It was a hot January day, the kind of balmy summer days we wake up to in Australia.
It started out like another ordinary day. Get up. Get ready. Go to work.
But it wasn’t to be just an ordinary day, as this hot January day was the first day in 35 years that I was single. For the first time in my life, at age 51, I was alone.
The thought of being alone scares a lot of people. The thought of not having someone to rely on. Someone to sit with in the evening. Someone to crawl into bed next to. Someone to share the load. Someone to share your great day, or your crap day. Someone to be there.
I was a little scared. It was daunting. I’d never been truly alone or without a partner. I’d never had to fully rely on myself.
Alone. Society conditions us to believe there is something wrong with being alone. That we are not whole. That we need someone to complete us.
That hot January day was the start of a journey I never thought I would be taking. I had no clue what the destination was, and I had no idea of all the gaping potholes I would fall into. All the forks in the road I would meet. All the steep cliffs I would climb, or the ones I would tumble down—cutting, bruising, and scratching me as I tried desperately to regain my balance. I had no idea of the vast pools of water that would sweep me under or the quicksand that would try and drag me down.
I had no idea who I really was. I had no idea what I was about to discover, but here is what I learnt:
When you always have someone to rely on, you never learn true independence. I was free for the first time to make whatever decision I chose, independently, for me. What did my soul want?
I always thought I was weak. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and sometimes, I care too much, but being alone taught me how resilient I am. How the true meaning of resilience is being able to fall down a dozen times and pick yourself back up, each time learning something new and becoming more resilient. More flexible.
I never saw myself as a brave person, and that was because I didn’t understand what true courage is. We are taught that courage is being tough and strong, whereas real courage is being able to show your true self and your messy vulnerabilities. It’s being brave enough to be truly honest with yourself and those in your life. Real courage comes from the heart of the real you.
I always saw myself as being my true self, and I was; the trouble is my true self at that time was a version I had created to fit in. To meet expectations. To avoid judgement. Of course, I was authentic to what I perceived was the real me, until the most profound thing happened and I discovered my soul, my core. That can only come when you come to know yourself alone; otherwise, you are always wearing some sort of mask to protect yourself and your real truth.
True authenticity is hard to achieve when we have been raised in a society that judges and conditions us, and we are afraid to be seen differently. Better to wear a mask and fit in than risk being your authentic self if that means you may end up alone.
I don’t know why we are continually taught to believe we are a half, and that to be whole we need to find another half. This sets us up for the continual search for this other half—like when we find it, we will miraculously be fulfilled. I heard something the other day that said, “We are not a f*cking fraction,” and whilst it’s amusing, it’s also true. We were a whole being before we found a partner, and we will be a whole being without a partner. I am whole. The right partner can add to the magic that I already am.
This one has been my greatest gift. We all have some degree of creativity within us, but it wasn’t until I was alone that I truly harnessed mine, that I truly understood it, and that I truly appreciated how I could use it and how much joy it brought me.
This may seem an odd one, but I have discovered deeper connections with family and friends since being alone. I think it’s because I know myself better and I now gravitate toward those like-minded people. It’s interesting that when you understand yourself better, you become more discerning with those you choose to let into your life.
I always thought I was in tune with myself and self-aware, and even though I think I was to a degree, this is now extremely high. A lot of people fear self-reflection because their truth makes them uncomfortable, and that’s because they are not living their truth and they don’t want to acknowledge or face certain things in their life. I’ve learnt that self-reflection and awareness are critical to healing, change, and growth.
This one is huge. There is a special kind of self-belief we attain when we are alone. It’s the trust we develop in ourselves. It’s the decisions we need to make alone. It’s the reliance on ourselves to heal and grow. It’s the inner knowing that we are exactly where we need to be and we’ve got this.
10. Another relationship is not the answer
Yep, this one is controversial because a lot of people believe we forget about a past relationship by “getting back out there.” It’s like we won’t survive if we’re alone. Or we can’t be happy without someone else “to make us happy.” Or God forbid, we have to say we are single or live alone! The truth is it’s all ego. Yes, ego, and I know some people will argue this, but it’s our ego telling us we need to find someone else so that we feel good about ourselves again. We need someone to stroke that ego and remind us that we are enough. We need to prove we are desirable and loved. The sad truth is it’s because we don’t love ourselves or think we are enough when we are alone.
11. Alone is not lonely
I think this is what confuses people the most. Being alone and being lonely are two different things. I have been lonely in a room full of people and content and fulfilled alone. Being alone means you may live alone or be single but you feel connected to those in your life. You have fulfilling relationships with friends and family, and most of all, yourself. Being lonely means you are disconnected and that can happen when you live alone or with a house full of people. You lack fulfilling relationships with yourself and others.
12. We are far too conditioned
Society and family have instilled all these conditions on us. And we are led to believe we need to meet these expectations to fit into this standardised society. It’s all bullsh*t. We can be who we want. We can get married or choose not to. We can have kids or choose not to. We can leave unfulfilling relationships if that’s what’s best for us. When we don’t follow the preconceived mould that history and society have laid out for us, we are judged. And the only reason we are judged is because others are projecting their own lack and limiting beliefs onto us. We need to listen to our soul and follow it; by doing so, we will be far happier and so will everyone in our lives.
13. We need others to be happy
It’s true we need connection. But first and foremost, we need connection with self, and that’s where we get our happiness from. Others in our life should be adding to our happiness, not being the source of our happiness. When we are not connected to our authentic selves, we’ll always be searching for some form of external happiness. In relationships, in material things, in careers and money, but the sad reality is if we haven’t connected to our true self, we’ll be forever searching. Happiness comes and goes with the roller coaster of life, but once we’re connected to who we really are, that happiness comes from within.
14. I am beautiful
I’m not talking about my external self; I’m talking about who I am on the inside. For a long time, I questioned that because I felt less than. I felt I wasn’t worthy. I felt who I truly was on the inside did not fit the societal norms. I’m open and free-spirited, and that was seen as different. The desire to follow who I am at my soul was seen as perhaps unconventional. My passion was seen as threatening to some. To others, I’m a bit of a gypsy, a bit of a hippie, even a little weird. I used to shy away from my truth until I realised the truth is beautiful. I am beautiful.
So that hot summer January day a few years back was the start of something terrifying and incredible. It was the start of putting my shattered pieces back together. I know the scars are still visible and I no longer care because it’s who I am. Have I landed at my destination? I honestly don’t think so. I’m the closest I have ever been, but arriving there would mean my journey of change and growth is over, and I don’t want it to be over.
It hasn’t been easy; in fact, it’s been brutal at times, but without it I would not be who I am. I would not have found these parts of myself that are beyond amazing, parts I had no idea existed. Finding me was my biggest surprise, as I never truly understood how lost she was.
Maybe that’s what so many people are in search of when they are desperately trying to find a partner—”their other half.” They are unconsciously searching for themselves, trying to fill all their voids externally, when the truth of the matter is those voids can only be filled by themselves.
In the end, it’s a fruitless search when we simply need the knowledge that what we are searching for is inside of us the whole time. Let those in our lives compliment who we are; it’s not their role to fill us or make us happy. And being alone can be our greatest teacher.
It’s in the season of isolation and being alone that I found me. The caterpillar discovered her most stunning of wings.