Sex and the Smithie In Defense of Aloneness

I guess you could say I’m one of those people whom you could aptly call a “serial dater.” I’ve been in relationships (with two different men) for the past three years of my life. I’ve gone from one relationship to the next with barely enough time to breathe, let alone reflect upon the mistakes I made, or various lessons I learned while dating the person. As of now, I think it’s safe to say that my profound fear of being alone has sufficiently bit me in the butt. And I know I could say that I’m better off because of it.

One cannot escape aloneness. One can try – God knows I have – for the past three years, but the feeling of loneliness, of being alone within oneself, is wholly inescapable. It’s an indelible part of the human condition – the feeling of being totally alone in the world, of not being understood or truly loved, at least romantically, by another person. I can’t sit here and say that I do not, at times, feel incredibly lonely and long for a partner, a teammate, someone to love. But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I know that at this specific point in my life, I truly need to be alone. In fact, I am thriving on being alone, on finally learning how to effectively cope with my own thoughts, good and bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned an unimaginable amount from both of my previous relationships. I learned about myself and about being in a relationship in general, but I can also say that, in my experience, I used relationships as an excuse to shy away from working on my individual self. If I felt alone, I texted or called my boyfriend and sought the validation I needed and immediately felt exponentially better. Yes, it was comforting and felt nice – the immediate gratification, the immediate jolt of someone telling me I was beautiful and loved and their “one” – but, at the end, as much as it felt good, it didn’t necessarily help me heal or grow as an individual woman. The deepest wounds can only be mended from within, and I wasn’t devoting any internal energy to myself during those three years of being in a relationship; I was merely devoting them to the person I was with.

The first few weeks of being alone were, by far, some of the most gut-wrenchingly painful weeks of my college life. I wasn’t so much as heartbroken from being dumped by my long-term boyfriend, but shocked and bereft from the idea that I was, in fact, single for the first time in years. I remember sitting in my best friend’s bed the night my boyfriend broke up with me, surrounded by all 10 of my closets friends, asking them, out loud, how I was going to go on, wondering, out loud, how I was going to cope with me totally and utterly alone for the next chapter of my life.

When Junot Diaz wrote in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, “It’s never the changes we want that change everything,” he was on to something. Breakups are, emotionally, incredibly draining, but so are being involved in relationships that simply aren’t right. I’m excited and extremely terrified of embarking on this new chapter of my young adult life, but I am, most of all, ready for it. It’s about time.

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