When You Only Know How To Be Alone
Life

When You Only Know How To Be Alone

I really think that there is particular strain of people who are simply born to be in relationships.

I don’t mean this in a patronizing way – it’s not as though the entire lives of these people are oriented toward falling and staying in love. These people have goals and ambitions. They have hopes and dreams. They have meaningful, important lives and yet they also happen to be intuitively good at sharing those lives with others. They can compromise and cooperate. They can give love and freely receive it.

I’d imagine this is an excellent way to be.

I’d imagine that the capacity to prioritize other people is indicative of a strong self-concept. That the people who can enter and remain in relationships without second-guessing themselves every step of the way have something figured out that the rest of us haven’t.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t know.

Nothing about relationships has ever felt natural to me.

I think that if there is a particular strain of relationship people, I must be of the opposite breed. The kind that looks at the task of combining two lives together as a sort of emotional Everest. The kind that feels their chest constricting at each milestone they surpass. The kind that sees compromise or accommodation as the ultimate betrayal of themselves – even the best kind of compromise. Even the healthiest, most expansive form of interpersonal growth.

It’s as though there’s a quiet, insistent voice in the back of my mind that consistently warns me not to give or lend too much, for fear that there’ll be nothing left over. That enough giving will simply tap me dry. As though hearts and happiness and love are finite measures that must be conserved at all costs. As though giving in on even the smallest matter runs the risk of bowling me over.

And none of this is born from a lack of love. If I hear one more person tell me, “With the right person it’s easy,” I’ll be ready to tell them where to go. Because I know for sure that I’ve met the right people: The people who entice me. Who inspire me. Who stop time dead in its tracks with every kiss, every message, every smile. I’ve met people I’ve wanted to make it work with so fucking badly that it’s driven me half-mad trying to twist, fold, rearrange my life to align itself alongside theirs. Asking them to bend over backwards to accommodate mine. And yet, it never quite seems to work. Love the feeling is simple and uncomplicated. Love the action is the eternal fitting of a square peg into a perfectly rounded hole.

And over time I’ve started to wonder: Are some of us born only knowing how to be alone?

So many people seem to find it so natural to lend themselves to others: To give time and emotion and investment away, never worrying about what they’re losing in the process. Never wondering how else they could be using that time. Investing that energy. Harnessing that emotion. But for a particular variety of people, it’s haunting – any small act of giving up ourselves.

Because the thing is, I belong completely to myself.

I always have.

Even as an extrovert who craves interaction in a borderline insatiable way, I’ve never felt alone with myself. I’ve never felt incomplete without someone else. I’ve never had to look to those around me to define, identify or complete me. I’ve known who I am and what I want out of life for as far back as I can remember. And ninety percent of the time, that is a blessing.

It’s a blessing when you need to go seek what you want out of the world on your own. It is a blessing when you need to take risks in a way that requires true self-confidence. It is a blessing when you push yourself professionally, academically, personally, to move eternally closer to the life that you want.

But the remaining ten percent of the time it’s a curse.

It’s a curse when you fall in love with someone else. It’s a curse when you start to grow up – when the camaraderie of being young and foolish together subsides and people begin to settle into real relationships – the kind that require interdependency. It’s a curse when you want that, too. When you want to be able to compromise so badly that it tears you apart at the seams. And yet some deeply seated part of yourself won’t let go.

Won’t let go of the notion that your heart isn’t meant to belong to someone else. That nothing will ever be bigger or stronger or more important than the life that you want on your own. That no matter how much you love somebody else, you are never going to be able to achieve one hundred percent of what you want out of life while you belong, in part, to someone besides yourself.

That you were never meant to be half of a whole. That you’re already complete on your own.

And as soon as this mindset consumes you, you’re done. You know that at some point or another, no matter how badly you want things to work with someone else, they will always, inevitably, fall apart. They fall apart slowly. They fall apart seamlessly. They fall apart in a series of small, covert moments where you choose yourself over the other person. When you say no instead of yes. When you go instead of stay. When you only pretend to entertain the option that would be the best for both of you, because you already know what is best for yourself.

And what’s best is always going to be the thing that calls to you. The thing that entices you. The thing that haunts you in the dead of night when you are lying happily in bed beside somebody else.

Because some people were born intuitively knowing how to love and some were born intuitively knowing how to be alone.

Maybe a happy mixture of both can be achieved eventually.

But for now, you only know how to be alone. TC mark

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