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There have been a few times in my life when I have felt acutely lonely. The first was in year 11 at boarding school. A new girl had started and because she was allocated a bed in my cubicle I befriended her. We quickly became firm friends, spending all our time together and laughing a lot. Some time during that year it was discovered that her older brother had been to the school a few years before and had been part of the popular group. Mysteriously this made her part of this group and while my new friend was consumed by it, I was left on the outer. This exclusion zone was so pervasive that no one in the boarding house spoke to me for the rest of the year.

Fortunately, I was enrolled in computer studies and could take refuge in the computer room as soon as breakfast was consumed and after school until dinner began. In this mostly male environment I was popular in a weird outsider way. I have always thought of those boys as my saviours from loneliness. When I told my daughter this story she said "so you were a nerd Mum" and I thought yes I was, yes I still am, but mostly I thought about how NERDS are KIND. It's the compassion of outsiders to the vulnerable.

This experience of loneliness was a major building block to learning empathy and compassion. So whilst it was a horrible experience, I am retrospectively grateful to have endured this period of deliberate unkindness.


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