How men can beat loneliness
ONE of the most valuable life lessons I have learned came in the year I turned 13.
I had been in boarding school for a year and was home for the long summer break. About a week into it I realised I was lonely.
The boarding school was in the country and most of the kids who went there lived on farms. I was one of the very few from Brisbane, so there was no one from my grade to hang out with.
My siblings were too young and annoying to provide meaningful fellowship, and I had already carved my initials into every tree on Mt Coot-tha with my replica Bowie knife, so I was becoming dangerously bored.
I resolved to do something about it. I remembered a boy I had liked when I was in primary school, jumped on my bike and went round to where I thought he lived. I hadn't seen him for a long time and was very aware of how tribal teenagers could be. I was dreading rejection or indifference, but was so desperate for company I took the chance.
I knocked on the door and his mum opened it.
"Hello Mrs Smith, is Steve at home?"
She popped back inside and moments later Steve appeared.
"G'day Rory. Haven't seen you in ages. What's up?"
We had cordial and homemade biscuits and caught up on each other's news. He invited me to come down to the local school oval later that day to play the kicking game "force 'em back" with some of his gang.
It became one of my happiest summers, filled with new friends and fun. Steve and I are still great mates today.
The lesson it taught me was that if you want something to change, you're the best person to make it happen. Doing nothing is not an option.
I recount the anecdote because last week I was reading yet another article about research pointing to an epidemic of loneliness among men. Years of immersion in work and family life have made too many men lose touch with their friends, with a resulting dividend in despair and, too often, suicide.
If that's you, get on your bike and go find your Steve. It's worth it.