Hey Nomi Leasure. Your articles have given me guidance on a level that can’t be fairly expressed in the restrictions of this message. I am trying to master the art of be alone. So cliche, I know. But this past year of being single (short, boring relationship that ended because of bad timing, and I’m not over an ex that I had an abortion with when I was 20), I’ve experienced a spectrum within being alone that I didn’t even know existed. There are categories in this thing… like mustering motivation, productivity and the desire to distract myself with as many toxic guys as possible – and I was just wondering if that was anything you could relate to or expand on? I value your opinion and I’m at a standstill in this journey. I’m restless over trying to figure out how to be alone in all levels and forms and I’ve never been so bored and panicked at the same time. – Kelly
Dear (Sort Of) Strong Female,
Kudos on your one year anniversary of alone-ness! I truly commend your ability to go as long as you have without sating your ego’s understandably strong appetite for external validation.
Honestly, this is a very refreshing message to get. Most girls, when they feel that overwhelming sink into lonesome land, go into emergency monogamy mode and cuff up with the first person to swipe right and text them back on a semi regular basis. They rush into relationships that make no sense and fit all wrong, displace their sense of self, twist themselves into complicated relationship drama, and then are heartbroken when it doesn’t work out.
Consider yourself lucky. You saved yourself a year of shitty sort-of-boyfriends. The best crap relationship is the one that never begins in the first place, right!? You truly are a strong female for that. How to be alone? Well, you’ve already proven that you can do that. You can, in fact, go a substantial amount of time without a boyfriend and live to tell the tale.
However, I’m sensing something that goes deeper than ex-relationships and dude drama here.
Why do you feel that without a boyfriend you are somehow alone in the world? What makes you feel that a partner will make you feel any less alone? Is your sense of loneliness solely tied to men, or is it a deeper loneliness, like not feeling connected to the world around you?
My read is that your sense of loneliness is rooted in not feeling as though you have meaningful connections in the world in general – and romantic relationships may just be a small segment of that overall gray umbrella. When you say you have trouble mustering motivation and being productive, feel panicked and overwhelmed, my honest thought is… you sound depressed. Or like a millennial twenty-something. They’re often one in the same. And good sex won’t cure that. Unfortunately.
And, sadly, neither will an advice columnist. It sounds to me like the best thing for you at this phase in life – when you’re feeling listless, overwhelmed, confused about which next steps to take, confused about what it is you even want from life – is to talk to a therapist. Because talking things out to someone who is literally paid to listen is kind of the best thing ever.
Next best thing to a therapist? A journal. Because ranting to a notebook that literally can’t judge you because it’s an inanimate object is also kind of the best thing ever.
You feel alone because you’re trapping your feelings inside and it’s making them seem more powerful than you know how to handle. Feelings are like farts – DO. NOT. HOLD. THEM. IN.
But you’ve come to me, and so I will give you my spit take response:
At twenty three what you’re feeling sounds perfectly normal. The world is overwhelming, guys mostly suck, and being a girl is hard. We feel that partnering up with men gives us more strength and protection – that at least we have that, a relationship, to hold onto – but it’s a farce. You’re not lonely; you’re uncomfortable and unfamiliar with yourself and you don’t know what you want. A relationship won’t fix that. A relationship is not a placeholder for drive, ambition or fulfilment. Just look at all the “happily married” women ensuring the sales of white wine and Prozac every year.
You have “overwhelmingly discovered” the vast, infinite abyss that is you-sans-male. You feel panic stricken at all the potential you-ness that lays in wait, and you feel bored because you know you’re being a little dramatic. You want something more than to sit around with your same old stinky, soggy emotions, which makes sense, because duh.
Boys are a beautiful waste of time. They’re the best way to get instant gratification without really doing much of anything. You don’t need a boyfriend, you need a hobby. You need a book club or a volunteer group or a rec soccer league. You need something you can connect to that will also fulfil some of your passions and interests. You are depriving your soul and then punishing it for being blue.
The journey of self discovery is daunting yes, but exciting and surprising and enchanting and erotic and playful and so, so satisfying if you approach it like magic instead of like after school detention.
Think not that you have been alone, but that you’ve in fact been with the most fascinating, interesting and important person you know – YOURSELF! Take care of yourself on this journey. Don’t punish yourself for not having it figured out by stewing in self-doubt. Don’t make enemies of the one person you can truly never escape.
I can’t tell you what next steps to take in your journey of self-actualisation because then it wouldn’t be your journey. But I will say you are certainly headed in the right direction. You are feeling things, pulling those feelings out, looking at them deeper and giving them names. You are peeling yourself apart. You are reflecting on your thoughts and emotions. You are abstaining from crap relationships. You are allowing yourself to be alone.
I beg of you to continue to work through this before taking a stab at another serious relationship. You have to say with confidence “I know who the fuck I am and I fuck with that person” before you are allowed to have another boyfriend, you hear me?
And stay away from toxic guys – it sounds contagious.