I have to talk about being alone. I really don’t want to because I know I have many times before and I’m sure I will many times again, but it has to be talked about because it’s a weird experience that can be both exhilarating and tragic and I don’t think we hear from this side of the relationship spectrum enough. Sometimes being single in my late 20’s makes me feel like a bit of a leper. Did you know leprosy is still a thing? I mean it’s super rare but it still happens – in 2011 nearly 220,000 new cases were diagnosed. So don’t worry, not only can feel like a leper emotionally and socially, but you actually could be one a physical level as well.
If you’re reading this right now you’re probably thinking one of two things: 1. “Here she goes again.” You sigh, perform an over-the-top eye roll, and promptly switch to the next tab of your internet explorer which is ‘Martha Stewart Living.’ Enjoy sifting through punch recipes and learning how to decoupage a cornucopia centerpiece for your thanksgiving table. However, if you’ve chosen the second option you’re most likely toasting your PBR towards your computer screen (be careful not to let any slosh over the side and burn out your motherboard; electronics and liquid do not mix) and saying: “Girl, I know exactly what you mean.”
Hi, we’re your single friends, and let me just say for the record; we are proud of both your life accomplishments and your happiness. We put your engagement announcements and wedding invitations up on our fridge like they’re drawings from our nonexistent and hypothetical children, and just because we’re downing vodka cranberry’s at the single’s table on your big day; it doesn’t mean we’re upset about it. Hey, we’re just stoked there’s an open bar. I’m also speaking for the lot of us when I say that we don’t need your pity, and we don’t need to be set up with a slew of your single friends. You’ve forgotten of our single days together; that were full of so much girl power it put the Spice Girls to shame and owning the night was more important than owning a crock-pot. Don’t be fooled and think we say this with animosity, similar to the way your Father felt when he walked you down the aisle, we are at peace with letting you go.
People think that being alone is the worst possible thing. That it’s scary and solitary, and certainly not something to be celebrated. I got the privilege (or misfortune – depending on your outlook) to spend the last several years of my adult life completely on my own. At first I felt a little lost, like there was some void that needed to be filled, that I no longer had this other entity that worked with me to keep me in check, that there was nobody next to me to hold my hand, to always assure me that everything was okay; no one to share a moment with – that I was somehow going to be detached from all humanity because I was no longer someone’s “plus one.”
For a while I struggled, but eventually that yearning and thought that I needed someone else in order to be happy dissolved like ephemera, and one day I realized that my life could be so completely full despite the lack of a significant other. Even though I was “alone,” I felt the contrary. I rediscovered the beauty and importance of platonic friendships, and I learned things I’m not sure I would have if I’d been attached to another human soul. I was forced to explosively be myself and figure out who I was all over again.
Five months ago I got in my car and drove across the country. I did it myself, half-heartedly asking one or two people if they wanted to come with and not being disappointed or surprised with their eventual decline. There was something about this drive that seemed bigger than me, that it was meant to serve as a metaphor or to remind me of a matter of utter importance. For three days I sat with only music to interfering the silence, only myself to depend on, unsure of what was ahead on a literal and figurative level and instead of being afraid – I was strangely okay with it.
I realized after that, that the was the greatest gift. To be able to be content and at peace with myself. To be able to sit with my thoughts in my head, at ease with the good and bad, not needing someone else to keep me in check, but learning to know and nurture my own needs and desires; finding ways to fill them that didn’t include the validation or nourishment from anyone else. Do I get a little lonely sometimes? Of course. Do I go on terrible dates and blog about it? Obviously. Do I sometimes go to weddings and want to stab myself in the eye with my own high-heel? More times than I care to tell you. But I’m okay. In fact, I’m optimistic.
Louis C.K. once said this in a stand-up routine: “You’ve to be optimistic to be single. Stupid, you have to be stupid. That’s what optimistic means, to be stupid. An optimist is someone who goes: Hey, maybe something really nice will happen!” “WHY THE FUCK WOULD ANYTHING NICE EVER HAPPEN?” What are you, stupid?‘
As much as I love the piece of me that is sarcastic, punchy, and sometimes cynical – I guess I’ve changed in the last few years. I had a conversation with my ex-girlfriend the other day and at the end of the conversation she asked what I was going to do for the rest of the night. “Write,” I replied, “About what?” she asked in response. “I think I’m going to write about being single in your late 20’s and how weird it can be.” She laughed, “Haven’t you done that already?” I thought back, going through the catalog of my blog topics as best I could off the top of my head. “I mean, I guess I do that a lot.”
“Every entry is essentially the same,” she teased, “You take us up and down and then the thesis is that – life is just cool man, even when it’s not.”
As silly and simplistic and cliche as it all sounded, she was right. And this applies to relationships, life in general, anything really. Maybe someday I will find my person and rejoin the race of monogamy, and then again – maybe not. Maybe I am doomed to be on a future episode of ‘Hoarders’ where they find my lifeless body underneath four-hundred feral kittens. Maybe my whole life will consist of OkCupid messages from girls whose profiles say things like: “I am married and love my wife but our relationship is sexless so that’s where you come in,” or “I have a boyfriend but he’s totally into me figuring out if I’m a lesbian.”
I don’t know, and honestly at the end of the day – I really don’t care. I am surrounded by love every day of my life, even if it’s not in a traditional sense of boy-loves-girl or girl-loves-girl or whatever. Maybe I’ll end up in a love story like ‘The Notebook,’ you never know. In any event, know that me and the rest are our kind are doing just fine. Don’t make that pouty face when you ask if we’re seeing anyone and we say “no,” and please don’t tell us to be patient because it’s just around the corner because you don’t know that. And please, please stop insisting on the blind dates with your pathetic single friends because there is a difference between those of us who embrace it, and those of us who are embarrassed by it.
Being single is not about being lonely and desperate and should not be viewed as this terrible period of time you pass between relationships. Embrace it. Stop focusing on the fact that you don’t have someone because you have someone perfectly good: YOURSELF. Find strength in your solitude instead of shame and be defined without another person involved. If you cannot find the happiness is single-hood, chances are you won’t find happiness in a relationship either.
Get your own life and love it first. Then share it. Love when you’re ready. Not when you’re lonely.