Lonely but Not Alone

By Mimi Nicklin 

We only need to look around ourselves to see the deeply unsettling truths painting an increasingly grim picture: anxiety levels are spiralling upward; millions of people are suffering from depression; and suicide is the second biggest killer of our youth across the globe.

A loneliness pandemic is sweeping our planet, our workplaces and our homes. Living alone is not odd or unusual – approximately 7.6 million households around the world are comprised of just one person. However, as we navigate the turbulence of today’s unpredictable world, we have found ourselves in a place where our normally thriving communities are no longer operating as they used to. We are deeply lonely, and it is killing people.

After undergoing my own perilous journey of transforming a broken business into a thriving force that seeks to drive empathy into our workplaces and world, I have become passionate about unpacking sad realities such as this, and carefully shaping a story for a better way forward with humanity at its heart.

As a single mother committed to blazing an empathy trail, I believe with my entire soul that loneliness can also fuel deep change. I am proof of it: lone-dweller, single mum, solo traveller – my aloneness has created the tension and the space I’ve needed to see things that others are perhaps too distracted to notice.

Painful as it may be to suffer through this lonely reality - especially in the aftermath of a pandemic that deepened the claustrophobia of this emotion - the pain can lead to gain. At its heart, creativity is often fuelled by turmoil, disaster, and the unplanned tear in our sails when the wind stops blowing our way. I recently read a quote on the box of a Korean beauty product that had made its way to Dubai…

Great things never come from comfort zones.”

Indeed, it was the long-term lack of a comfort zone that led me to become an author myself. I grew up with a deep love of books and writing, but I never planned to write one myself. Today, as I continue to travel around the world, I bring my book collection with me everywhere I go. Despite the load and the hefty additional shipping cost, my books are always first to to go into my suitcase. At their core, books connect us. The ancient act of reading and storytelling brings our humanity into focus, helping us to grow, learn, empathise, and connect with others.  It reminds us of long-lost stories and memories, of people and places we love. It is ironic, then, that being an author can be such a lonely road.

When I think back to the writing of my book, I have very few memories. I spent hours alone and in my own mind, consumed by writing a manuscript that was bent on writing me. As a writer, I am fuelled by the people and cultures that surround me. As such, the ‘aloneness’ of writing has always been offset by a vibrant noise of humanity enveloping me. When I am sitting in a busy location, watching the world’s endless hustle and bustle, the words pour out of me without much conscious thought. The energy of the people fuels me.

It was amidst South East Asia’s early morning tropical rain and sweet spicy tea that my book started to take shape. However, by the time I needed to edit my writing, I was long gone from the region that fuelled my soul. I was alone at home, a single mother stuck in a nationwide lockdown without a single family member for over 5 000 kilometres.

Life as a working mom is a daily lesson in endurance, patience and tenacity. Life as a single working mom makes those realities ever more present. Life as a single mom running a global advertising agency and writing a book felt like a heavy reality to navigate at times.  An intricate daily dance to fulfil the needs of your team members, your children, and your art in equal measure.

Today there are over two million households with single parents. We are definitely not alone, and yet, the loneliness continues. Am I lonely? For sure, but I wouldn’t be the author and leader I am today if I weren’t. Every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining.

About the Author

Mimi Nicklin is an international bestselling author and empathy advocate. She hosts a breakfast show, Empathy for Breakfast (which reached an audience of nearly 100 000 in its first two seasons) and a growing podcast, Secrets of The Gap. Her debut book, Softening the Edge, became a bestseller before it hit shelves. Leading the global conversation on empathy in business, marketing and leadership, Mimi now consults worldwide on culture and creativity that balances humanism with capitalism. For more information or to get in touch, visit www.miminicklin.com.

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