Nine months ago, when my parents shut my apartment door behind them, quietly extricating themselves, my biggest fear was something altogether unexpected.
It wasn’t starting my first job out of college, flying solo in a brand new place, learning the names and faces of strangers. It wasn’t mastering my Saturday morning route to Target or analyzing the best times to grocery shop.
I was scared because, for the first time, I was alone with myself.
In high school, I had clung to lack of a relationship status the way one might a shrunken recreational league soccer t-shirt from their youth: with the comfort it brought, the fear of being somebody’s Somebody much too much to stomach.
Then, mid-way between high school and college, I jumped feet first into a real relationship. It felt a bit like landing in one of those sidewalk chalk sketches in Mary Poppins: like this world was always beneath my feet, but I’d been too busy fearing the fall to see it.
For eighteen months, I became half of someone else’s whole. I let that relationship consume me.
My habits, my opinions, my unsure tendencies? They wrecked me.
For almost three years, I alternated between being defined by others and closing them out for fear they might not like the person they’d pinpointed.
People pushed me into corners, telling me I was never as good as them. I let myself become best at one thing: not handing my whole self over.
And so while I wholly adore the life not tethered to another breathing soul, it’s probably for all the wrong reasons: that I’ll be judged, in the worst possible way, as someone who cannot possibly be understood over a plate of pasta or a cup of coffee; that I’ll be too quiet, too thoughtful, too introverted, too passionate about all the wrong things; that I will be the sort of person who makes you cock your head and think, “Huh, well if that’s what makes you happy…”
And that’s wrong. Let’s just call it what it is.
We weren’t meant to tout singledom like an exemplary indication that we are somehow better for not putting our heart into someone else’s hands and closing their fingers over it, whispering a brief “please be careful” before kissing their cheek.
We are not better. We are not worse. We are just in this place where right now, aloneness is the scariest, most rewarding thing we need to hold. Not hands or hearts or silver diamond bracelets, but our truest selves.
That’s what this living alone, this owning up to myself, has been. It’s what being single should allow: a moment, however brief, to know who you are when you don’t have to be somebody, when you don’t have to impress somebody under some false pretense to make them stay.
Someday, you’ll be able to jump into a relationship and know you really, really dislike folding the laundry, or wearing your hair up, or driving fifteen miles over the speed limit.
You’ll feel content with that, won’t have to messy it with self-effacing thoughts.
You’ll feel right when your hand finds another on a snowy Saturday afternoon.
You’ll know, maybe for the first time, that you don’t have to apologize for you. And you’ll be OK to dive into something more.