Guest Post by Aubrey H.
Until a few months ago, when I read an article shared by an especially close friend of mine, I thought I was in the minority. I know many women my age who have expressed an internal yearning for coupling, which never seems to resound with me. Even my friend who shared the article had herself found someone with whom she presumably would like to spend a life time. In the piece, Katie Bolick details a disconnect between the reality of working women and the ubiquitous pressures of traditional gender roles. In doing so, she examines the anxieties that arise when a woman privileges independence over “happily ever after.” One sentence in particular struck a chord. Bolick laments, “My problem, as I saw it, lay in wanting two incompatible states of being—autonomy and intimacy.”
Of course, this got me to thinking about my own struggles with relationships. As I have embarked on my singlehood at the ripe old age of 28—going on 29—I find that I straddle two mutually exclusive paths. One which requires a marriage and one which requires a substantial stash of condoms and an endless litany of justifications.
Now, let me just clarify here that I do not wish to pursue a life of rampant promiscuity; nor do I mind explaining that my obtaining a doctorate has taken precedence over the gender script I choose not to follow. Rather, I prefer to pursue autonomy, absolute agency even. Next month marks one year since I finally decided to move in by myself. That makes me one of many (32 million to be exact) who are living solo in the U.S.
In my previous 27 years, I barely had enough personal space to breathe. I shared a room with my sister for a decade and a half. Four years in high school were spent in a “room of [my] own,” a transition which left me begging my little sister to spend the night. College came and went, but it was accompanied by my intense phobia of being left alone. I became ensnared in a deeply codependent relationship, my first love, in which my identity became his. I dreaded the holidays months in advance, but summer session hit me the hardest. I simply could not be left alone—I needed friends, a social event, a drink, something or someone to console me in his absence.
The fact was I had never learned how to be alone. I had never spent the time to sit with my own thoughts. Even my childhood and subsequent intimate relationships were entirely consumed in chaos. When it had been my choice to leave this environment, I flourished. When someone else had made that choice, which is what happened with the man whom I loved tirelessly for seven years, I collapsed. To be alone, in those days, meant to face my crippling loneliness. It meant to be alone with someone who had given her identity freely and unconditionally to someone else.
Last year, when I finally decided enough was enough, I conquered a once terrifying impossibility. I am the happiest I have ever been. At 28—not quite 29—I am finally learning to know and love myself.
This brings me back to the anachronistic notion that women on the eve of turning 30 should begin looking for a relationship. Or she is told, at the very least, she should begin to question whether motherhood is a real possibility for her. The clock is ticking, after all.
Nearly a year ago, someone came into my life who would unselfishly love me as much as anyone deserves to be loved. Yet, I refused to relinquish my freedom. You see, the timing was all wrong, my clock isn't ticking. Right now is not my time to couple; right now is my time to revel in solitude. Yes, I want to feel love again. I miss the closeness of love. I miss its intricacies and difficulties. I miss love for its ability to strip me down to nothing and build me into something at the same time.
But in this moment, despite persistent social pressure, I am content in romantic isolation. It is as much my choice as it is my fate to be alone. And so, I end by deferring to the beautiful and gracious Tricia DiGaetano: “Try to remember to love as much as you possibly can. If the train doesn’t stop at your platform, it’s simply not your train.”
THANK YOU: Since this is a blog of gratitude, I'd like to extend a warm thank you to Tricia for letting me share a post with all of her amazing readers! xoxo, Aubrey