Ever since I was 16 years old, I’ve embraced serious, committed and romantic relationships. There was my first boyfriend in high school and then another in college and then a nightmare for two years with another guy. It wasn’t always back to back, there were time gaps where I was kind of single but it was never for very long.
I never thought of myself as a serial monogamist because I felt confident about doing things alone, like attending social functions solo, and I was never the kind of girl to bring my boyfriend everywhere or feel as if I couldn’t be without him out in the real world. I used to think I just fell in love easily or that I loved love. But after taking 2017 to deliberately not date, I realized that I was in most of my past relationships for the wrong reasons.
Blame it on being raised by a single mother, not living with a father figure or all of the above, but somehow I had convinced myself I was more whole or worthy when someone else wanted me.
I remember one other time I truly wanted to be single. I was 21 years old, had just dumped a nightmare of a guy and was on my way to a study abroad trip to Spain with Rutgers University. I stood in line at the airport and made the decision right then and there, “Cindy, take the next 6 weeks of this trip to just enjoy Spain, be single and have fun.” But when I looked up I saw this tall, blonde, handsome guy and knew I was in trouble.
We started chatting and immediately hit it off. He happened to be on the same study abroad trip. We started off as friends on that trip and ended up dating for the next 10 years. We were inseparable. We only broke up once in that decade we were together but even in that 9-month break, I started dating someone which started out as a hookup but then led to a relationship. This was when I started to get the hint that I couldn’t always conveniently be in a relationship. This had to be my doing. But I wasn’t ready to face the music until the end of that decade-long relationship.
It wasn’t until toward the end of that 10-year relationship that I wasn’t happy yet I couldn’t leave. There were many reasons why but the main one that scared me was that I was deathly afraid of being alone. It felt like I couldn’t survive without him, especially having spent most of my adult life with him. But then something shifted. It was that same fear that became my motivation to leave. What would I do then? Who would I be?
And, yes, I dated right after I got out of that relationship, all mostly casual except for one year-long relationship, which was all way too soon.
While we may have broken up in 2014, it took about three years to completely shake him off. He tried to do the pop-in around March but since I was set on healing and moving forward, I calmly told him I wasn’t having it anymore. He either had to come in or out but he couldn’t stand in the doorway. He was blocking good energy from entering my life. Blocking him from email, phone, social media: it was difficult but oh so necessary to do.
During my dating cleanse last year, I found myself being tempted to date for the wrong reasons. I either felt lonely or wanted some “dating fun” but thankfully didn’t do it. I was way too proud of myself for being this self-aware. The thought of dating anyone felt exhausting. I got off dating apps, cut off guys I was talking to, and just hung out by myself. I was spent and needed alone time — something I had never given myself.
What if all that energy I put into a relationship was put inward instead? What would I do with all this extra time just for me? What if I now had all this time and energy to do the things I always wanted to do?
This was it. I’ve met women who truly meant that they were happy alone. I wanted to be one of those women. I finally wanted to be okay, elated even, at the thought of going home to an empty apartment and doing whatever I wanted with my time.
I had to ask myself, “What if it is just me with me for the rest of my life?” Because that to me was the worst case scenario. Would I be lonely? At times. Would I still be able to have kids? Yup, thanks to science. Would I have the life I always dreamt of? Not exactly but I would make it work as I did with so many other setbacks in my life. So if it was just going to be me rollin’ solo for the rest of my life, I thought it best to start loving my own damn company as soon as humanly possible.
This past year wasn’t just about finally healing from that 10-year relationship breakup but also about falling in love with myself. This meant really enjoying spending time alone, looking forward to doing things alone like an art museum or dinner, and even travel alone. I relished in long bike rides alone, hikes in nearby state parks, and going into NYC to just take photos. I fell back in love with cooking, watching movies alone and indulging in my very own Netflix marathons. Because if I really did love myself then I would love spending time alone, right?
Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I felt extremely lonely. But with every emotion, I reassured myself that it wasn’t going to last forever. I sat with loneliness and let it pass. I didn’t drown it with a glass of wine or distract it with a night out dancing. I sat there, even cried it out at times.
My solo road trip was a culmination of every “solo experience” I went after this year. I talked to myself in the car (something I had never done before), dove into audiobooks, performed my own version of carpool karaoke, and even enjoyed silence for a few hundred miles. My company in that car was all I needed.
Funny enough, it wasn’t until the last leg of the trip while sitting in a jazz club late one night in New Orleans that I truly saw what I gifted myself: an 18-day road trip around the United States. I quite literally gave myself a trip of a lifetime. After my 9-month dating cleanse, taking a cross-country, solo road trip, and traveling to Peru alone to see my family and explore, I’ve never felt more reassured and delighted at the pleasure of my own company.