on being alone

Sometimes, weekends are hard.

On certain weekends, I love being alone. I wake up in the morning and stretch my limbs across my bed, feeling the coolness of the sheets beneath my skin and reveling in the quiet of being the only person in the room. I make a plan for the day that is only mine. Maybe I’ll go for a run, maybe I’ll sit at the coffee shop after lunch, maybe I’ll read my book for hours without worrying about anything else. Maybe I’ll straighten my hair or maybe I’ll let it go wild and wavy. Maybe I’ll wear yoga pants all day or maybe I’ll put on a push-up bra and that pair of jeans that makes my butt look good. Maybe I’ll meet up with my friends or maybe I’ll just lie in bed, lazy and dreaming and doing nothing at all until the sun peeking through my curtains finally tempts me up and out. It doesn’t matter, because I am the only one I’m responsible for. And it feels so damn good to be alone, to make my own decisions, to not worry about relationships and the future and forever. To just be me.

But on other weekends, it hurts. It hurts to be alone, to wake up after a restless night of sleep and not know what’s in store for the day. To lack structure, to wish someone would call and tell me where to be when and for how long. To stare at my to-do list and not know where to start. To read a chapter in my favorite book and be so distracted by the utter silence surrounding me that I can’t even swallow the words on the page. To pick out an outfit but not know who I’m wearing it for. To cry and not know why, and then cry some more because I don’t know why I’m crying. To wish there was someone to grab coffee with, even for a quick 20 minutes. To wish there was a someone at all.

I’ve prided myself for so long on being “okay” with living a single life. I’ve made my own decisions, I’ve changed my mind, I’ve made a path for myself that is all me — I take comfort in knowing all of that. And in the midst of those things, I’ve loved, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve found friends, I’ve gotten hurt, I’ve kissed boys I shouldn’t have kissed. I’ve had experiences and I’ve learned from them, which is no small thing. I don’t know if I would be picking up and moving across the country to go back to school if I had someone else to worry about. I don’t know if I would have worked for three amazing years at a place that has totally and completely altered the way I see my life and the path that I’m on. I don’t know where my life would be, but even while I try not to focus on the What Ifs of life, it’s hard not to. What if I had met the man of my dreams in college? What if I had gotten married at 22? What if I wasn’t alone?

Relationships are complicated and messy and they make you see your life through a lens other than your own. For so long I tried to convince myself that one lens is all I need right now. But I finally believe that’s true for me — at least, most days. Other days, while the rain softly drips outside my window and I sit on my couch, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by the scent of coffee and nail polish, I wish there was someone there to pick out a movie on Netflix with me and make fun of my dorky boxer shorts.

But I can take solace in the fact that not every weekend feels this way. And I’m proud that I’ve learned how to be my own person, that I’m not afraid to make choices for my own life. I’m not the girl sitting around, waiting for my somebody to show up. Sure, I have my moments where I feel totally and completely desperate and wish more than anything that I had a partner next to me, and I don’t think that’s wrong. When I feel like a pathetic single mess, I will own that and embrace it and allow myself to feel that way. I will allow myself to feel sad and alone on that rainy Saturday, because in the long run, I’m doing something. I’m going somewhere. I’m not letting the idea of love keep me from accomplishing the things I want in life, because you have to be your own person before you can be someone else’s.

And I know that a relationship, that love itself, won’t solve my occasional feelings of loneliness. It’s not the solution. It’s hard and it’s work and it hurts sometimes. But that’s the funny thing: being in love hurts and not being in love hurts. The presence and absence of love is an all around pain in our asses as humans, but it’s obviously important enough to us that we overlook how obnoxious it is. And I mean, I’m not one of those cynical girls who believes that “love is dead” or we’ve killed the idea of it by twisting it into something that it’s not, because what good is that belief going to do anybody? (Also, it’s a cliché.) No, I believe in love, and I’ve seen proof of its existence every day. So while I haven’t found it yet (and I have a relatively convoluted view of it that was born from viewing too many romantic comedies at a very impressionable age), I have hope that I will. But I’m not going to make it my life’s mission to find it right now, because I can’t find love until I’ve truly found myself. And at least I’m on my way to that.

portrait of a rainy day in a single girl's apartment

portrait of a rainy day in a single girl’s apartment

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things I want

I want to spend an entire afternoon in bed, finding shapes in the patterns on my ceiling. I want to make a pot of coffee, but let the mug I just poured sit cooling on my bedside table — I’ll drink it anyway, but there’s no rush. I want to not worry that there are more important things I should be doing, or that my life is passing by while I lay there. I want to be calm for one day.

