After a brisk three-mile run on Central Park North Thursday evening, I stopped by my local grocery store to pick up two very specific things: olive oil and barbeque chicken. My roommates and I have recently discovered kale chips and now we’re all making them – almost nightly – so olive oil has been quite the popular ingredient (if you don’t know how to make kale chips, read this. No seriously, do it – they’re amazing and super easy. And you know, good for you). I blame my craving for bbq on my Southern upbringing, but when the deli on theUpper West Sideoffers it, you know it can’t just be for the transplants. Plus, the patty I selected was heart-shaped, how could I resist?
Listening toFlorence& the Machine as I heated up my chicken and tore off tiny pieces of greens before smothering them in garlic salt and oily goodness, it hit me:
Wow, I actually like being single.
For a lot of folks – and the majority of my beautiful, independent friends – this concept isn’t a revelation as much as it’s fact. But for me, the girl who notices with poultry is loving-looking and still cries at the predictable sweet happy-ending even when she’s seen it countless times, noticing the comfort of being a minus-one is quite the accomplishment. It took me a year-worth of writing blogs, one terribly difficult heartbreak that still aches most days, and lots of self-encouragement and reassurance to get to this place.
Or if I’m honest (which I always make my very best attempt to be), it took a hell of a lot more than that. It took drunken nights in college, pining over guys in polos I thought were awfully adorable (though were really quite pathetic), trying to be the cool gal who could keep up with them beer-for-beer. It took staying in relationships that were already dead-end before they began, because I was so desperately afraid of never finding love or being unloveable (as one guy told me once), that I decided to devalue my self-worth so I could hold the title of “girlfriend.” It took many, many instances of being a bad friend because I was so jealous that someone could find what I wanted so badly, and for whatever reason, I could not. It took me standing in front of the mirror nit-picking my body, my face – my everything – because I imagined men wouldn’t like me or find me beautiful if I wasn’t perfect.
It’s all of those reasons and ones that I’m unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) forgetting that I started this blog in the first place – one giant gesture to myself to love who I was, sans man. But that was in September of 2010, and now we’re nearly half-way through 2012, and I finally made it.
I finally did it.
In that time, I met, fell in love and broke up with a man who couldn’t love me back in the way I deserved or wanted. In that time, I moved apartments and created an entirely new circle of friends, some of which I’ll know and love the rest of my life. I left the starter job to find the dream career, and received way more attention from this URL than I intended. I went up and down a few sizes, found a workout routine I really like, and experienced my first Brazilian wax. I became a New Yorker (by my own definition) and I discovered each borough, except Staten Island, which really, doesn’t count anyway. I grew and changed, took ten steps back and a few forward, said things I regretted and bit my tongue more than I should. I sacrificed my beliefs and standards, and then stood up for myself, over and over again, day-end and day-out.
I’ve done a lot, and for that I’m really proud of myself. But what makes me the happiest isn’t a fancy title or a nice apartment, going to places I couldn’t afford but now can, or the fact I’ll be on my first solo-trip to Puerto Rico in a matter of days.
It’s that I learned the most difficult lesson (for me anyway), there is to learn: single is, as single does.
Like anything that’s worth anything – the way to success or to self-fulfillment has more detours and less straight-and-narrow directions. The route is curved and complicated, frightening and at times, as much as we try to avoid it, self-destructive. Learning to be single is less about buying for one or figuring out how to sleep in the middle of the bed, and more about perception.
However you see it, whatever image or definition you give it, that’s what it’ll be. And how it’ll feel.
Sadly, for most of my 20-something life, I’ve closed my eyes and fearfully envisioned myself as a pasty-white, wrinkled prune of an old woman, nursing my ten cats and waking up to a cold bed, morning after morning, disgustingly alone and so beyond bitter that I’m apathetic. I’ve worried that by the time I met the right person, I would no longer look stunning in a wedding gown, or worse, my ovaries would be way past their expiration date and babies would be out of question. I’ve defined being single as not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. And then again, as being too strong-willed or independent, too much of this and not enough of that. Really, just that I wasn’t able to be loved for reasons beyond myself that I couldn’t change.
But that’s not what single is like – at least for me now, six months after the end of one possibility, and finally dealing with the hurt that came with a slow demise. Today, single means opportunity, and even more possibility than I’ve experienced before. It means I get to be on my own schedule, do what I want without considering another person each and every single moment. It means not having to answer to anyone or anything about my choices or my plans. It means I’m blessed to meet and enjoy other people – for brief periods of time or longer – and learn about what makes me happy. It means I can explore and navigate the city however I see fit, and that if the mood strikes me, kiss a stranger – or two – or not. It means that I’m thankful for (instead fearful of) this time flying solo, because the reality is, even if I don’t get married until 35 (Southern people, drop your jaw in unison), I’ll still spend the majority of my life promised until-death-do-you-part with someone else. It means that love could always be closer than I think, or further away, but that it doesn’t quite matter because I’m content here. I’m content now. With just me as my companion, with the life I’ve created, with the woman I’ve become. I didn’t do it all by myself and I’ve been luckier than most, but more than anything, even in those dark moments where I only put myself down, I still believed.
I’ve always believed in what I was capable of and what I was made of: lots of fiery passion and determination, an insatiable curiosity and a rose-colored imagination that always sees the best in people and in situations. And though I’m satisfied with where I’ve landed and where I’m at in this moment — sitting at a laundry mat before dinner with my fabulous gay husband — I’ll always still be the girl who believes in herself, but also in love and that one day I’ll find a person who feels the same way.
But for now, single is as single does. And single is what I’m damned proud to be. Finally.