As I come into my own, I realize that it is not so much that I do not like being alone, but that I am afraid of liking being alone. I’ve been listening to Beyoncé’s new album Lemonade, her fiercest yet, all about being a strong, self-sustaining woman, and I just finished reading Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, the details of which don’t necessarily speak to me, but the overarching concept does– the trajectory that society has established for me has subconsciously caused me to doubt myself. I’m an indecisive being, but fuck if someone else tells me what to do, especially when I never asked their opinion. I am a magical fucking unicorn. I’ll decide. Confidence, n: the feeling or consciousness of one’s power. It took me 25 years to find mine.
I’ve spent the last three months thinking about loneliness. Last fall my therapist told me “you need to learn to sit with your anxiety.” I’ve opted to apply this to everything. I need to learn to sit with all of my feelings. I either lean into them or away from them or try to solve them, but what if, instead, I just let them exist? I think loneliness is inevitable, so I may as well learn to be OK with it. Being human is lonely, by nature. No matter the depths you take to make yourself understood and to understand other people, there are moments when we fail to communicate with each other. There is no one person who can know us completely.
There is this popular idea that single people are lonelier than those that are in a relationship and that their loneliness will be cured with the addition of a romantic partner. Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself (most of the time), I curse the fact that I am clearly unloveable– why else would I be single? I have been single essentially my whole life, and I’ve mostly felt like that is something to be ashamed of, but I don’t want to feel that way anymore. The more I think about it, I start to wonder why I feel that way in the first place.
Defending singleness is exhausting. Not because people ask me about my relationship status regularly, but because subconsciously I am constantly justifying my lack of romantic relationships to myself. I think that there is something wrong with me for being single. I think that other people think there is something wrong with me for being single. There is some dim, quiet part of me that is holding its breath, waiting for me to find a partner. But what if I stopped waiting? What if I stopped being afraid of enjoying being alone? If I enjoyed my life just as it is presented to me, at this very moment?
Despite all the metaphors of “finding your other half” and the idea of one person “completing” another, I think that most of us are whole people by ourselves. I don’t like the implication that if you don’t have a partner you are an incomplete person. Writing this is making me realize how much I have internalized these concepts without consciously realizing it. All the language around romantic love suggests that it’s all you need to survive in this world. Not only has this made me at times feel like there is something wrong with me for not having someone love me this way, but also it has made me assume that the love other people in my life have for me is, somehow, second tier to the love they have for their significant others. (“Significant other,” as though the rest of the people in your life are less significant or just insignificant altogether). There is so much talk of love and romance that is intensely pervasive and yet so narrowly defined. My favorite definition I’ve found of romance, so far, is:
Romance, n: a feeling of excitement or mystery associated with love.
Isn’t that lovely? Whenever I get anxious that I am missing out on this big mysterious thing everyone talks about, I am going to remember this and celebrate love in all the different forms it takes. I have a book I keep next to my bed and write instances of love in, to read when I am feeling particularly awful. It’s not filled with grand romantic gestures, just subtle, everyday instances of love like this one: Sugar watches me pull out an old combo from the very bottom of my duffel bag, and pop it in my mouth. She laughs and says “I love you”. That my friend is completely unsurprised but still charmed by my slightly disgusting habits is nothing short of a miracle.
So fuck the idea that my life is not properly fulfilled because I’m not in a relationship. Sure, taking care of yourself is exhausting. Loving yourself is exhausting. But shit, I am glad to do it. I am happy to be a semi-self sustaining little organism in this big world. I’ve never described myself as independent– I seek lots of emotional support from friendships, have boasted my lack of independence plenty of times. I’m a community based person. But upon reflection, I am fiercely independent. Sure, I rely on other people a lot, but I know how to take care of myself. I’m easily influenced by other people’s thoughts and feelings. It’s been important for me to be alone and figure out what my own thoughts and feelings are. I like having lots of space to sort through my thoughts at the end of the day. Perhaps someday I will feel differently. Perhaps I won’t. Either way, I think I’ll be happy and plenty well-loved.