Sammy Nickalls
December 30, 2015 10:58 am

They say 23 is one of the hardest years. They say it’s the year when you feel more lost and lonely than ever, when your goals feel so far out of reach and you feel too small, inexperienced, and unequipped to reach for them. The year when, for the first time, you’re not surrounded by your friends from grade school or your friends from college, but yet the family you grew up with doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. You’ve outgrown the life you led as a teenager, and you’ve had a taste of the real world; there’s something new within that you can’t ignore.

I can attest to that. At the beginning of 2015, I was 22. My high school best friend had moved to England to start her life with her new husband. My best friend from college was back with her family in Massachusetts, hundreds of miles away. And suddenly, I felt so alone.

Back then, I was working a job that didn’t feel quite right for me, fresh out of college, still living with my parents so I could save up a nest egg before moving out. I was living the normal life, the safe life. But the safe life wasn’t the one I wanted to lead.

So in February, I quit to be a freelance writer. By April, I was 23, and by May, I was a staff writer for this website, and I started using social media to develop an online presence. Through these channels, I steadily got to know more people online—people I had never met IRL, but knew my life secrets, the ones I didn’t dare utter in my everyday life but tweeted liberally to my Internet friends. I talked to them about my anxiety, my eating disorder, my writing inspiration, my hopes, my dreams. I invited them to read my work, and to my shock, they did, and they wanted to; both of these things couldn’t be said for many I knew IRL.

Before I knew it, I had a little online community of cheerleaders, talented people who encouraged me to keep on going, who picked me up when I was down. And I did the same for them. We supported each other, both professionally and personally, from all over the world. I felt like I was a part of something for the first time since I left college.

A few of them were there at 3 a.m., when I couldn’t sleep, because for them, it was daytime. When I realized that fact, something within me mended itself. They were there always.

In October, I moved out of my parents’ and into an apartment in a new city, all by myself. I had reestablished a new life; I had replanted myself, just like I had wanted to — but the only root I had was my boyfriend, who lives a two-minute drive away from me. I was working at home, living alone, and I couldn’t meet people at the office because my office is my living room couch. I couldn’t hang out with my coworkers at a fun holiday party because my holiday party was sitting on that couch, drinking wine with a Santa hat.

I couldn’t make office friends. Or at least, that’s what I thought, until it occurred to me that my office are the wonderful people I’ve met on the Internet. But they’re not just my office friends. They’re just my friends, full stop.

2015 was the year I learned that coffee dates aren’t what’s important to maintain a friendship. In fact, online, I’ve had thousands of miniscule coffee dates, tweet by tweet. I can’t tell you how many times my online friends have made me smile, have virtually wiped away my tears from hundreds, thousands of miles away. I may still not have many friends in the city of Lancaster, but that’s OK, because I have friends all over the world that are .

Yes, it’s been one of the hardest years. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the best, too.

[Image via FOX]

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