It’s around two in the morning at New Sky restaurant on Spadina – my go-to spot for late night Chinese. I’m in the company of a few of my closest friends and we’re being unapologetically rowdy over fried green beans with pork and General Tao chicken. I look around. I’m surrounded by warm, salty, unbelievably affordable dishes and great friendship. This is the close of my 26th year, my birthday party, and suddenly I’m bombarded by an unwelcome yet familiar concern:
It hasn’t happened yet. It will never happen. I might even be running out of time.
I look to the fortune cookie in front of me for some sort of sign or reassurance. With just a little too much urgency, I crack it open. It’s empty.
After voicing my disappointment over my apparent non-existent fortune, I’m promptly given another cookie. It reads: you’re on your way to finding career success.
“Ugggh!! Career success!? I don’t want career success!” I whine, half-jokingly, to my hazy late-dinner companions, “I want to find love!!”
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that on Valentine’s Day of this year, I came clean about my lack of success with serious romantic relationships. It was a bit of a battle cry. I acknowledged that I had been, for a long time, guilty of holding myself back and hiding. I acknowledged that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I acknowledged that I likely wasn’t everyone’s flavour, but that I wasn’t willing to change or was even capable of changing who I was for someone else. I acknowledged that I “had it all,” already, without being in a relationship. But by the end of it all, I still acknowledged that I wanted one.
In the realm of this blog’s modest following, this post was by far the most viewed, liked, and commented on. I was incredibly touched by the people who reached out to say the piece hit home for them and shared their own struggles in the dating department. I wrote that post for myself, but also because I wanted others to feel accepted and seen. And in reading people’s messages of support, I had felt accepted and seen.
Interestingly enough, when I had written that, I was engaging in a casual relationship that was quickly reaching its expiry date. When it ended I was pretty hurt, not only by this person, but by the realization that I had let myself go down a disappointing road again, blissfully ignoring any warning signs along the way.
My official relationship status hasn’t changed over the past few months. The episode at New Sky occurred only a few weeks ago, hours after my best friend had, half-jokingly, gifted me Rose Quartz and Orange Calcite – two crystals known for their ability to attract love. What has changed, however, is my perspective.
The ending of the brief relationship I mentioned earlier marked the beginning of a few other things: a bit of a blue period that inspired me to start writing my own music, and a fiercer commitment to never settling for less. It also marked the beginning of the realization that I’m already in a serious relationship, it just isn’t with one specific person, or even people for that matter. No, I’m not talking about an open relationship with several romantic partners, or non-people for that matter. I’m talking about the realization that “single” doesn’t really exist for me.
“Single” is a label that implies that you are alone, and that by being alone, you lack something. “Single” implies that you are without the intimacy, love, passion and support a partner is supposed to provide. I’ve never felt less deprived of intimacy, love, passion and support in my life. Therefore, “single” doesn’t describe me. I’m sure it doesn’t describe many of you reading this either.
A brief foray into the works of Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Brené Brown and company will leave you juiced up on the knowledge that you are enough, as is. You don’t lack anything as you are. And romantic relationships don’t complete you, or make you whole, they enhance you.
When I think about the different types of relationships I have in my life, they all – in a colourful puzzle piece sort of way – fit together to create a relationship that is suiting me just fine right now. I’m lucky to have people in my life who take me on brunch dates, or make me dinner, or are content with just spending hours on the couch together, watching terrible TV. I have people in my life I can skype with after months of not speaking, people that reach me in a language only the inside of my chest comprehends. I have people who teeter into more-than-friends-zone, and I can’t always explain why, but my body seems to get it. I have people I’ve spent over half of my life with, and even though we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, when we do come together, it’s explosive with laughter and nostalgia. And finally, I have a family that has my back and provides a second home whenever I need it.
I also have music. Singing, playing and writing – though I’m still getting the hang of it all – seem to ignite a creative and spiritual part of myself that has finally found its release. It’s a companion that understands how to calm me down better than most.
And then I have myself. I book myself massages and pedicures, take myself to concerts and give myself gifts I probably don’t need but receive anyway. I forgive myself. I let myself rest and I say no to myself when it’s all too much. With this, I’m never truly alone.
Under this perspective, being single isn’t really a concern and it’s something I’m choosing to take out of my vocabulary. If a partner – in a more traditional, romantic sense – comes along, they’ll have to be fine with the fact that I’m already in a relationship. It just happens to be one that they’re more than welcome to join in on.
For those reading this who are in relationships, I’ll say this:
From what I’ve witnessed, I think a lot of us expect our partners to fill us up in a way that isn’t really a one-person job. We think they’ll be a catch-all for all of our issues without realizing the impossibly high expectation that sets on them and without seeing the support we already get – or are able to get – elsewhere.
Ultimately it’s up to us to create full lives, free of loneliness, and not up to others.
It’s not up to fortune cookies either.