I want to put my entire music library on shuffle and just let it play, not worrying about a song that’s wrong for the moment because every song has something in it that’s right for the moment. I want each track to draw up some kind of emotion or memory, and even if they don’t fit together, I want to know that this order of moments has never happened before and never will again.

I want to sing, loudly and without any awareness of my surroundings. I want to not think about breath support or vibrato or diction. I want to forget everything I learned in school and just sing because I have a voice that’s meant for that. I want the raw side of myself to come out through my voice. I want to not worry about sounding pretty.

I want to read a book in a silent room. I want every distraction to melt away because I am so immersed in the words on the page. I want the text to leap off the page, soaked into my mind and every fiber of my being. I want the scent of the pages as they flip through the air to keep me reading.

I want to be kissed — not a romantic movie kiss, but just a simple, gentle kiss from someone I love. I want to know in that moment that there is someone who cares for me as much as I care for them. I want that kiss to linger with me for the rest of the day, my lips tingly, knowing there is someone out there who might be thinking about how they just kissed me. I want the fluttery heartbeat of anticipation that follows that kiss, waiting for the next one.

I want to drive somewhere without worrying about emptying my gas tank or getting back home in time for the next thing on my calendar. I want to maybe park somewhere and get out and go for a walk before turning around. I want my best friend to be in the seat next to me and Paul Simon to be playing on the radio.

But mostly, I just want to lose control for enough time for all of these things to happen.

somebody teach me how to flirt before I die alone

All of the following things are true about my living situation at this moment:
1. I live in the woods.
2. I live in a dorm.
3. I live with teenagers.
4. I live where I work.

These factors all add up to one rather obvious statement: Eligible men are hard to come by. Unfortunately, that has been a theme for most of my adult life.

When I was in college, I didn’t really date. I studied and I sang and I busted my ass to graduate in eight semesters instead of nine. Looking back, I wish I had let my hair down a little bit more during those four years, but that’s a different story. I wasn’t really interested in the boys at my school — they were nice, and many of them were very attractive, but I also spent most of my time in the music building, and, let’s face it, straight single men weren’t exactly abundant there. And even if they had been, it’s difficult to look and act alluring in 8am ear training class, when you didn’t get to bed until 3am and barely had time to brush your teeth before sprinting out of your dorm, only to be forced to sing Ottman exercises in a croaky morning voice in your shameless attempt for an A. Snagging myself a boyfriend wasn’t really on the top of my priority list while I was up all night memorizing German lieds and practicing my solfege hand signs. (You can’t believe I was single, can you?) Anyway, when I did go out in college, I usually used my gay “boyfriends” (there were plenty) as decoys at the bar so the creepy guy in the corner wouldn’t hit on me. I was a wimp.

The problem is, I never learned how to “meet people.” If you know me, you probably know that I’m frighteningly bad at flirting. I’m pretty introverted, so I’m not good at making smalltalk, batting my eyelashes, and being seductive. In fact, I kind of suck in most social situations unless I’m surrounded by people I already know. Not that I have anything against talking to strangers, I just don’t make the best impression because I never know what to say. If a random guy ever asked for my number, I would think he was kidding, probably say something completely incoherent, and scare him off.

I think the problem is I am too set on falling in love with a friend. I can’t picture myself meeting someone at a bar or on a blind date and then eventually marrying them. I want to fall in love with someone I already know, who means something to me. I know it’s crazy, and looking at my track record, it’s obvious I need to change my approach. I mean, pretty much any person I’ve ever had feelings for has been my friend first. I like getting to know someone, really know them, before I realize that I want to kiss their face. I want to have a classic love story — best friends and then lovers, a la Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly (yes, my whole life is a giant Office reference) — that I can tell my kids about. I want to have memories from “before” we became a couple, when we were just two people who had a great time being friends and spending time together. I want love to grow out of that.

