At 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2015, I watched fireworks cascade over Chicago from the window of my friend’s condo, squinting hard at the flickers of white, red and gold. I stared hard into the city, pretending to be unaware of the couples around me sharing kisses for good fortune in the new year. I was the only one without out a mate at this party, so I had no choice but to put some faith into those fireworks.
Going into this year, I was lonely and sad. My half-hearted attempts at finding love were only bringing me more lonely nights and I was furious with my singlehood. I scanned Pinterest for Cheryl Strayed quotes and uplifting sayings in white block lettering on black backgrounds. I read my love horoscope daily and any article on Thought Catalog about remaining hopeful about love. My friends and I reassured each other with text messages of, “This will be our year.”
For months I walked through this desolate fog, until one day in June I had an OK date with a guy I met online. We had another OK date. And then a really great date. Three weeks later, I entered into one of the happiest, most fulfilling relationships of my life. All of those lonely nights infused with tears and too much red wine suddenly made sense because they were part of my path to this wonderful man. It’s still too early to tell if he will be with me at the end of 2016, but he will be by my side as it begins, and that is more than enough.
Before I could come to this great love, though, four things needed to happen. I only know this looking back, but I share them in hopes of helping others who feel stuck in their search for love.
1. You have got to be brave.
A big, monstrous love is not going to find you while you are hanging out in your comfort zone. You have to put yourself in new situations, maybe trying things that take a few deep breaths beforehand. You need to put yourself out there, whether it be through online dating apps or attending events by yourself and striking up a conversation with a stranger. You have to risk failure and rejection over and over for that one single moment when it all clicks.
2. You have to breakup.
Breakup with the girl who won’t commit to plans. Breakup with your former high school sweetheart whose Facebook you stalk on Friday nights after too much to drink. Breakup with the idea that love will solve all. You have to get honest about what a true relationship is and how people in them behave. Once you see that real love is a mess of emotions but with people who at their center care about you, and then you will have the full heart and mind to find it.
3. Keep going.
You will not meet your soul mate on the very first date. You might date for six months before you realize she isn’t the one. That’s OK; you are not on a timetable. If at the bottom of your heart you truly want love, you need to keep going until you find it. It may take longer than you would like and it may come in a form you didn’t expect, but you will never find it if you stop.
4. Be kind to you.
It’s so trite to say that you need to love yourself before you can find love, but anyone who has ever written about love has said this exact thing in one way or another. You need that love for yourself that is deep down at the center of your being, and you need it to act as a shield, allowing only those that will respect it and offer a similar love to enter. The love for yourself will be your lighthouse, so let it shine brightly and it will guide in only the good and true.