Seasons of Solitude: The Journey to Knowing Yourself
I have seized an abundance of noteworthy experiences; traveled to many different countries, built lasting relationships with people from all over the world, and can truthfully say I’ve created a life I’m proud of and excited for. Though I can’t say falling in love has ever been on this list of treasures. When people talk of romance I know only so much, and I suppose it’s true one will never know an intimate sort of love until it’s felt. There have been many wonderful men who have walked into my life, many men who have thrilled me, even courted me, and have ultimately contributed to the ways in which I have grown and matured over the last 10 years. Though none whose names have been etched in my memory bank. I have been single for nearly nine years now.
When I let a detail like that slip, often times people look at me wide eyed. It’s not normal per say. Im 23. Certainly, I should’ve had a high school sweetheart, even a serious boyfriend through college, or even a more serious relationship after college. But no, it never quite happened that way. I come from a family of intellectuals, my brothers and I grew up discussing politics at the dinner table. We learned how to articulate what we felt and never to be ashamed of speaking our truth. I grew up with parents who encouraged me to think intellectually, they listened to my thoughts intently, and have further challenged those beliefs my entire life. It would make sense that I would desire a similar connection in my adult relationships. My hunger for deep and meaningful relationships is what propels everything I stand for. And because of this, I thrive and I also suffer.
I have watched my best friends develop fulfilling relationships with men who adore them. I have counseled them, cried with them, rejoiced with them. There have been moments where I’ve wrestled with my own bitterness, days where I would’ve given anything just to feel what they felt, just to feel loved by a man who truly knew me. Part of me wonders if I’m missing the boat, if I’m gambling on a love that will never come. Have I set the bar too high? Have I shut out possibilities of significant relationships out of fear that they never could be? Though I can think of nothing more suffocating than being bound to a lukewarm relationship. I hold no grudges, no remorse, nor guilt; but I have no love songs to commemorate my name, and no lasting relationships to speak wistfully of.
So, this is where my advice to you begins. It's been nine years of the most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had: the one with myself. How does one cope with solitude? Whether you’ve been single for many years, or just now exiting an existing relationship, there are many ways to brave the world of aloneness. It starts with one’s own natural disposition. You have to come from a place of love. I see it again and again; women who are afraid of being alone. Though how can anyone blame them when we live in a society that says singleness correlates with insufficiency? This is simply not true. On the contrary, singleness… can be one of the most extraordinary times of your life. And this how I choose to view it, everyday I choose to walk on the side that says it is only a gift.
There is security in companionship. Humans have an unceasing thirst for intimacy; we look for connection in all areas of our lives, and we seek out those who we feel can fulfill those desires. So when romantic companionship is missing, we can feel empty, like something truly significant is ceasing to exist. Instead of pushing these feelings away, sit with them. You can have a longing in your heart, and still find a way to be satisfied and fulfilled in your life. There is no shame in wanting a partner, in seeking a life that has all the essential components connecting. The problem arises when you forgo possibilities in your present, when there is a fixation on something that isn’t there. I’ve learned to practice the art of contentment, but this is something you have to actively pursue. If we look close enough, we can see there are ways to feel content in solitude.
Singleness is a time that allows for growth and self-discovery apart from inhibition. I know myself in a way that is so intimately, and beautifully untouchable by anyone else. I’ve used this time of aloneness to wrestle with my deepest insecurities, vulnerabilities, and sorrow. Yet in these dark moments of truth, I’ve also seen parts of myself that are covered in goodness and in grace. Over these last 9 years I have actively made the time to know myself; fully and unfiltered. Deep down I have known it could never be done with a partner. No, the edge have self discovery had to be done in only the company of myself.
I’ve learned that not only am I capable, I’m strong. I’ve learned how to care for myself in a way that’s holistically loving and nurturing. I’ve learned how to cheer myself up, and make room for healthy criticism where needed. Of course, there are days where I miss a man I’ve never known, where I desire the deep intimacy of a romantic relationship. Though I have found companionship in many corners of my life: in my love of writing, in my thirst for fellowship, in passion for my blog, in my excitement for travel; all these give me such joy and ask of me so much. I give myself to these passions and they love me back in a way that is endlessly fulfilling and produce such happiness and exhilaration. When I look at my life, when I step back and look down, I know I have been loved deeply through each of these.
There is a quote by Matt Kahn I’ve always liked. It goes, “Despite how open, peaceful, and loving you attempt to be, people can only meet you, as deeply as they’ve met themselves.” This is an invitation to heartily knowing oneself. My wish for you is an endless walk of self-love and discovery. May you sit quietly with yourself in moments of sorrow and in joy. Be truthful, ask questions, dig deeper. Whether you find yourself alone, or in relationship this season, make room for your own company. Just as we love and get to know others, you, yourself is asking of only the same. May you meet yourself deeply.
Author: Anna Vatuone | @annavatuone