It’s almost here. You can see it at your local Hallmark store, grocery market, Walmart, and even at Starbucks. You notice the pinkish hue in the background of advertisements, the heart-shaped decorations, and the numerous discounts on candy. February is just around the corner and with it comes the cheesy, gooey holiday of Valentines Day where couples get to magnify their contentment and bliss a thousand fold, while us singles hiss at them as they stroll by, and throw Hershey Kisses at them from afar. No? Just me, then? Okay.
It seems like with every Valentines Day there comes a renewed, unspoken condemnation of people who are alone. There’s this unspoken notion that not having a significant other in your life at a certain point is considered “bad” and that you might as well carry a neon sign with you saying “Out of Order”. And while many feel that these feelings only happen to single women, trust me when I say it goes double for men. Aloneness knows no gender.
But here’s the real shocker: I’ve actually grown accustomed to being alone, and in fact have found numerous positive sides to it that I never really noticed before.
Let me backtrack for a second. For those of you who haven’t read my earlier articles, my greatest passion in life is acting – both on stage and on screen. During the day as my survival job I work as a personal trainer, which helps me pursue this topsy-turvy, bizarre dream of mine. And seeing as I live in the Mid-Atlantic region (D.C.) this requires frequent long distance trips on my own to as far north as Philadelphia, sometimes NYC, and as far south as Wilmington, North Carolina. When getting started in this tough industry, just like any other field, it becomes impossible to strike an even balance between work and relationships. And at this point I can be completely honest in disclosing that my social life on any given day of the week closely resembles a sloth on Ambien.
As an actor you spend arduous hours working with people trying make their film passion projects, often times for little to no pay. You have to carve out the spare chunks of your free time and devote it toward honing your skills, studying the craft, networking, learning new audition tricks, and reading up on the industry. In many ways, an actors mentality closely resembles that of a professional athlete training for a big championship game – both have to train their mind, body, and spirits in order to persevere and give their very best in chasing after their dream. And as naïve it may seem to say, it is true that the rewards of seeing your creative work come to life are worth far more than any paycheck. It’s an intense, magical, and often times lonely journey.
Yet during all these long-distance drives to set, alone in my beat-up Toyota, blasting “Eye-to-Eye” from A Goofy Movie through my speakers, I’ve spent a lot of time alone without any distraction of deadlines, meetings, reports, and yes – social media noise. And in that space I’ve realized many things that beforehand lay just beyond my awareness.
For one, I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin now that I know both my individual flaws and flairs. I’m extremely impatient. Even the idea of waiting in line kills me a little bit inside, but I’m completely willing to drop everything to help someone in need. I’m the epitome of a Type A personality in that I’m achievement-oriented and always strive to do my very best, yet often I’m my own worst critic and can thoroughly tear myself down on the worst of days. But time and time again, I get back up, dust myself off, build myself back up stronger than ever and start again. I have a witty, weird and self-deprecating sense of humor that gives off the impression I don’t care about what people think about me, but will spend ten whole minutes dissecting the multiple meanings behind the text message, “What are you up to?” When working in a team, I treat everyone with respect and give them my absolute respect and dedication. Unless they’re stupid, then my tolerance goes flying out the window. And I have zero qualms about dancing outrageously in public to bad techno music, but the thought of asking someone I like to dance is enough to send me into tachycardia.
Being on my own has given me a greater understanding of who I am as an individual. And with this greater understanding comes a greater degree of self-respect and a complete inability to settle for the sake of settling. I have had the one-night stands and the flings that were flung. But if I find that one person that wants to take my heart in their hands and care for it, they’re going to have to prove their worth just as I will have to prove myself to them.
Being single, on my own, alone, or however you want to label it has also informed my choices as an actor and a creative – particularly the importance of listening and thinking before you speak. To give an example, this past weekend during the Women’s March on Washington and around the world there were a number of energetic speeches from celebrities like Madonna and well-known actresses including Ashley Judd and America Ferrera. Many stars believe that they should use their claim to fame, or the characters they portray, as a pulpit from which they can voice their opinions on social and political issues, as is their right and should be encouraged to do so. But for me, I’ve discovered that there’s a greater power when you take on a role, you explore it and live it as objectively as possible so that when you portray it on stage or on screen it is authentic, substantial, and real. And then you leave it all for the audience members to digest, discuss, and engage with of their own free will. If you let them do that, instead of telling them what is right to believe, the degree of impact you have in influencing their perspective on life becomes that much more enhanced. Being on my own has taught me that, that you should take greater stock of what you say so that it has meaning and value.
Being on your own shouldn’t be considered shameful, a crime, or some stigma that must be avoided at all cost. Just as it is with all extremes in life, too much loneliness and solitude can become a problem. But in that space you fully engage with who you are as a person, can accept your character, and move on with a greater empowerment and self-confidence. You also realize that life goes on and will continue to move on, so don’t ever wait for permission to explore life to the fullest. If you allow yourself this time to surf through life on your own, to experience both the ups and downs, to feel really human when you’re in pain – that exemplifies a special kind of courage. And when you make it out from that tunnel, your mind is clear, your fresh in spirit, and you’re ready to shine brighter than ever, without the necessity of someone else to light the match.