During an emotional talk with a friend about how my relationship with the guy I’d been seeing on and off for over a year had once again fallen to pieces, I was told that I cling to people because I’m afraid of being alone. “I’ve never seen you happy and single at the same time,” he told me, and after the initial jolt of denial and anger at his assumption passed, I began to ponder whether or not this really was the case. To put this in perspective, I’m an introvert. I’ve never enjoyed crowds or large groups of people, my friend group has always been relatively small and close-knit, and I would choose Say Yes to the Dress alone on the couch in my living room over a wild party nine times out of ten. However, like most people, I have always been happiest when spending quality time with close friends or family members. I struggle when I don’t have someone to talk to about the things that excite or trouble me, but that’s not the point that my friend was trying to make. He was suggesting that I do not know how to be happy if I am not in a relationship, and after spending some time alone and having the opportunity to reflect upon this accusation, I came to a very obvious conclusion: I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of never again finding a love like that.
I didn’t enter into the dating game until rather late. I was single all throughout high school and only made fleeting connections during my first semester of college, but I was okay with that. I enjoyed the independence, I never longed for someone to wake up next to, and my desire for a boyfriend only lasted for half an hour after the latest romantic comedy movie that I had watched. I did date, and I made some great memories with some phenomenal people, but my feelings never seemed to be strong enough for me to fully invest myself in a relationship. I was comfortable in my solitude. I still am. Amidst everything that has happened in the past couple of years, this is the one thing that has remained constant, but another major thing has also changed. I fell in love.
They always say it happens when you least expect it, and I never fully comprehended what that meant until I met him. I wasn’t searching for anything serious at the time, but the ease with which I was able to open my heart to him and share the most intimate parts of who I am was something I had never experienced before. I finally mustered up the courage to sing in front of someone who wasn’t in my immediate family. As insignificant as that may seem, it was a huge moment for me. I was never afraid for him to see me laugh so hard that I snorted, embarrass myself miserably, or cry until my eyes got red and puffy. I began to picture my future with another person by my side for the first time in my life, and it was just as exciting as it was terrifying. At times, it was a selfless, beautiful, and all-consuming love. At other times, it was betrayal, it was lies, it was broken promises, and it was heartbreak. So why did I refuse to let go of it? Why was I stuck in this relentless cycle of heartache that was slowly eating away at me? Was I really that scared of being alone that I couldn’t remove myself from a situation that was breaking my heart piece by piece?
No, I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of never again finding a love like that. I’m scared that the fire that that boy lit in my heart will never stop burning no matter how hard I try to extinguish it. I’m petrified that every future relationship I have will be tainted by the love that we shared, the love that has become an integral part of who I am. I’m terrified that no one will ever make me feel so vulnerable, so passionate, and so alive. I’m scared that when I wake up next to someone else in the future, a part of me will always wish it were him. I’m worried that the imperfections that I once found so endearing will drive me away if they belong to anyone else. Instead of being cute and comforting, snoring will become a major annoyance that keeps me tossing and turning all night long. Rather than making me laugh, lighthearted jokes about my flaws will wreck my self-confidence and leave me feeling defeated. Kissing with morning breath will be disgusting as opposed to intimate, and arguing over what show to watch on Netflix or what radio station to listen to in the car will be the cause of one too many pointless arguments. I’m scared that there will always be songs that I won’t be able to listen to (I’m looking at you Adele) and places that I’ll have to avoid because I cannot stop the memories of us from rushing back. I’m terrified that no matter how successful I am in busying my mind with other, happier thoughts, the occasional dream of him will be a constant reminder of everything that I’ve lost.
So, in response to the advice that my friend gave me with the very best of intentions: No, I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of never again finding a love like that.