Party of One

Photo by Laurel E. Jacobson

I am an introvert. I ADORE being alone. It’s the space in which I retreat to recharge my batteries. I’ve been known to bewilder a lot of people. “What do you mean you’re an introvert? You seem like you really like people!” Oh, I like people. I like them a lot. I just need a long nap after “peopling” for too long. It’s exhausting. Conversely, if I’ve gone a long time without seeing another human or having a conversation, sometimes simple banter with a cashier at Trade Joe’s will fill the void.

Admittedly, it’s taken me most of my adult life to figure this out — to feel comfortable and accept how I am. My introversion was not fully understood until a couple of years ago. For example, I’m flattered when I’m invited to a party and joyfully accept with a hearty “maybe”. I’m being sincere because I always have good intentions. I want to be there, but it’s much like standing on the edge of a cliff contemplating the water below. The jump will be exhilarating and the splash will make me giggle uncontrollably, but the first step is overwrought with contemplation and anxiety. When the day of the party rolls around, the thought of it is overwhelming. I used to feel an immense amount of guilt around this misunderstood behavior. I discovered that I thrive in small, intimate gatherings discussing the meaning of life as opposed to massive parties where small talk is exhausting. My hope is that friends don’t find offense to this. Although I’m sure I’ve inadvertently lost some friendships, or at the very least invites because of my perceived flakiness. It truly is about me, not you.

I write better than I speak. I overthink things. I can guarantee you it’s taken me six months to write this post in my head, rearrange the paragraphs ten times, and reread it at least twenty times over to make sure it’s perfect. I am fully willing to admit I am awkward on phone calls, but I’m comfortable texting, emailing, or attentively listening to you one on one in person.

I have been single since the end of July 2016. Almost a year. In that 10-month period, I’ve focused solely on myself. Not in a selfish way, but seeking out my authentic-self and trying to the best me possible. Understanding my introversion was part of this process.

I’ve realized that sometimes I don’t tell people how I feel and let it fester to a point where I become resentful. I’m trying my best to be honest with people — both personally and professionally — without being an asshole. This in itself is a very delicate balance that I know I haven’t perfected. This also correlates with making others happy even though I may make myself miserable in the process. I’m learning to say “no” and let it be okay. I was riding my bike at the Portland Bridge Pedal in August of 2016. I found myself very frustrated with the people riding slower than I wanted. I was leaving the left passing lane open to riders who may need to pass me. Why on earth was I being more thoughtful of someone who may or may not need to use the passing lane? I NEEDED TO USE THE PASSING LANE! It’s metaphorical, of course. Not to mention ridiculous of me. I was getting pissed off and potentially putting myself or someone else in danger because I wasn’t doing what I needed to do for the betterment of everyone. I cannot express the joy I felt once I started riding as fast as I could push myself. I felt FREE!

I used to be very defensive. Most of this stemmed from insecurity around my intelligence (or my perceived lack of) and an intense need for people to understand where I was coming from. My career coach said to me one day, “They already know you’re smart.” She was right. What was I trying to prove?

I’ve spent most of my life taking care of past partners throughout a series of long-term relationships I’ve been in since my early 20s. I am a serial monogamist. I’ve never been married, although I’ve been engaged once and baled (thank God) and was close once more to the point he bought a ring, but broke up with me before he proposed.

I’ve been very careful to not get into financial situations I could not afford on my own. “Every woman should have a purse of her own,” Susan B. Anthony once said. I’ve worked very hard professionally to be where I am. I am senior-level management in a male dominated arena. I by no means deserve to be where I’m at, but I have earned it. I do not need to be taken care of because I can do that on my own. What I do want is true togetherness and intimacy. A life-partner and someone who is willing to make the ultimate commitment to me.

There is a very fine line between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is relishing your time alone. Loneliness is loathing it and longing for the company of another.

A couple months ago, I was standing in line at a small local fruit and vegetable market. As I was paying for my groceries, I glanced around to see a handful of couples dappled across the store. I was the only single person. I felt like an alien. It was like a slow motion gut-punch. Loneliness hits me at odd times, never when I think it will. At that moment I thought I missed my ex-boyfriend, but as I sat in my car I realized he never would’ve come with me to shop for groceries. He never did. It wasn’t he who I was missing, it was companionship. There is nothing worse than to be in a relationship and feel lonely. It’s in fact heartbreaking. I would choose solitude every time instead of feeling this sadness.

Since my somewhat newly found singledom I have not once felt sorry for myself. I think of it as a sort of gift that was given to me that served a dual purpose; 1) I didn’t marry the wrong person, and 2) I could become my true self, love me, and ultimately be matched with the right person. Until then, I will gladly be a party of one ebbing and flowing between my family, friends, hobbies and the ever-important quiet time.

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