When I felt lonely, I especially hated going to school. It was mandatory, I had to go to class and be with 20 classmates. In my case, these were 20 teenagers I didn’t like. I felt very uncomfortable in gym class. You’ll probably recognize this unpleasant feeling, this feeling when you have to work in pairs. I always ended up being the one who wasn’t chosen. Then they’d put me in with some already existing pair. That didn’t feel good at all.

Keeping things to myself.

After I was born, they found out there was an issue with my hearing. Luckily, this has been remedied, but I still have to deal with a speech delay. You can notice this when I talk because I’ve a little lisp. This isn’t a big deal to me, but sometimes people have difficulties understanding me, mostly when I’m talking on the phone. As a child it was hard for me to ask for things, and it was also difficult for me to have a conversation. At a certain point, I just became withdrawn. That’s why I got used to keeping things to myself.

I am creative.

I like to do things on my own. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I’m in my own little world and I forget about the rest. I really like drawing. I make my own characters. In my imagination they are talking to each other! While I’m sketching and designing, I can isolate myself completely. That’s not a bad thing, but because of this, classmates don’t talk to me that often. This bothers me sometimes. Sometimes I wish it was different.

Bluhhh, tomorrow I have to go to school again.

Loneliness feels like there is a void inside me. Imagine that your heart is filled with love. That is how you want it to be. I didn’t have any friends, so my heart wasn’t completely filled. That made me sad, I got a little depressed. I wasn’t happy at all, and I had a lot of negative thoughts. I couldn’t enjoy my day off on Sunday. I kept thinking “sh*t, tomorrow I’ve to go to school again”.

Making new connections at school and at Join us.

Because I wanted to meet new people, I joined Join us. Join us is a foundation which connects young people who have very few friends. Together you’ll do fun activities. In September 2019, Join us launched www.eenzamejongeren.com. A Dutch television news program for kids (Jeugdjournaal) interviewed me and asked to share my story. I received a lot of positive feedback. Of course, people at school watched it too. After I was on television, a girl started talking to me during recess. She asked me if I would like to hang out with her and her friends. Ever since, I’ve been spending time with them during my break. I really enjoy this. During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve kept in touch and we’ve had at least one video call per week.

Online friends.

I’m not really a girl who likes hanging out with friends in my hometown. I prefer gaming instead. That is why I spend a lot of time on Discord. This is where I meet my peers. For example, I’ve met people who are totally into Warrior Cats. Via Discord, I can connect with people all over the world. We talk with each other and sometimes they will organize things on a server. These online friends are nice; it makes me feel less lonely.

I am looking forward to the future.

Luckily, I feel much better these days. I’m still doing things on my own, but I’m also surrounded by lovely friends. We see each other at school and during musical theater classes. I can be myself. This feels right. When I think about the future, I look forward to starting a new schoolyear in a new class. I like meeting new people and I hope to make new friends again.

Tips for others.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far, is that it is up to you to approach people. Don’t expect people to approach you. Take matters into your own hands. Try to encourage yourself to go to places where you can meet new people. If you like walking your dog, go to the park. Or find a hobby. If you like drawing, take a group lesson. For me personally, joining a musical theater group was very helpful. I’ve met very nice people, and I’ve even made new friends. Though I don’t like to be in the spotlight, I do really enjoy performing a minor role. I’ve gained confidence. At the musical theater group, I talk with everyone and it gives me a lot of energy. I can just be me.