I’m twenty-six. I’m on the brink of my late twenties (passing my mid-twenties this past November) and on the slow but steady journey to hitting thirty. Changes have been happening at a rapid pace — family and friends are moving, jobs changing, new career paths are being pursued, and we’re all finally starting to get into a groove that surpasses the immense uncertainty that surrounds your early twenties. The biggest adjustment has been, however, that my friends are getting married. I’m talking about close friends — not distant primas or primos, or older siblings of friends, but people I grew up with for most of my life.
With a new engagement springing up every minute (and a wedding invite happening at least once every other engagement), I’ve had to do some introspective thinking. I haven’t had much of a choice with outside pressure and questions that push me to decide on what I want with each passing day. As each friend of mine gets proposed to, someone jumps into action, asking me when I’m going to get married, what my plans for the future are, or, in an even less subtle approach, ask who I’m dating and why they haven’t met this “lucky guy” yet (which is also incredibly limiting because—who said it had to be a guy?).
The answer that greets them is one that is always met with shock, surprise, and even slight disgust by some of the older women in my life.
“I’m not seeing anyone, I’m spending time alone,” I’d say.
“Alone? But, mija, aren’t you going to be so…bored? Lonely? What will you do?” I’d get asked.
My answer is consistently the same: “I will continue to live my life the way I always have.” I’m here to tell you this: it’s perfectly okay to want to be alone. I know those who continue to ask these questions mean well, but after some reflection, I know that the word alone is the issue (outside of these people not understanding that what I do is no one’s business but my own).
Loneliness, alone, etc. has a negative connotation that is usually associated with isolation. The side that people don’t see is that alone in this case simply means independence and absolute freedom. Another fact that isn’t considered is that this is a conscious choice I am making — I am choosing to live my life this way. I have decided that I don’t want a partner or companionship. I want to explore myself in all possible ways — without the influence of a partner, having to consider the choices of others, or having to think about someone else in the same breath that I’m thinking about myself.
Is this selfish? Absolutely! That is another word that brings a negative read to the conversation — but, learning how to be selfish, to put yourself first, and to consider your needs before you can understand those of others is a vital step in growth. After being in relationships again and again, I’ve learned that I had never learned how to put my needs first or how to prioritize my happiness. How could I plan on watering the flowers in someone else’s garden, if I didn’t understand how to water my own?
It was time that I began to explore things on my own, and found that it was easier than expected. I learned that I love going to the movies by myself, that there’s not a meal I won’t eat at a table for one, and that I have no qualms going to parties, weddings, and more by myself. Once I started trusting this confidence and the idea that my only support system in these situations was myself, my confidence blossomed and most importantly, my awareness for others and myself was heightened. Being your own safety net is a vital part of learning the ins and outs of who you are. Yet now that I was able to articulate my own points, stood my own ground, and relished in the idea of solitude, I was able to listen more, have more eye-opening conversations, and was happier for those in my life that found that companionship. It’s overwhelmingly refreshing to do what makes you happy versus what people expect you to do.
Is it always easy? Fun? No, of course not. It takes work, commitment, and compromise, just like relationships with others. Are there times where I miss companionship or having someone by my side? Yes. I’m never going to avoid that truth. I do remind myself, however, that I am happier now than I ever was in a relationship for the simple fact that I’m doing this because I’m ready for this step.
This choice, again, my conscious choice to fall in love with myself, to revel in my independence, and to love doing things alone and be my own partner, has allowed me to understand relationships, dynamics, and friendships on a deeper level. It’s allowed me to casually date if I ever feel the need, but also has given me the ability to be more upfront and honest with partners that might want more. I love not being exclusive and finding refuge in solitude on my terms, and I want to encourage you to be bold enough to do the same. I encourage you to look at yourself and to put yourself in a situation, alone, to see what you can handle (and it’s a lot more than you give yourself credit for).