Okay, so if the magical Jim/Pam relationship isn’t going to happen for me, then what is? Am I destined to die alone? I can’t even become the crazy, stereotypical cat lady because I’M ALLERGIC TO CATS. I need to change my game plan. I need to learn how to flirt.

I need to be more comfortable putting myself out there, meeting new people, and not fixating on where things are going. I need to be okay with striking up a conversation about music or books or my weird ass job because I AM AN INTERESTING PERSON, GODDAMNIT. (Right? I mean, if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably a better judge of whether I’m interesting or not…) I just don’t know how to show others that I’m interesting. The other night, one of my coworkers asked me to share a “nugget” of information about myself and I couldn’t think of a single thing to say! I thought to myself, What if this question was being asked by a really attractive guy I had just met? If I can’t even come up with an answer while talking to someone I already know, how am I ever supposed to meet someone new? 

I think the problem is that I don’t believe myself to be very interesting to people who don’t know me. I’ve never been the “life of the party” type, or the person who comes up with spontaneous, exciting things to do on a Friday night. I’m more content following the crowd and enjoying the company of the people I am with. I’m horrible at making decisions (probably one of my most frustrating traits, if you ask any of my friends), so I don’t mind other people taking the lead. But I’m still trying to convince myself that that doesn’t mean I’m not an asset to the conversation or the group I am with. A good friend of mine gave me some valuable advice recently. She said, “You need to start taking yourself seriously, otherwise other people aren’t going to either.” She’s completely right. If I don’t believe myself to be interesting, or a worthwhile date, or fun to talk to, then I’m not going to be. I need to boost my self-confidence and learn not to be the shy tagalong anymore, because that’s clearly not getting me anywhere. Except maybe closer to being a cat lady.

…Maybe I’ll start getting allergy shots, just in case.

dear future somebody

Dear Future Somebody,

As I’m writing this to you, I can’t picture who you are or what you look like. I don’t know when we’re going to meet or how long we’ll be together or how I will know that you’re The One but there are a few things that I hope will be true about you…

I hope you’re my best friend. I hope that we still have our own lives, but I don’t mind mine getting tangled up in yours every once in awhile. I hope you’re the kind of person that I want to go thrift shopping with, for chipped squirrel figurines and oddly proportioned frames that we place in random places around our apartment. I hope you don’t keep me from buying yet another $3 old man sweater because you know I need one in that particular shade of dark green. I hope you know which beer I’m going to order before I order it because you know how predictable I am in that way. I hope you don’t mind that I religiously use the Chip Clips on every open bag in the kitchen, so you draw faces on them just to make them more interesting. I hope you know how to make a cup of coffee that’s just strong enough. I hope that when we share a grapefruit in the morning, you give me the bigger half. I hope you secretly borrow my Chapstick even though I bought you your own three-pack at the drugstore after I saw you sneak it out of my purse the first time. I hope you write messages on the foggy mirror in the bathroom — not “I love you” messages, but lines like “in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” because we both appreciate things like that. I hope you help me choose between two colors of paint for the bedroom based on the name of the shade, and not what it actually looks like.

I hope you understand my fear of parallel parking and phone calls. I hope you tell me your own fears, because men have them too and you’re just man enough to admit that. I hope you don’t mind me hitting the snooze button 3 times before I actually get up in the morning, and that I will probably borrow your razor or Old Spice when I’m in a hurry (or even when I’m not). I hope the one picture of us that you choose to display in your office is the one where neither of us is looking directly at the camera and that weird piece of hair on the back of your head is sticking straight up. I hope you’re proud of the fact that you can only successfully flip an omelette half of the time. I hope you let me listen to Highway 61 Revisited on our road trips, even if you can’t stand Bob Dylan. I hope you swear as much as I do when we play Mario Kart and you don’t let me win because you care that much about it.

I hope and wish for all of these things, but mostly I hope that I am all the things you want me to be, too. Because I know that as long as I’ve waited for you to come along, you’ve probably done the same. And I recognize that it’s the little, tiny parts of a relationship that make it special. So even if our relationship isn’t just like this, there will be other special things about it. And I’m sure all of our little things will make this waiting worth it.

