When I fall in love, I fall hard. The other person becomes the focus of all my attention. I learn to love what they love, hate what they hate. I've even been known to move states to be closer to someone, It's been that way since the beginning of my dating life.
I got my first boyfriend at the age of 15. He was a terrible kisser, but that didn't matter. After a few months, we broke up, but he was quickly replaced by a new crush and then a new boyfriend. From there followed a cycle that repeated itself for years: boyfriend, breakup, new crush, boyfriend again. The time between boys was short, never lasting more than a couple of months. And of course, for me, that time felt like an eternity.
Don't get me wrong — I'm not trying to brag. While some may consider me cute, I don't have model good looks, or even a super-outgoing personality. So how did I find myself never without a guy? Honestly, it's because I was just there, putting out some kind of "come and date me" vibe.
This past August, my most recent and longest relationship finally ended after limping along for way too long. For 10 years, we had gone through extreme long-distance, starting school, starting new jobs, the death of parents. I had followed him to not one but two states. We made it to living together and even briefly discussed the details of our wedding. He never actually proposed, but he did list me as his fiance on a form once.
The relationship ended over a brief phone call, as he was living in another state (again). I think the actual breakup part of the conversation lasted less than a minute. To the best of my memory, it went like this:
Him: "I don't want to do this anymore."
Me: "Are you sure?"
And just like that, it was done. I was sad, sure, but mostly I remember being relieved. I was temporarily living with a family member, working two part-time jobs seven days a week and preparing to move to the city where he was. I was interviewing for jobs I didn't really want just so I could get there as soon as possible. Now that the relationship was over, I was finally free to go wherever and do whatever I wanted.
At the age of 32, I'd finally given myself the chance to forge my own path without worrying about what someone else wanted me to do.
What I decided to do in that moment was move 3,000 miles back to Michigan to the house I grew up in. The weeks before the move were filled with packing and saying goodbye to friends. It wasn't until I actually got home that it hit me: I was finally alone. I didn't have a job yet or any friends close by, so I had a lot of time to sit and reflect on how I'd gotten to this point, from practically engaged to the love of my life to unemployed and living with my mother again.
That's when I decided I needed to take a break from dating. I committed then to one year of "no boys allowed." I'd give myself the chance to finally really focus on myself and all the things I always said I wanted to do. The world was my oyster.
I'm six months into my year of no men and it's been... interesting. On the one hand, it's been pretty easy. It's not like the menfolk are beating down my door. I work with mostly women, and most guys my age around here are already married. It's easy to resist temptation when there's nothing there to be tempted by.
On the other hand, it's been challenging. All the time, energy and emotions I used to put into my relationships are now singularly focused on myself. I no longer have someone else to use as an excuse for when I'm not following through on all the grand plans I had for myself.
They say nature abhors a vacuum. All of that extra time and mental energy has to be filled with something. Some of what it's been filled with is a heavy dose of self-doubt and a heaping spoonful of uncertainty about what the heck I want to do with my life, and what kind of person I'd like to be with in the future. Thankfully, now that I'm single, I have a lot of free time to read and have started reading a lot of self-help books. I even started my own blog to keep track of all the great stuff I'm learning.
I've faltered a couple of times in my quest to remain completely man-free for the year. I embarked on a brief flirtation that involved lots of late night texting. I felt the familiar pull of being drawn into someone else and waiting for the next hit of when I would get another text from them. Thankfully, that ended rather abruptly and for the better.
There have also been a couple of lonely nights when I've missed my friends and my life on the west coast desperately. In an attempt to distract myself from my loneliness and all the thoughts bouncing around my own head, I signed up for various online dating apps. I even went so far as to swap messages with a couple of guys. In the light of day, I realized my heart just wasn't in it, and I saw it for the distraction it really was.
In the last few weeks, I've really turned a corner in learning how to be more comfortable alone. I've started working on tackling some bad habits I'd developed in the past. I'm actively working on pursuing writing. I'm working out regularly and eating healthier. I've reconnected with a couple of friends from back in the day, and I've made a couple of new friends along the way. I'm much more selective about how I spend my time and who I spend it with. I now feel like I'm in the driver's seat of my own life, and I'm more confident than I've ever been.
I went to a fundraising event recently that included a short psychic reading. One of the things she told me was that I would meet a potential love interest over the summer. I'm not really sure how I feel about that. I'm finally starting to enjoy all of this "me time," and I'm not really ready to give it up.
She also told me I'd been settling in past relationships and that I would eventually find someone who was worthy of my love. Now that I wholeheartedly believe to be true.