I’ve been single for the better part of a year and a half for the first time in my adult life. There have been plenty of stages of my Singlehood I've dealt with ranging from denial to anger to rebellion to depression to empowerment to everything in between. It’s been a long journey learning to love myself enough for two people (at least, that’s how I saw it at first) and then learning to morph those into one.
Being single has been amazing for my growth as a person. I’ve learned to value my friendships more, I’ve learned to do things alone, I’ve learned to embrace everything that comes with being 100% independent and no one’s but my own. I’ve learned to take life less seriously and to have fun. I have learned that I love meeting new people and going on dates and making friends and getting “out there” and making connections, no matter what level of romantic implication they have. I’ve learned how it feels to have a true girls’ night without anything keeping me tied to my phone or going home early. Overall, I’ve learned that I don’t particularly want a serious relationship in the near future unless someone magically shows up whom I can’t help but claim forever. I am enjoying my current relationship status and I am happy with being single.
But I have recently realized that even if I say I am, I am not happy with being alone.
The difference between being happy single and alone is that being happy single is something that happens when you want to overcompensate or to deflect. It’s using short-term attention gain as a way to make up for feeling unwanted, insufficient or unimportant. It’s pretending that everyone is just like that guy who ghosted you and saying you don’t want the drama anyway. It’s claiming you want to work on yourself when, really, you’re just trying to fix the things that have pushed people away. It’s having to be talking to someone (or 2 or 3 or 4 people) all the time throughout the day to feel safe, and starting new conversations when those people don’t text you back. It’s hyper-focusing on all of the cons to relationships: feeling constrained, being responsible for someone else’s happiness, possibly having less time for your job or friends or family. Being happy single is thinking that you don’t need to depend on anyone else to feel content with life when you’re getting tons of compliments a day or constantly getting asked out on dates, and then wondering why you’re depressed when you're not. It’s constant action so you can’t stop and wonder how you really feel. It’s chasing. Being happy single is a step in the process of being Just Happy, but it’s pretty far removed. This was me for a long time. I was thinking I was just happy, and mostly I am, but it’s pretty clear that I was still trying to fill a void I haven’t fully been able to fill myself, even if I know that’s not how it should be.
Being happy alone (I imagine) is realizing that you don’t need to compensate for anything. It will be the point where you realize you can function and still feel some sort of self-worth even when flirty people aren’t DMing you all day. It will be understanding that not everyone will like you and not everything will work out, but that doesn’t mean there is some kind of fault within you. There will be no anger or resentment or desperation. Certainly there can still be a desire for connection, but it will not be one that is founded in simply needing the reassurance that you’re a decent person. It will be knowing that finding "the one" right now isn't the deciding factor for a successful life in the meantime.
It will be genuinely feeling what you claim you've been feeling for months. You will learn that you don’t even notice when you spend time alone or friends have to cancel plans because you do not need constant help in feeling like you're enough. You will learn that you are 100% a complete person without a significant other, and that someone you want to love will not be one that fills your gaps, but rather will take you as a mass and embrace you as the whole that you are.