I started to write this as a caption for an Instagram photo, but then realised I had rather a lot to say on the matter so I decided to ramble on here instead. As you may already know I’ve been on a self discovery mission for a while now, trying to get to know me better and to become more OK with who I am. This has inevitably meant spending a lot of time alone – much more than I am used to – and it hasn’t always been easy.
Although technically I’ve been single for a very long time, I have in the past few months found myself actually, properly single after a long term “unofficial” relationship. You know, one of those sort-of, kind-of, what-the-fuck-is-this relationships that never really goes anywhere but messes with your head long enough that you forget how to think about the situation logically? Yeah, one of those. I don’t want to get into it too much because the wounds inflicted upon me during that time are still a-healing, but I wanted to illustrate that while I’ve not exactly been in a proper relationship since I was 19, I have been in a relationship-ish relatively recently and it’s a strong point of reference for a lot of the things I’m feeling at the moment.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m not used to being on my own yet. Not fully.
In some ways I’m very good at being single. I’m a relatively independent person, I’ve travelled all over the world by myself and quite honestly, commitment scares the shit out of me. However in all the time I’ve been “officially” single (over five years now, bloody hell) I’ve always dated on and off. I’ve fallen in love a couple of times, had my heart broken a few more than that and spent very little time alone. I’ve always had a crush or someone who I was “seeing”, so I’m not really used to being without someone to at least make out with.
This feeling of being alone is emphasised in my life at the moment because all of my close friends are in relationships. All of them. I kid you not, my friendship group consists of so many couples I’m now officially the 11th wheel? Or 13th? I don’t even know anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bitter or angry about this. Just… weird, I suppose? Like the universe is testing me or something. It’s strangely coincidental that at the precise time in my life that I’ve made a pact to spend more time getting to know me and to not actively seek out any kind of intimate relationship, literally E V E R Y O N E in my immediate circle is dating. Lucky that I don’t like to do things by halves, eh?
Something I have realised about being the single one in a group of a million couples is that sometimes, you’re going to have to do things by yourself. And when I say sometimes, I mean more often than I am used to. Couples need couple time and date nights, and just as I expect that to be respected when I am in a relationship, so I respect every other couple’s right to those things too. BUT it is still something I am getting to grips with, even months into the single life. In the past I’ve always lived with other single people, so living with a friend who is in a long term relationship is a change of pace for me. Not a bad thing at all; just different. For example, right now my flatmate/bestie and his lovely gf are on a weekend away in London, meaning for a whole four days our flat is officially my bachelorette pad and I have no choice but to spend a large chunk of time by myself. Scary shit.
Being forced to spend time alone was terrifying at first. I lost myself so much in my last what-the-fuck relationship that I had literally no idea how to enjoy anything without someone else being surgically attached to me like an extra limb. My confidence was shot from everything that had happened and I had no idea who I was anymore. So I had to start actively checking in with myself to figure out what I wanted to do, even down to the smallest things.
I started to take me way longer to get dressed in the morning because I’d sit around for ages thinking “what exactly do I want to wear?” rather than, “what is [insert person] going to think I look hot in?”. I realised I had infinite amounts of time free from thinking about their problems and our relationship issues, so I decided to take up art again and became way more invested in my studies. I started looking at gigs and shows that I wanted to go to and buying myself a ticket whether or not someone else wanted to come along. As time has gone on my confidence has grown and I realised that I don’t actually need another person by my side to do so many things that I’ve been afraid of. So I drove on the motorway on my own. I moved out. I deleted Facebook. I asked someone on a date (no regrets she’s cute af) who’s now become a good friend. I got my nipple pierced because I think it looks cute and apart from the piercer, I am still the only person to see it. The list goes on and although these things may sound small and insignificant, they are huge to me.
I went to see dodie with a friend in March and she ended on this song. It’s been a massive source of comfort and “fuck you” for me in getting over what happened in my last relationship.
The other side of going it alone is dealing with the feeling of loneliness. This is a feeling I’m all too well acquainted with. I mean, even in those weird kind-of relationships, especially if they last for months or even years (sigh what WAS I thinking), it is still possible to feel the same loneliness you feel as when you are single, because you never fully know if you can trust that person (life hack: you can’t), even if you’re not actually alone. Yeah, you still have someone to text everyday, to snuggle with at night and hold hands with in public (if they let you, that is. OK I’ll stop now I swear) but there’s always a barrier to the full emotional connection of a real relationship. Despite being used to the feeling, however, I can’t say that it’s something I actually want to feel, which I think is pretty normal.
Funnily enough, my experience with loneliness has got better since getting out of that toxic relationship. While I miss the feeling of having “another half”, I no longer feel the fear of uncertainty. I have so many beautiful, loyal and wonderful friends now, both old and new, who have been there for me through all the shit and crying and pain and for some reason they’ve not run away yet. Friendships are just as valuable (if not more so at times) than intimate relationships, and having more time to invest in those close to me has been an amazing experience. I don’t have the same fear of them leaving me or not liking me because I figure if they didn’t want to hang around with me, they could just… not? Especially the ones who have stuck it out all through my years of illness and recovery, who have seen my absolute worst and still have time to tell me they love me. Ergh, friendship is the absolute best.
(For more on friendship I recommend checking out Sofie Hagen’s Made of Human Podcast, specifically this episode with Jo Brand, which you can’t get online yet but is available on iTunes for free)
This post ended up somewhere I didn’t expect and I’m OK with that. I guess I’m trying to say that although it’s not always easy, being single can be really healthy. I don’t see it as a time to get laid or hook up with a million people (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my jam), but rather I see it as a time to self-reflect and build on me, so that a) I never end up in a horrible, manipulative relationship ever again and b) I’ll be the best version of me when I eventually meet someone who I have a mutual connection with and we both decide we want to give things a go.
I’m not restricting myself to being single, in that if something came along then I’m open to seeing what happens, but I’m honestly enjoying the feeling of relaxing into myself and taking things as they come. I’ve not felt like myself in the longest amount of time and it really has been being single that has allowed me to come into my own again and figure out what it is that I want from all of my relationships, romantic or otherwise.