It was early April of last year when I took a deep breath and said that’s it. I needed a break, and a long one at that. For over two years, I had devoted heart and soul to a toxic relationship that left me feeling less than whole. Integral pieces of my personality were missing. The things that once brought me joy no longer made me smile, not even in the slightest. I found myself relating to all the sad Taylor Swift songs, and listening to her upbeat bops just made me feel like I was missing out on something.
While spring was taking it’s time warming up chilly New England, I made a commitment to myself to stay single for a year. And that was at the very least. The amount of emotional trauma I’d experienced was enough to make me want to swear off men for the rest of my life.
In the span of the next four weeks, I bought my first pair of overalls. I went and got my ears pierced. I got unicorn underlights in my hair. I spun around in a chair at Ulta while two technicians taught me how to use foundation. I got a gym membership, and a pair of leggings that made my butt look great. I wasn’t trying to reinvent myself, I was reclaiming myself.
There were moments that summer when I realized I was smiling like I hadn’t in a long time. I sang along to Sam Hunt’s “Single For The Summer” like it was my personal anthem, and slowly learned that I didn’t need someone else to love me before I could love myself. There was no one around that I had to seek approval from for every outfit I wore, or every friend I made, or every event I wanted to go to.
The longer I was single, the more my personality returned. I felt like each day was better than the last and everything could only get better from there. It was my time to be selfish for once, and I took advantage of that. I thought there was no way things could get any better - and everyone in a relationship was missing out! I wasn’t jealous of my friends with significant others, I was content with my personal freedom.
Despite my best intentions, my biggest lessons came about when I ended my year early. Last April, I’d been so driven to just be alone for at least a year. But the universe clearly had other plans, because by December I realized I had it bad for someone. I didn’t even know his last name, but he made me laugh so effortlessly and had the kind of eyes I wanted to stare into for hours on end.
At first I was scared to feel something again for someone else. What if it turned out like last time? What if trusting someone new got my heart broken again? Wouldn’t it just be better to be forever alone? It would be safer that way, right?
Then I realized I didn’t care if I got my heart broken. I knew firsthand the kind of trouble I could get myself into with someone new, but I trusted myself enough to give it a try. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, so there was no point in hiding away forever when I had a chance at real happiness.
Starting a new relationship didn’t mean leaving behind everything I’ve learned in the past year. Being with someone didn’t mean I had to trade in my freedom, my confidence, or my new attitude. All it means for now is I have someone by my side while I continue to grow and take back every part of me I left behind.
I just wish I could show myself a year ago what life looks like now, to tell her that every struggle and night alone is worth it. But I can’t go back in time, I can only look forward to the year ahead of me and hope for the best.