I’m opening things up. Hopefully this approach is more workable. I’m learning that posting Qs online is very different from a long, person-t0-person interview. So please be patient — I’ve got to get the hang of this new approach!

Again, think place. Where do you find a sense of belonging? Have you lost a comforting place? Found one?

I could keep going with these questions, but will leave it at that for now. Post to the blog or write to me at

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 11:25 am and is filed under the category General.

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9 Responses to “Place — take two”

  1. Li'l girl blue said:

    Since leaving home 16 years ago, I have lived in fourteen rooms decorated entirely in blue. The intervals I have spent homeless or travelling have alerted me every time to the importance of having a door. Shutting a door on the rest of the world, I feel as safe as my pathetically impoverished range of secure feelings allows me to feel. Sleep, similarly, provides another door behind which to retreat, and a further delicious disconnection from the outside world.

    I sleep a lot.

    It seems there are places in the world in which loneliness is distilled and inescapable. My parents’ farm (in the distant and nondescript part of Australia where I grew up) is unfortunately one of the places I feel most alone, despite my desperate need to feel comforted and comfortable there on the rare occasions I return. It is as if in that house, the loneliness in my life is distilled, concentrated and completely unavoidable, reminding me that despite my constant and ongoing struggle to evolve, my roots seem to be in solitude and isolation.

    Having said that, faced with my parents’ current plans to sell the farm and move somewhere more managable, I am struck with a kind of numb keening hopeless feeling that I’ll then be completely cut off from that place, and will never have a reason to go back there.

    And I worry that as a result, I will feel even more disconnected, and even more alone. I move from blue room to blue room, but never with any real sense of expectation that the next will be “home”.

    Whatever that is.

  2. A New Yawker said:

    Li’l Girl Blue: Just a note to you as I was struck that you expressed the same feelings as myself yet I have lived the last 39 years in the same apartment in Manhattan. And it makes me realize how phenomenal Emily White has been in creating and delineating the term “chronic lonliness”.

  3. Emily, I think you’re on to something with your research focus on the importance of “home” and “place.”

    The place that still feels most like home to me is my great-grandmother’s house.

    I’ve moved frequently as an adult, always feeling that the present apartment is temporary, and often not bothering to unpack boxes! I’ve consciously searched for the “right” environment where I would feel at home, without much luck. I’ve learned some things along the way, however, which I look forward to sharing with you by phone or email.

    I think the perfect situation for me would be a sort of dormitory for adults, where each adult could have a room for privacy plus (and this is key) a common dining hall where meals could be taken either with friends, or as a not-isolated individual. And perhaps other common areas for gathering and conversation as well.

    Thanks for the work you’re doing on this subject.

  4. The New Yawker said:

    John, you are so right. I am commenting because I had just what you described when I was sent out to San Francisco to work there for one year decades ago. There was a place called Bakers Acres where one had one’s own apt but meals were taken with other apt people and there was a common living room. Just as you described. In fact, when I returned to NYCity I attempted to create such a place but I am not a business person and it fizzled.

  5. Louise said:

    Chronic loneliness does seem to describe my basic orientation to the world. I have moved a lot in my life and am always looking for that special place which I can call home.

    I’ve lived in my current “home” for a couple of years but like the person above, I’ve never unpacked everything because I view this place as temporary and after so many moves I just can’t be bothered to unpack when I know I’ll just have to pack it up again one day.

    I compare this to some of my friends who move just as often as I do but who make each place they live in a true home – almost instantly! I’ve often puzzled over the difference between us. A sense of place, of “home” seems to be built into these people – home is where they are – they carry their home in their hearts.

    When I was backpacking around the world I sometimes shared hotel rooms with people like this. They would immediately scatter a few personal objects around the room and voila! – home it is.

    I suppose I hope that one day I will find my home and I can finally exhale and relax. That some magic of “place” will transform my being and I’ll finally know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

    My rational self knows that the condition is an internal one, independent of place.


  6. Summer said:

    The concept of home/place struck me as I moved into a new home after my divorce a year ago and at my lowest of lows all I can think to myself is that I want to go “home” which is the house my husband kept. This house, although beautiful and large isn’t “home” and I’m concerned that it never will be, that I don’t know how to make it “home”. The neighborhood although appears friendly when driving through isn’t open to new “outsiders”, or at least not to this divorced outsider who reached out on a couple of occassions to make friends.

    The other problem I have regarding loneliness is that I work from home, therefore rarely getting away from the loneliness that I am surrounded by in this house.

    I too have thought I was depressed but have avoided being treated with medication as I beleive that if I had the connections with others, felt that I mattered and counted in this world that my world would be so much brighter.

  7. Cassie said:

    I know this post is old, but I felt the need to post a comment on it.

    I feel my “home” town is full of very cold people who tend to let me down quite often. I’ve been wondering for a while if maybe this is some how my fault, like I’ve been the one putting them off. But, I’ve recently come to the realisation that that’s just how they are, even to each other. I’ve found this to make keeping up on relationships and making new ones very difficult because I’m always afraid they’ll let me down. I also think that these people have made it hard for me to trust or rely on anyone. For example, I spent the year before last as an exchange student in Germany (far from my “home” town in Michigan) and found it so very difficult at first to trust anyone and to know that they’d really be there for me when they said they would. Though, eventually I warmed up to them and I, for once in my life, felt like I had REAL friends. But, ever since I’ve been back in Michigan I’ve had such issues with creating and maintaining new relationships, that I’ve pretty much just given up. But, on a lighter note, I intend to soon go back to Germany to live, so I can live my life how I wish to and be truly happy when others are around for once.

  8. the wanderer said:

    Well the only sense of home I’ve had was the small west texas town I grew up in. After leaving at age fifteen, no place has ever felt the same. Having been sent to live with my father and step-mother I shared a room void of furniture with my step brother…the experience was so painful, I finished high school a year early to start college, leaving my few friends behind. During college I moved every year and had a new set of roommates who I usually did not care for. During graduate school, I also moved every year or so due to some excuse or another. After having finished school I tried moving to a larger city and into a high rise building hoping to find a sense of community…all to no avail. Three years later I have lived in three cities(Boston, Seatttle, Chicago) and been through 6 jobs seeking that embededness you write about but have yet to find it. I feel that I am running out of opportunties and each additional change forebodes an even more ominous future. Despite my professional accomplishments, there is still a gaping hole in my life.

  9. Wanderer: You’ve been through a long, lonely time. Some of it could be plain bad luck. But some of it might be some minor emotional of psychological quirk. With the help of a qualified therapist (read: a PhD psychologist or an MD psychiatrist) you might easily learn coping mechanisms or gain new relationship skills. Your words “running out of opportunities” and “more ominous future” sound like signs of depression to this untrained layman. Since I’ve experienced it myself, I think it’s wise to seek professional help with depression. Best of luck!

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