Love, Me

confessions of a hopeless romantic, or, someone just serenade me outside my window, please

I consider myself to be somewhat of a feminist. I won’t go into all the ways I think that word is misinterpreted and misunderstood in our society (that would be completely off-topic and lengthy), but I will say that I believe in women’s rights and I have inherent faith in the ability of my gender to accomplish great things. Blah blah blah. I’ll go burn a bra now, whatever. (Joking. Stereotypes suck.)

Anyway, despite my basic philosophy about being an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to take care of her or define her, I would also classify myself as a hopeless romantic. Not the type who fights about which Twilight team they’re on or only watches chick flicks, though. I mean, I’ve just always longed for my life to contain one incredible, last-ditch romantic moment that you see in the movies.

I’ll admit, during my teenage years, I enjoyed romantic comedies a lot more than I do now…probably because A) they’re all the same after awhile, and B) they set me up for disappointment. In my entire life, nobody has ever thrown a pebble at my window in the middle of the night or sent me anonymous roses or serenaded me. I’ve now come to terms that life isn’t like the movies (only took me twenty-some years to figure that out, aren’t you proud of me?) and I will never look out my window to see someone playing a Peter Gabriel song on a boombox for me. Thanks a lot, Jon Cusack.

But even so, I hold out hope that maybe someday somebody will do that for me. If that is the case, here are the moments that I would most like to happen to me:

1. The aforementioned scene from Say Anything with the boombox and Peter Gabriel.
2. A boy following me to the airport and confessing his love to me…in front of the security checkpoint since I guess he wouldn’t be able to get to the gate anymore. Damn.
3. That scene from The Notebook where Ryan Gosling hangs from the ferris wheel. Dangerous and exciting.
4. A boy writing a song for me. A romantic one, that is. None of that “this girl ruined my life” crap.
5. Being serenaded in public.
6. A boy learning a new language for me, like when Colin Firth speaks really bad Portuguese in Love Actually and proposes to that girl because he didn’t know she learned English for him. So many feelings.
7. Anything that Jim Halpert ever did for Pam Beesly on The Office. Duh.

But I guess I understand why these moments don’t make up everyday life. If they did, the movies wouldn’t be so exciting or interesting.

(But just in case you’re wondering, guys…if you want to impress a girl, large romantic gestures usually work. Even on feminist hopeless romantics like me.)

I will remain single for eternity because of a fictional character

The internet is full of single girls complaining about being single, counting the reasons why they are single, naming all the men they wish would make them un-single, and using their singleness as a reason to cry and eat ludicrous amounts of chocolate. Disclaimer: this is going to be one of those posts. Kind of.

I’ve been single for pretty much all of my life. I should be the poster child for Unrequited Love. I’ve come to accept it and while it does make me angsty and sullen sometimes, for the most part I try to enjoy the perks of being unattached. For one, this job would be a lot harder if I had gone into it while in a relationship. Long distance is rough (I’m watching a lot of my coworkers go through it right now) and I’m not sure I would have even been willing to take this job and move twelve hours away if I had a fella back home.

I suppose I could try to attribute my singleness to something normal, like the fact that I’m a commitment-phobe (not really true), I always pick the wrong guys (kind of true), I don’t put myself out there (true), or I suck at flirting (very true), but I think I have one main problem contributing to my perpetual state of unattached-ness: I want every guy I meet to be Jim Halpert.

Hear me out. I have been watching The Office for seven seasons, and I am certain that Jim Halpert has all the desirable qualities I could ever wish for in a man.

1. He is funny without being a dick. Do you know how often I find guys like this? ALMOST NEVER.
2. His hair. It’s perfect. Enough said.
3. He takes his job seriously without being too serious. He still wants to do well at his job, and he puts in a conscious effort, but he’s not above starting an Office Olympics or making friends with his coworkers.
4. He’s a family man. (Okay, now I’m really starting to sound like a crazy single girl. I don’t need a family man just yet, but I’ll obviously need to find one eventually.) His devotion to Pam and his daughter is about the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen on television.
5. Umm hi, did you even SEE the episode where he and Pam got married and he gave a toast at the rehearsal dinner?!
6. His face. In general.

So there you have it. Jim Halpert has given me unrealistic expectations about men. I know he is just setting me up for disappointment, but I can’t help it that my heart skips a beat every time he makes one of his faces at the camera. If you have found your Jim Halpert, kudos to you. I’m still looking or mine, and I’m determined to keep searching until I find him.