I haven’t been single since I was seven years old. Twenty-three years of jumping relationship to relationship, often to the next one before the last one ended. I sought validation, I sought the goals and dreams of my partners to become my own. I desperately craved the love and attention that I never quite figured out how to provide for myself in other people.
It makes sense. I was raised in a co-dependent family with much abuse and emotional neglect. My then step-father exposed me to much toxic masculinity, that he himself used to mask an underlying fear of abandonment and loneliness. He used romantic partners to validate his self-worth, to justify his existence. When his stability was threatened, he often turned to mental and emotional abuse to maintain his stranglehold and power over others.
While I can’t say that I’ve gone to such extreme lengths as he, there are behaviors that I’ve adopted from this framework of love and care that are harmful, not only to myself but to others. These habits are not conducive to a framework of genuine love and care, something of which I’ve desperately craved since I was a child.
“Sometimes you have to lose all you have to find out who you truly are.”
— Roy T. Bennett (The Light in the Heart)
As I sit here in my living room, I look around and see bare walls. As I walk upstairs, empty rooms. Over the past month, I’ve been focused on getting rid of absolutely everything and anything that tells me who I am. The things I’ve bought over the years to fill the voids within me, to distract me, artifacts from old friends and relationships. My 3D printers, my televisions, my coveted gaming PC, my cameras, clothing, furniture, everything – gone.
I own some clothing, a laptop, a tablet and a phone. Two vehicles, some tools, some bags. My soul is becoming lighter with every item I purge from my existence.
I find myself single, by choice. I’m embracing loneliness and independence. I cannot discover the depth of my being while being encumbered with another soul right now, or at least in the way that I’ve used to seek romantic relationships, the way that I used to exist. Friends and service rendered to others are very important to me, I cannot let these go, I cannot isolate.
However, I will no longer change myself, my goals, my core being for validation, for acceptance, to be liked, to be loved. I will not overly inconvenience myself due to other people’s inaction or lack of empathy, misunderstanding. I will no longer invalidate my core virtues and accept others in my company who I secretly despise for the sake of their approval. I am so overly done with only seeing the good in people.
To truly love, we must love ourselves. We must be comfortable being in our own company, alone. We desperately need our own goals, our own dreams, and aspirations. While reasonable compromise is important for any functional social relationship, we must not lose our core being and virtues to placate others.
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
For the first time in my life, I have set my own goals and dreams, unencumbered by the influence of possessions or people that tell me who I am. I am embarking on the greatest journey of my life, the most terrifying and wondrous adventure that I could fathom. One of little possessions, of solitude, of travel, of independence, and most importantly, a journey of self-discovery.
I will leave you with this