I’m dating myself.
It’s been twelve months now. Things are getting pretty serious. Quite frankly, I’m in this for the long haul.
As I clicked shut the door on my seven year long relationship a year ago, I distinctly remember thinking ‘I can do this… I’ve done it before… I can do this’.
But things were different. I wasn’t 21 this time. Suddenly I was almost 30 and it felt murky. So much had changed, but in essence, I felt like I was in a very similar situation to the one I had been in seven years before. I don’t think it’s unusual to lose yourself as you throw everything you have into trying to make something work. But if there is one thing I have learnt, it’s how important it is not to compromise your true self, in any relationship. Because I tell you what, if you don’t maintain a healthy relationship with you and things turn to shit and you end up in a big empty house on your own, it can be pretty damn scary. I remember sitting there alone feeling like I was sitting in a room with a complete stranger. I didn’t even recognise myself anymore. I felt dazed and raw and confused and in all honesty, I didn’t have a clue where to start.
So I introduced myself and I took that fragile and jaded woman on a date.
It started at the movies on a Tuesday morning with a bunch of ‘cheap Tuesday’ pensioners. There I was slouched in the back row with a bag of popcorn watching one of those deep arthouse movies I can never find anyone to watch with me. No one asked me questions. No one chewed loudly beside me. No one fell asleep (not that I saw anyways).
Date number two was dinner and beer at my favourite restaurant. I watched people. I love watching people. I realised as I sat there in silence that half the people who were out in the company of others sat there in silence anyway. Half drunk, I walked myself home. It was a pretty good second date. I’m pretty sure I even got lucky.
Things progressed quickly. Finally came the cosy Friday nights in – pizza, pen, paper, incense and my guitar. I’d dance around in my fishermans pants with a bottle of red, like a lunatic pretty much. Yep. Whatever.
Initially I felt pretty uncomfortable being out alone. But then it began to feel almost liberating and I relaxed into it. Now, if I don’t go somewhere on my own occasionally, I miss it. I have to book it in and tell people ‘sorry, I have plans…’
And as time passed, I began to understand myself a little more. I began to get to work on the things I didn’t like and began pushing myself in new ways. I drew new boundaries and in doing that, I found myself letting go more and more easily. It wasn’t always pretty. Such is life. Change seeped at my frayed edges and as I welcomed it, it started flowing in. I wanted to grow and forge a new way. So that’s what I did. It was messy. It lacked control. It was chaotic. It was wild. And it was beautiful.
Inevitably some people didn’t understand. They began to fade into the background as my priorities shifted and boundaries changed. My relationships with other people deepened, in a way I hadn’t believed possible and those relationships became so much more fulfilling. I’m no longer worried about admitting my flaws and weaknesses, because it means I can push through them and replace them with others. And I’m not really worried about sharing this – you can think whatever you want.
When I made the decision to take off and travel solo, it probably seemed like it had been an easy one. From the outside looking in, it probably seemed all brave and daring. But in my mind, things had been leading to that point for a long time. So I just made the decision, traded my possessions for a one way ticket and started looking at the map – all the while my friends were getting married or having babies or buying houses. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just my story. Everyone has one. I’d analysed things from every angle – made the same mistakes over and over. I needed spice, new sights, smells and sounds… I needed a whole new experience, if only for awhile.
People’s reactions have been interesting… but then I guess I just find people interesting in general.
One lady I know said:
‘But shouldn’t you be trying to settle down? What if you end up on your own?’
I tell you what. I’d much rather be on my own than in a relationship I spend my days complaining about – no matter my age. But then her questions weren’t about me, they were about her.
When I called my dad a few days ago:
‘Do you floss your teeth? Have you got travel insurance? Make sure you floss your teeth!’
People are funny. Dads are especially funny. They’re still dads – even when you have lived independantly for the last 14 years.
I like getting older. I feel like the last few years things have started to become much clearer. It still gets cloudy at times but I know more about what I want, or more specifically, what I don’t want. I am not nearly as worried about what people think as I used to be. I don’t always pay my bills on time. My house isn’t always clean. I’m not trying to please everyone else as much. I’m more appreciative of others and their unique beauty. I’m more accepting of people and the experiences they carry with them. I’m laughing more. I’m dancing more. I’m eating better. I’m adventuring more. I’m taking more risks. I’m saying ‘no’ more. I’m feeling less guilty. I’m saying what I think. And I’m facing my fears…
It’s become much simpler: I don’t care whether or not you think I’m smart enough, or beautiful enough, or skinny enough. I’m not looking for your approval. If you find my honesty too confronting, or you cannot handle my depth – or lack of (depth)… that’s fine, you can fuck right off pretty much. You don’t have to read this. I won’t mind at all.
Dating yourself takes commitment. It’s more like a relationship with someone else than I realised. It takes work. It takes sacrifice. There’s a tendency to take it for granted. Some nights you’re tired. Sometimes you fight with yourself. Sometimes you want to break up and find somebody new, or just escape for a little while.
But ultimately, you have to stick up for yourself. You have to promise yourself you won’t take shit and you have to follow your heart.
So I’ve promised myself – man or no man – I’ll continue dating me. I’ll continue to spend the occasional night at home alone with all my favourite things and will commit to it as I would plans with another person.
I’ve burnt the candle at both ends trying to keep other people happy for long enough. That’s not my responsibility. It’s theirs. And unless they are prepared to find ways to satisfy themselves, and stop blaming other people for their problems, not much will change for them.
So, I have a date tonight. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.
What are you doing?