Fuck, I love being single so much.
Maybe too much. I was, for all intents and purposes, single for the first 23 years of my life. Not entirely on purpose, but mostly on purpose. I had crushes that didn’t work out. I felt lot of unrequited feelings. I also had offers, not infrequent offers, that I wasn’t interested in for whatever reasons.
And so, I was single. It was all I knew. When, at 23, I started dating my first boyfriend, it was a terrifying transition. I had many panic attacks. I had also just moved not just countries but continents. In that strange new land he provided me with a social anchor that I couldn’t let go of easily, and so I forced myself to work through the panics. That wasn’t the reason I was dating him, but it is the reason I stayed despite the fear of so much change. Anyway, this post isn’t about him. That’s for another time.
Since being 23 I’ve dated on and off, and my longest single period was probably between 28 and 30, about two years in which I moved back to NYC and dated a LOT but never anyone for longer than a month or so. I don’t remember that time super well, but for various reasons (also, perhaps, for another post) I wasn’t very happy. Moving back to NYC and figuring out how to live there was a lot of work.
I’ve now been single for, well, it’s hard to count exactly but let’s say for roughly ten months. And finally, once again, I fucking love it. I remember how much I loved it when I was younger.
In fact, it’s possible I love it more now. I love it with a kind of ferocity that comes from thirteen years of being in and out of relationships that weren’t quite right, of struggling against that, of thinking something was wrong with me, of taking on far more than my fair share of the mental load for running those relationships, of taking on far more emotional labour than I should have. Of losing my autonomy, and myself.
Not that I think you lose your autonomy in relationships – I don’t think you do, or not as easily anyway, when they are the right relationships. (Also a topic for another post!) But what are ‘right’ relationships, and how the hell do you spot them? Turns out, I had to go through a huge roster of wrong ones in order to figure that out.
And here I am. I wrote about how I went on a few dates in May, and then stopped – I’ve still stopped. This break might last longer than I had originally anticipated.
Last year was a difficult year, personally. Between what I refer to at times as ‘my injury’ and at others ‘sciatica’ (it’s kind of neither and both), my movement has become restricted. I have to be careful not to make that worse. It’s finally, finally, getting a lot better, but it’s a slow slog, a daily process of figuring out where to sit and how to sit and focusing on standing correctly and then noticing that I’ve lost the right posture and figuring it out again and getting frustrated because my core isn’t strong enough to stand up easily yet but I can’t work out my core because I might do damage and just ughghghghgh. It’s a painstaking process especially for someone as impatient as I am.
There were also other stresses: I dated two people in the fall of last year, both of which ended, one in a particularly stressful and ambiguous way. I was teaching more students than I’d ever taught before, having to manage TAs for the first time in my life with zero institutional guidance, in an area I was teaching myself about frantically as I went along. There was just a lot of intellectual and professional and social stress. I felt boxed in by various pressures. I felt sedentary, and my symptoms got a lot worse between December and February. I didn’t have enough time for my own work, but I set myself external deadlines so that I’d have to do it anyway. I pushed through, but at the end of the year (April) I was exhausted.
And then TC didn’t work out, and that was disappointing, but it’s rare I like people as much as I liked him, and so I just cannot imagine picking up and dating someone else anytime soon. Not because I’m pining for this man, I’m not, I was finished with pining in my early 20s because it’s such a waste of good time and energy. What I mean is that my stores got maxed out last year in general, and I think it will just take a long time to replenish that energy.
And so I’ve been taking the space that I lost last year back. I’ve been doing more yoga to try to strengthen muscles that have weakened/frozen into positions that are perpetuating pain/damage. It’s not as much as I’d like to be doing, but it’s safe for my body and it’s something. I’ve been doing an overhaul of all of the clutter I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve been a part of a reading group that keeps me feeling grounded in a university community. I’ve been writing my dissertation almost every day, and it’s coming along really well. Still super slow, and in lots of ways frustrating, but good. I’ve also been writing loads of other things: other academic stuff, blog stuff, review stuff. I’ve hung out with friends and on my own. Mostly with low-stress friends, people who are not work to be around. I can’t do a lot of emotional work right now, not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t have it in me.
And I’m not even lonely? I mean, okay, let’s be real, I have moments of loneliness. But, it’s by far not the dominant theme. I’ve gone from feeling boxed in by my life to feeling like I have room to move again, room to breathe, both literally and figuratively. I feel more in control of the things I’ve let go of for too long. I finally feel relaxed for the first time in well over a year.
And who knows when I’ll date again, but I just don’t really care right now. I’ve had a few offers this summer, and the offers were wonderful and flattering and heartwarming – and something almost came from one of them, but in the end I chose not to pursue it. I just feel too good right now, like I really need this time and space for myself, to reset and to figure out how I want my life to look. And let me tell you, it feels fucking amazing.