project of Kristina Chimbaraite
My name is Slim, I’m 23 years old and from Tunisia. I recently completed a Bachelor's Degree in the field of Marketing. After university, I moved to Bulgaria for a volunteering project via Erasmus+.
What do you feel or imagine when you hear the word ‘loneliness’?
Sadness. Ahm, I mean when someone is lonely he has to manage everything by himself, there is no one who will help him… it’s kind of that feeling that you have to do everything by yourself. And it also depends on the situation of course. But this person needs a lot of strength.
And do you have any visual association or a sound that you connect to the feeling of loneliness?
I don’t know… maybe some school memories because as I remember back then, in Middle School, I didn’t have these great relations with people, with my ‘friends’, I would say. I felt lonely most of the time. But after that, I started to be more social. From the time I went to high school it became better. But yeah, it’s that: school memories. Whenever I see people from my Middle School it reminds me of that. I remember I had a lot of problems: one time I walked in the corridor and this one girl stretched out her leg and I tumbled and fell to the ground. I injured my front teeth pretty badly… And when my father came to the school, this girl started to defend herself and also her mother was saying all the time that it wasn’t her guilt and so on. So yeah, every morning when I wake up, when I take a sip from a cup, it makes me remember.
If we go back, can you share your most memorable moment of loneliness?
I think we have a feeling of loneliness since we are kids. For example, when we are with our parents and we get lost, we feel lonely. I don't know if it's a good example or not… I mean, I already told you about the accident. Each morning I remember it… and it really wasn’t a good experience, it was a hard time and I didn’t feel self-confident at all. So maybe this kind of relation can destroy me right now because even now I don’t feel very confident. It can reflect my personality.
So your self-confidence goes together with loneliness… how does it affect you?
Yes. Except that… I can feel lonely for example when I am travelling alone, I sometimes hear people saying things which aren’t good for me or anyone, judging people based on their nationality or religion. And hearing that can make you feel lonely and even on the borders, like each time I travel to Bulgaria they ask me what am I doing here, they are not used to see people from my country... it can be quite harsh. But I am getting used to it.
"I can feel lonely for example when I am travelling alone, I sometimes hear people saying things which aren’t good for me or anyone, judging people based on their nationality or religion"
And do you have a pattern of loneliness sneaking up on you? How do you cope with it?
For me, it's connected with my studies. During university time I always felt this pressure that I want to go out but I couldn't because of the work I had to do... I always need freedom in my life. I think it’s important for everything, to develop your career, to meet people, to do literally anything. And I am this kind of person who likes to travel a lot. I don’t like to stay in one place for a long time. Staying for one year, studying a lot… it killed me. I always need to go somewhere. And sometimes loneliness is good because I prefer travelling alone. I don’t like to travel in groups. I travel to meet locals, to stay with them and in this case you can transform your loneliness.
I guess in this case it’s different. There is loneliness, a feeling that is kind of destroying you and then there is solitude when you are alone with yourself but you are comfortable and choose to be alone.
Yeah, I mean when I travel I really enjoy entering the culture, to see how people live and so on. So if I travel, I always try to integrate myself into the local community and adapt to their lifestyle. For example, when I was in Jordan, I stayed at local’s houses and they cooked for me and also accompanied me during my travels in Jordan. They were so nice. So I can say that here I transformed my loneliness, my comfort zone, into something more… connection with others. Because what kills me is staying in my comfort zone. When I am studying, when I am going to work... I don’t like this routine. I feel lonely when I am stuck.
So your coping mechanism is an action, an action to get out of your comfort zone? How does this affect your relationship with people… family?
Yeah… I have a good relationship with my family. I sometimes feel this pressure from my mother because I am the only boy in the family. Yes, I have two sisters but she always wants me to be around. And as I told you, I am not the kind of person who wants to stay in one place for too long. So yeah, my older sister lives in France and my mother is still a little shocked by that, from people who travel around so much. She tells me to better stay at home and stuff like that. But in general, I have a good relationship with her. My father doesn't care, he always encourages me to live abroad, for him it's important to gain experience and meet new people. With my family, I don't have problems. With friends, yeah, it's ok... just back then, in school as I told you, I faced a lot of problems... it was not easy for me.
Do you still get into this state of loneliness today? What do you do then?
Back then in school, I was not a very sociable person, I was shy and didn't want to talk to anyone… it was because of me, something from the inside. I was very quiet. And my parents also told me: ‘No, don’t do this, don’t do that, people will look at you’. In the future when I have kids I will not do this. And when it comes to how I fight the loneliness… I try to get out of there. I get out of the house, out of the city… travel. My home is six kilometres away from the city centre, so I would go there, walk around, go to a coffee shop or somewhere else. Just not staying in my room alone. I then always feel this urge to move. For example, coming here to Bulgaria… my mother didn’t like it all saying that Bulgaria is a bad country and so on. I just finished the first year of my master's degree and my mother was really against my wish to live abroad. She wanted me to continue studying, to build my career. But for me, it's important to have a wider perspective, to discover what to do afterwards because I don’t really have a clear goal in my life. If you ask me what I want to do... I don’t know. When I talk to people and they tell me: ‘my father did this, my mother did that so I will do that…’ no, I am not so organised or decisive. I mean, yeah, my problem in life is that I don’t have a clear goal.
"but for me, it's important to have a wider perspective, to discover what to do afterwards because I don’t really have a clear goal in my life"
And did you feel lonely since you came to Bulgaria?
Yes… if I stay more than two or three weeks in my place I get this feeling again. So I need to go somewhere.
And how do you feel when you are stuck in one place? You have this desire to go out but what happens if you can’t go?
My mood changes… with my family I usually act a little aggressively. For example, if my mother asks me to do something I refuse to do it or say I will do it later. I can have this grumpy mood.
So… is there something you would like people to know about loneliness? From your personal experience or from your encounter with lonely people?
Being more empathic. Trying to understand the situation from the point of view of a lonely person. And if it’s possible one should help or at least ask if one can help. But at the same time… when you are lonely you don’t ask other people to help you, you are trying to manage everything by yourself. But what I would say to people is again to leave your comfort zone, look for another place where you can see how other people are living. It allows you to forget the bad stuff, releases this pressure.
I told you that I don’t feel very confident and when I am alone I am like: ‘I can’t do this…' Even now when I feel like I don't have the skills to master the task I automatically feel judged by other people. It’s killing me. So when I meet people who struggle with their task I always try to help or motivate them. I am happy to help people improving their skills because for me the main thing about humanity is to share knowledge. To be equal... but unfortunately, there are people who think they know everything better and they don't want to share their experience with others.
"...what I would say to people is again to leave your comfort zone, look for another place where you can see how other people are living. It allows you to forget the bad stuff, releases this pressure"
So I try to not stay in the office for too long, to go working in the elderly house or to work with disabled people. In general, it's better for me because the office is just a room.
And also the relation with other volunteers, especially this one girl, I don’t get along with her at all. She is judging me all the time. She feels like she can do anything and she wants to be the one who gives out orders, be the boss. And I remember during the training, we were sitting in a group and she told: ‘I don’t get along with my colleagues (including me) because I am disappointed by them. I expected to work with people who have really good skills’. She said something like that. And this really kills me.