There is a sense of empowerment when you finally realize that self-reliance and independence are finally taking over your life. I have been an adult for a minute, but it was only until recently that I have felt more acquainted with my independence.
You see, it’s an accomplishment when you finally admit to yourself that this is alright, that you’re finally at peace with being alone — at peace with the awareness that independence goes beyond skin care and wine nights by yourself. Awareness that independence now means waking up in the morning while trusting that the choices you are about to make is all for yourself and for your sanity.
What I didn’t realize during this focus on independence is that it leaves you feeling as empty as being dependent. No one told me that this inner peace comes with a price. The tranquility of being okay by yourself is just borrowed peace. And when it’s time to collect it, you’re already in deep debt.
There must be a kinder way to be independent.
I have always thought that the key to being okay with my being alone is to build stronger relationship with my friends — my family lives 3,000km away from me so my options are already limited. I had spent the last two years doing that: reconnecting with friends, building stronger connections through mutual interests, finding new ways to add layers to existing friendships. I’ve spent more genuine time with people close to me and I feel like I have grown as a better friend for the most part of it because of this.
When I finally realized that I was okay with this setup, I felt empowered. I wasn’t looking for unstable relationships anymore. I wasn’t relying on people for validation anymore. I wasn’t competing with their life goals anymore. It was like that for the most part of the pandemic and it worked for me. In hindsight, I’ve become a completely different person — both out of choice and out of circumstance.
However, the friendships that I had formed evolved further, but this time, they weren’t necessarily with me anymore. I had felt so comfortable with the setup that I had forgotten to prepare myself for any inevitable change. My friends started getting into romantic relationships with their respective partners. Some of them left the country to pursue other goals in life. While I have also pursued changes in my life through my hobbies and craft, and a new job, I was happy to stay where I was. My life was slowly moving forward with them until it wasn’t.
I like to make myself believe that this feeling of loss has nothing to do with me trying to compare my life to theirs. In my head, I thought that if I had focused on my well-being alone, I’d be fine. That famous Thought Catalog “You don’t have to find a partner to be happy” line kept me going. It was a mantra and I religiously made sure I followed it. After multiple failed attempts in the past, I knew it was the only way.
I wasn’t going to attempt to build my life around relationships anymore. It was genuine and it was self-fulfilling. Finding beauty in things around me instead of relationships was my Adele moment. My relationship with myself was thriving. It was okay until I realized it was a ticking bomb.
I have successfully discovered myself through being independent, but I had forgotten that I also need some human connection. I spent the last year sabotaging any potential relationship out of fear that I become dependent on them. I made myself believe I don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy, so I outright crossed it off my list of priorities. I immediately let them know that I wasn’t looking for a relationship when it got remotely close to that. When I met someone I liked — and I still did — I sabotaged it or just didn’t bother to progress it further. I had become the type of person I used to hate.
But then you see, it gets to your head when it’s a Sunday evening and you realize you haven’t spoken to anyone the whole day. Self-reliance becomes an echo chamber. You spend an eventful week at work, or with friends, or with things in between, and on Sunday you’re left with no outlet. You try to make spontaneous Sunday dinner plans with friends because you feel the urge to talk about your week. You also try to check your WhatsApp archive messages to see if any of the people you had recently rejected would be kind enough to reply again. Then you feel the guilt. Then anger.
I know I don’t need to find a partner to be happy. I still believe that. But I feel like I made a mistake along the way. There must be a kinder way to be independent.
My friends around me started getting into relationships. I was very excited to hear life updates from people I care about, but what I didn’t realize is how these changes affected me. While I am very supportive of their new narratives, I became unsure of where I fit in anymore. Suddenly they were not in the picture anymore. That’s just the reality of being an adult, though. I had just missed the memo.
It was when one of my best friends here left the country that I knew I made a mistake. Her departure took a heavy toll on me. I was successful in making sure I wasn’t dependent on romantic relationships, but I didn’t realize that I just projected it onto my friends instead. A huge part of my faux stability broke down the moment I realized I had just re-channeled that energy towards friendships.
I am ecstatic at how my friends are doing, don’t get me wrong. I’d do anything to help them get there in a heartbeat. Their happiness is my happiness. I am not blaming their life victories for the lack of mine. I just wish I had prepared myself better. I just wish I’ll have my chance, too.
When I say I wish I’ll have my chance, too, it’s not in acceptance of defeat. It’s hoping I continue to have the strength and patience to wait longer. It’s clapping my hands in support until it’s my turn.
I had always believed that my journey is a straight line and anything that disrupts it is against my happiness. What I didn’t realize was that it is everything but straight (no pun intended). It is supposed to be a flow, trusting that the crossing path will take you to another one. Then another, ultimately creating another web.
I have yet to find my journey. I have yet to establish a better relationship with myself. I still don’t know which is worse: over-reliance or over-independency. However, I do know I need to find a way to make myself more flexible and comfortable with life changes. Nothing is set in stone, and I still have time to make sure I respect that.