One of the lessons I’ve had to learn as an adult woman is the difference between being alone and being lonely. At a time in my life where I am hundreds of miles away from family and friends and starting my life over from scratch, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between the two. I feel like this matter plagues a lot of other people as well, and oftentimes we confuse one for the other which can lead to poor decisions and years of regrets.
To begin, let’s lay down some hard truths about the difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone simply means physically there is no one else around you. Which is virtually impossible if you are a human being on Earth. Unless you are stranded on a raft in the middle of the ocean with no internet connection, not one of us is ever truly alone. In a world that is so over-populated and connected in every way by the internet, no one has to worry about the problem of being isolated. You can walk out of your home and probably see cars full of people or pass others on the street. You can get online and communicate with millions of people you either know or don’t know on news feeds and forums and engage on any topic that interests you. However, when you have all this accessibility to other people and still feel like you’re the only person on the planet, that is loneliness. It is possible to be surrounded by people 24 hours a day and still ache for connection because there is something missing from your life and you have yet to figure it out.
One of the loneliest times in my life was when I was married. It also was the time in my life where I was literally never alone. I was surrounded by people for 8 hours a day at my job and my ex-husband and I would communicate via text all day long until we both finished up with our obligations and spent the rest of the day and night together. Although physically we were in the same room, on the same couch or in the same bed, I felt more alone with him than when I was in the house by myself. There was no connection, and nothing will make you feel lonelier than when you’re trying with everything in you to force that with no reciprocation from the other end.
I ended up in that situation the way I think a lot of women, especially in the south, do. I had it engrained in my head that I HAD to be married by 30. If I didn’t get hitched by then, no one would want me because I would be old and useless, like an expired gallon of milk. So I compromised many of my own standards and overlooked every red flag that told me the relationship wasn’t fulfilling and forced myself to believe it was true love, simply because the alternative was to end it and risk growing old alone. I have so many friends who admittedly stay in unhealthy relationships or hop out of one and straight into another because they are so deathly scared of being alone. They are so uncomfortable with the thought of just being enough for themselves that they force things for years that are ultimately a waste of time and it breaks my heart. I admire and respect every woman in my life for being beautiful, talented, strong and smart and yet they don’t feel like a whole person without a partner who sometimes is nothing more than a warm body. If there is one thing I want them all to know, as well as every young girl reading this or even myself 10 years ago, it’s that choosing to be alone over lowering your standards is the greatest gift you can give yourself. I’ve learned more about who I am as a person, grown spiritually and mentally, gained more self-esteem and ultimately become a better partner for someone in the future in the years since my divorce than I ever did in all the years I spent in long-term, dead end relationships. The peace of mind that comes from knowing you can take care of yourself is priceless and so is the insight you gain into what makes YOU happy and fulfilled, because that is what you learn when you’re not sidetracked by investing in someone else.
Last night I walked my dogs through my new neighborhood, past the large beautiful farmhouse-style homes and impeccable landscaping. I came upstairs to my own apartment with the big white quartz island and 65” TV, where I opened a bottle of my favorite wine, ate way too much stinky cheese and watched 4 episodes of Frasier reruns back to back with my 3 little dogs and not one time did it occur to me that I wished someone else was there. Instead all I could think about is how proud I am to be able to give myself these things without the help of anyone else. I am so blissfully happy and content in my life right now that the thought of actually finding myself in a relationship is what is scaring me because I don’t want to mess up what I have. I’ve worked too hard and overcome too much to let someone back in who could compromise my present and the goals I have for my future. Don’t get me wrong, relationships are wonderful. TRUE LOVE is wonderful. But don’t let your fear of being ALONE drive you into a lifetime of LONELINESS. Take the time to become your own person without the influence of someone else. Achieve some goals completely on your own and figure out what your standards are for a companion and stick to them. Personally, the thought of spending my life married to someone who doesn’t respect me, cheats and/or lies or just in general doesn’t fulfill me in any sense, seems like a much scarier option than a lifetime of being single and doing whatever I want, whenever I want.