“If we seek paradise outside ourselves, we cannot have paradise in our hearts.”
~ Thomas Merton
I love being single (I think).
Nothing’s cut and dry, but I can say with honesty that this is the happiest I’ve been while on my own in a long time.
In and out of relationships for the past few years, I’ve learned to rely on boys to make me feel fulfilled. Their approval—their attention—is what’s made me feel good, worthwhile. It’s like a quest: you pursue your crush until he likes you back and then you’ve won the game, and you feel great about yourself. I’m still in shock every time a boy likes me, and I hardly ever turn anyone down because I’m so flattered and honored that they would choose me, of all people. But the game gets less fun after a while. When I stopped looking for someone who was good for me, and instead just took what I could get, I found myself living only for what my boyfriend wanted and not for what I wanted. It’s true what they say about the journey being the best part; sometimes once you get there all you find is a treasure chest with a few coins sprinkled on the bottom—still gold, but not enough.
It became so much easier for me to be in a relationship than out of one. Some of my friends nowadays say, “I don’t do relationships—they’re too much work,” but for me they are the opposite. Being alone is too much work. Relying on myself for happiness, for a sense of worth? That’s the real challenge.
I sometimes feel like a walking paradox because, for someone so highly introverted, I’ve had a lot of boyfriends. And not a lot of friends—but that’s because it’s much easier for me to interact with someone one on one, and to give all of my attention to one person rather than stress over doling it out equally to other companions. And even though I have always spent so much time alone, since high school I’ve spent little time being single. Because I’m afraid to be alone. There are times now when I’ll come home and realize that no one knows where I’ve been all day, wouldn’t even know if I’d been hit by a car or something, and that’s disheartening.
Boys have been a way to save me—from myself. When I’m alone too long, I get weird and a little insane. My thoughts swirl around and around in my head; I have long, imaginary conversations with all sorts of people; I write really confusing philosophical essays and tortured journals. I need to be accountable to someone in order to stay sane. But I’m realizing now that that doesn’t have to be a boyfriend—it can be a good friend, or my roommates, or my coworkers. I can hold myself accountable to several people instead of just one.
Being independent is wonderful, now that I’m strong enough to see it that way. I’m actually starting to develop a personality, and not changing myself to suit everyone I’m with. I’m learning to be comfortable with my weird, unusual self, and just let it stand—I’m not so worried if people don’t accept me right away. Boys and girls alike. And I’m getting positive feedback—I used to be so worried of “exposing” myself because I thought people would hate me and find me an empty shell—and I kind of was, last year. But this year I’m not an empty shell, I am a person full of ideas and ambitions and thoughts and I’m not so scared to share them. Of course I want to always stay humble—and don’t think I’m suddenly just perfectly content with myself and my life. But being single and relying on myself is finally enabling me to actually make some personal strides, instead of being held back by flimsy relationships.
For some people, relationships are easy and being alone is what’s hard. I’m not sure if we are in the majority or not. But independence is certainly preferable over a relationship that isn’t up to your standards. It’s not worth it to date someone if they’re going to keep you from improving yourself, and I know it’s hard to find such a relationship, but I believe that to be true. Rejoice in your independence! It isn’t an easy thing, but nothing good comes without struggle; satisfaction doesn’t come without a fight. So please—fight for it!