Table for One
For the vast majority of my twenties so far, I’ve been single. And no. This isn’t going to turn into an open discussion regarding the shortcomings of my various exes. However, I do believe one of the things I found most difficult when my first relationship ended a few years ago, was that in him, not only had I found love, I’d also found a fellow adventurer. A partner in crime. In simple terms, I’d found someone to do stuff with. From Gin tasting, to walking aimlessly through London parks, or simply going to the pub. It’s as though when you have a companion you don’t need a reason or an excuse. Because you are each others excuse. When the relationship ended, so did my enthusiasm for being out and about; and for a long time I used being single as an excuse for being anti-social. For being lazy. I did extra shifts at work, or I went home and watched Made In Chelsea with a family sized bag of Maltesers. I did the worst kind of stupid and got myself into a terrible relationship, simply because I was bored and sick of being alone. I then stayed in that relationship despite knowing it was unhealthy just because it enabled me in terms of having a life again. Its for that reason and one other that I don’t regret any of it, terrible as it was. It taught me brutally and unreservedly that being in a relationship with someone you don’t love and to whom you are incredibly ill suited is far more lonely than being alone.
I’ve always been instinctively hedonistic. But when you’ve been burnt a few times, there’s a safety to be found in the shadows. It’s a toxic safety though. Latent. Insidious. And in the longrun it’s more destructive than you could ever imagine.
In the immediate aftermath of my recent breakup. I found myself examining the bones of our would be future. Immediate and long-term. The cat we would never get, the flat we would never furnish. The painstakingly planned trip to China. Instinctively I began the work of dismantling it all. And then a thought struck me. What if I didn’t? What if I did the things I had planned and longed for with this man, but what if I did them alone? I found, to my surprise and curiosity that I wasn’t sad. I was hungry. This time around, the circumstances were different, or maybe I was different.
And so I went to China. I went to many places, sometimes with friends, but often alone. The first flight I took alone, I hyperventilated on the runway. For a time, I relied on my phone as a constant companion. A screen I could stare at to escape the scrutiny that existed only inside my head. Gradually, faster than I had anticipated, it got easier. I sat at bars in unknown cities without depending on social media to keep me occupied. The grappling agony when asking for a table for one subsided. I stopped caring whether people thought I was a sad loner for eating by myself. Truthfully, pretty much nobody thinks that anyway, and even if they did, what do I care? In all likelihood I’ll never see these people again in all my life. Sometimes I took a book. Other times I just watched the ticking over of my surroundings. I had conversations I would never normally have had. I met people, most nice, the odd psychopath. I can’t remember the exact moment, but somewhere along the way, I realised to my infinite joy, that I wasn’t meant to share these moments with anyone. They were mine alone. There is so much empowerment to be found in going solo. I look back on this past year, and I am proud of the memories I have made for myself.
Lying on my back in the blue lagoon watching the 3pm Nordic darkness draw in, sharing apple cake with two beautiful befriended Mexicans, sweating and swaying in the crowd of a berlin nightclub to the sounds of a rapper I’ve never heard of. Going solo is wonderful.
This is not to say I dont get lonely. I do. I get desperately lonely. Loneliness is the bitch that will drive you into the arms of a tinder hook up, chasing the fix of false intimacy. Loneliness will have you expect so much, too much, unfairly of friends. Loneliness is a funny anecdote without an audience. But the difference now, is that I know: loneliness will pass. To be lonely and to be alone are two very different things. I am the latter. But I refuse to be the first.
It seems to me there is such a lot of negativity surrounding being single. A stigma, of sorts. And there shouldn’t be. Relationships are tricky and rewarding, but so is being single. To give your heart to someone takes courage, but so does claiming it back. People talking about feeling it when something is right, but they dont talk about admitting it when it’s not. Despite the heartbreak, and the dark times of the last few years, I feel so grateful for this solo period of my life. Without these moments I wouldn’t know the things I know now. I wouldn’t know (Despite occasional doubt I feel obligated to confess) that I am enough. If to the end of my days, I am this. Myself. No more, no less. I am still enough. So book the flight. Go for dinner. Shave Your head. Grab that drink. See solitude as the opportunity that it is, and not a fate you are resigned to. And remember. You are enough.