It’s one of the privileges of the single person to be stuck with oneself. Doing so will push you through many evolutions, or it should, if you’re lucky. I’ve been reborn a few times over the past ten years. Sometimes I wonder about all the people who got into LTRs in their early twenties and have rarely or never been single since. Did they not need to take the same solo journeys I did? Are they able to accomplish the same growth within a relationship? Or is all this radical understanding waiting for them down the line . . .
In my teens and early twenties I always felt a little tall, a little ungainly, not able to relax in a bathing suit. I spent a long time dating people I wasn’t attracted to physically or didn’t necessarily like that much because I was of the “I’ll take what I can get” mentality. This led to a series of absurd relationships, and worse, I was one of those people who blame most of their romantic ills on the opposite sex.
You can only walk out of the pancake house with a stomachache so many times before you stop blaming the waitress and start wondering, Maybe if I didn’t order the Slam Dunk Breakfast . . .
Then came a period that involved four overlapping romantic and platonic relationships with men (lover, friend, boss, and father all slam-dunked in one three-year period) that altered my course permanently.
Although a great deal of it was painful and conflicted and melodramatic, each of them made it possible for me to become what I am today. The men whose encouragement set me on the career I now have. A man who helped me weather a family trauma, and a man who taught me to trust my instincts. I learned how to write naughty things while in a long-distance relationship with one, and I learned that I was finally a “woman” and not a “girl” from the other.
I could no longer blame the opposite team for my scars–I could now clearly see that we each held swords. And that even the wounds were making me the woman I wanted to be.
Over the years I have asked men for absolution, for validation, for visibility in their more complimentary eyes when my own glance in the mirror was far too critical.
I took every compliment as a challenge, as though each had said, “No honey, you don’t suck, but you could suck even less.” I had to test myself on my own, to prove things to myself: traveling, living far from family on my own, starting a career, navigating life in different parts of the world, teaching myself everything from train systems to CSS.
Maybe (no, probably) that drive is excessive and harsh. All I can say is that when I entered my twenties, I didn’t particularly like myself, and I do now.
I never trusted myself to push myself that hard within the warm embrace of someone’s love. I knew then and still believe today that if I had gotten involved with someone after high school, I’d probably still be there . . . and still feel overweight, uninspired, and not fond of myself.
Tonight I pulled up in front of my apartment after being at an event at my dad’s business and caught, in the corner of my eye, a peek through the half-open blinds into my living room. A mirror and candles on the mantle, a dim light, glints of orange and red. The thought that popped in my head was, “I want to live there.”
Then I realized, Psst–you do live there.
Then I realized, Wow. It’s only taken you ten goddamn years to want the life you’re actually living.
I say this because sometimes breakups happen. Or you’ve been single for too long and feel dry and crusty. If you ever find yourself in that position, make a bucket list. And then do something on it.
Or fall in a crazy counter-intuitive love.
Just . . . take a risk. For yourself. Someday, you’ll be glad you did. And the man (men) who love you will be glad you did, too.