There was a period of time after my last long-term relationship ended when I was, to use a term from Girls, “flailing.” I had no footing and no understanding of how to be alone. I’m not someone that deals with things head on, so instead I let major events sink in over a few weeks or months while I psychologically process them. Post-breakup, this manifested as a desperate fear of being alone. For the last year, I’ve fought through that swamp of indecision, and I’ve arrived at a place with a lot more perspective, which I will share with you here.
(1) Repeat after me: “I AM BETTER THAN THIS DECISION.”
This is really effing hard to learn, because it requires you to have hindsight without actually having anything to reflect upon. But the next time you want to go home with a guy you just met or text your ex-boyfriend or wear a midriff-bearing top with denim shorts, say this 100 times, and then put on real pants.
(2) You’ll never feel better than you do on the first day you’re happy to wake up alone.
Kelly Clarkson tells us that “the bed is warmer / sleeping here alone,” but you know what? The bed is also bigger. And it doesn’t care if you’re wearing ugly underwear, or if you washed your hair yesterday, or if your alarm is going off too many times between snoozes. Boyfriends are not inanimate objects, but beds are. Someday, I will be thrilled to wake up every day next to someone wonderful, but right now I’m perfectly happy to stretch out in my cupcake pajamas, take a deep breath of morning air, and watch the newest episode of Mindy with my hair in a Mulan bun on the top of my head.
(3) Dates are weird, terrifying, fun social experiments.
We all date in the hopes of finding the perfect Ken doll, but in the meantime it can be fun to play with Mr. Potato Head. How will you know what features you want unless you try them out first? I went on this perfect date right before Christmas where me and this guy, we’ll call him Ben, walked around our town’s central square and drank cider and talked for hours, and that made me recognize some qualities that I really want in a guy. He was athletic but also not afraid to nerd out with me about books, had interesting hobbies that stopped short of creepy or obsessive, and had lots of ambition and funny stories. Unfortunately, he was also five years older than me and extremely interested in buying a house and getting married, which I am not. So basically, I found Mr. Potato Head’s shoes, but the hat didn’t quite look right. Dates are weird and strange and sometimes extremely uncomfortable, but can be so much more fun when just viewed as exercises in trial and error.
(4) You never know what great friends you have until you go through a breakup.
I always knew I had good friends, but after I broke up with my ex, I realized that I have great friends. If I were still dating him, I probably never would have realized the cynical bond and love of fried food that Mandy and I share. I wouldn’t have discovered Julia’s love of animated movies or had nearly as many wine and Bravo nights with Kate. I would have talked to my boyfriend about all of the things going right or wrong in my life, but instead I started divulging this information to my friends. I realized what great, ridiculous, beautifully flawed people they are, and thank goodness I didn’t wait another day to discover that.
(5) Being single = so much more free time.
Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I had time for a boyfriend. I spent half my time walking back and forth from his house, checking in with him, telling him about my day, and washing his socks that he threw into my hamper. Now, my schedule is otherwise exactly the same but I can’t imagine devoting that much time to one person other than myself. Maybe that means I became more selfish, but I think that’s fine. I know I’ll make the time when someone good comes along again. Until then, I have dinner with me and I just can’t cancel that again.