I write with gritted teeth. Each typed word jeopardizes this “strong, independent woman” archetype, a betrayal to everything I’ve aspired to be. When I don’t want to write about something, I know I’ve found my next blog post. Everyone is in love, paired off, getting engaged, landing amazing professional opportunities. I feel marooned in a millennial limbo– nothing is terrible but nothing is coming together. From early childhood, I felt like a sock without a mate, an extra puzzle piece unable to fit in the jigsaw. It seems that everyone else has this certainty, a bedrock in a rocky world, something to hold onto. I hold onto myself, but I wonder: am I going to die alone?
I’m jealous. I am jealous of your relationships and engagements and happiness. The ugliest parts of me grow envious. “Why are THEY there and I’m not?” “How come they found their person when I haven’t?” As if there were some merit portion to partnership. I am jealous despite the fact that I am not actively seeking a relationship. For right now, I hold unwavering and infinite space for myself. I am deeply with myself. Your twenties are really the only whole adult decade we’re afforded a high degree of selfishness– the only decade that is entirely ours without the pressure of it being anything else. I relish that in keen awareness. I’m trying desperately to calm myself enough to enjoy this. Because it isn’t sad– it’s glorious. And why do I need to will and wish and worry away something so entirely mine? I don’t. It is my fault if I squander this. The fastest way to ruin my youth is to compare it to anyone else’s experience. My life excels at its own tempo. However my nerves feel about it, it refuses to be rushed.
My life knows I haven’t completely shaken codependent behaviors– that my needs are still negotiable in close entanglements. That is an act of self abuse. That is a violation most women commit against themselves. I seek more education. I crave travel. My drive ever salivates with potential goals. I don’t foresee that changing in my lifetime. But in the fragile, flexible formation of my midtwenties, effort needs to be concentrated on my personal edification. Things like education become exponentially harder– albeit, not impossible– when more is immovable. So here I am, wanting things I know I’m not ready for.
Humans create narratives corresponding to other people’s lives– like we know a whole relationship off of social media feeds. I don’t. But my head taunts me that everyone else is happy and in love and if I am not that way, I am defective– that my independent joy is a consolation prize. I don’t know everyone’s story. What looks perfect is likely the product of a lot of hard work. What looks perfect also might be fake. I hope it’s all real. I hope everyone is as overjoyed as they look in instagram. Even still, I am not the ghostwriter of their “behind the scenes”. I cannot covet what I don’t know.
What does alone mean? Single and alone are often conflated. They are not the same. I was single for the first 25 years and 6 months of my life. In that time, I cultivated friendships, restored familial relationships, kissed people, sank into situation ships, fell in love, grieved the dissolutions of untitled attachments. Yes, years of that ached with loneliness, but by the time I was around 23 or 24, I realized the greatest loneliness was for myself. I observed romantic relationships around me without envy and romanticism, and I saw that you can be deeply alone while partnered. And a lover is a distraction, but even the greatest scratching posts for our emotions cannot perpetually shield us from everything we avoid.
Most people have been abandoned in some way. I have. People didn’t leave me for something better. People’s absence was not evidence I am defective. They left because they couldn’t be with themselves. They left because of themselves. People can only be with me as much as they have met themselves, and I cannot inflate my importance in someone else’s personal development. That really fucking hurts because I want it to be about me. I want it to be about me so I can fix it, but our job isn’t to fix other people. Our job is to witness and support one another. That makes me feel so helpless, but that’s because I need to help me. Most people struggle to be with themselves because they are busy avoiding themselves. We avoid ourselves in work, in relationships, in travel, in parenting. The agony of selfhood is that it endures and outlasts every distraction.
Alone is a place we try fervently to avoid. Alone is a perceived underworld. I only know this because I’ve chilled with my demons there. But our demons are just wounds that went neglected for a really long time. Their horns disappear when they’re heard.
I am genuinely and embarrassingly terrified that I will never enjoy a partnership or be a mom. I want those things so desperately. I always have. I could posture as some badass chick who doesn’t care about any of that sentimental, conventional stuff but I do. These things are dangerously true. I want me first. I cannot leave myself in pursuit of these other things. What’s meant for us finds us when we show up as our full selves– without disguises or gimmicks. I want myself and value myself even if these things do not turn up because control is really an illusion in life.
And even if I never get married or have a kid or snag a killer job, my life is still valid and valuable. I can still be an amazing sister, citizen, daughter, team member, friend. And if I can list off those titles in a matter of seconds, then that is proof I was never alone nor unloved– tethered to so many people in so few words. Of the very little I know about life, we become less alone when we’re invested in connecting with others for no other purpose than to spark a little kindness. Maybe that’s tipping the barista and looking her in the eyes when you order. Maybe it is holding the door for the person behind you. Maybe it’s reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or letting someone new know that they’re neat. We are all each other has in this life. By that fact, we are never truly alone.
I don’t have an answer for this title. This essay does not rest all my fears and anxiety. That’s not the point. The point is for me to take ownership of those emotions. I stare them down. I ask myself to aim higher, to ask more, to have faith in myself. Because if I cave to fear here, if I inflate a person into an answer out of loneliness, I am making greater problems for myself later on. Even insecure and doubtful, I trust life has more in store for me than lackluster commitments to lightless bodies. I trust that nobody arrived at something worthwhile by saying “Holy shit! I gotta settle!” and grabbing the first warm body in sight. Pretty sure Jane Austen didn’t write a novel around that concept.
I write with shoulders surprisingly low, back relaxed. My body knows. She knows that it will be ok. Whatever “it” is will reveal itself when it is ready. And I can worry and talk and write incessantly about what my life will be– that is ok. I also have to be busting my ass the whole time to make something of it. I have to keep on showing up, shooting my shot, tapping into the sting of those instagram posts because it reminds me that I am not a robot, that it is a beautiful thing to want to be some else’s while still being my own. It is glorious to desire that connection while also celebrating that I am entirely my own. I throw confetti on the absence of premature commitments. And I remind myself that even if I were to die right now, I would be the furthest thing from alone.