The Moment That I Realized Being Single Was The Most Powerful Thing In The World
this blog post is part of a series, #oneblogpostaday.
the first part of this series is focused on relationships + love.
this is a repost from one of my first blog posts ever. I was newly single and understanding what it meant to find my power inside - first. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
It was already five o’clock and I was running late.
I looked out the window of the bus and tried to calm myself down. This was supposed to be fun. I was in Australia. I was finally making friends. It was Valentines Day.
Yet, as soon as that last thought entered my consciousness I immediately regretted it. I felt a thud in the bottom of my stomach. The pit, which was sandwiched in between my lungs and my diaphragm had disappeared a few days earlier, but instantly felt heavy and twisted.
My mind was now somewhere else. I was no longer sitting in the midst of the carefree Friday night plans that were tossed between my traveling companions. I was drifting back to our first kiss, first time, first moment that I felt the pain that accompanies your first love. I was sick—and I knew it wasn’t because of the bus’ speed.
We were stopped dead in rush hour traffic.
Soon enough, I was slowly drawn back into the menial conversation that was taking place around me. There was a buzz in the air as everyone argued over the cheapest places to drink in Sydney, but I didn’t share the excitement; I would not be part of the drunken stupor that night. Actually, I had thirty minutes to find my way down to Sydney Harbor, because I would be walking on top of the city’s largest bridge that evening.
Before I arrived in Australia, I decided that I was going to sign up to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
And I don’t just mean ‘walk across’ like you would over the Brooklyn Bridge. When you climb across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, you are standing on the steel arches of the structure while you hike up to the summit. You know, it was a bucket list item type of activity.
I hadn’t really thought through the dates at the time, because in my pre-work mindset, Mondays and Wednesday and Fridays all meshed together. Time didn’t matter.
So, I ended up planning one of the most sentimental activities during twilight on Valentines Day. Sometimes, I could be really dense.
When I realized the date that I had chosen, there was nothing I could do. The company didn’t “switch” bookings. Damn Australians. They were also very confused as to why I wanted to change it—Valentines Day was their most popular trip of the year. Yeah, I wanted to tell them, for newly married couples.
And, with who did I end up sharing this beautiful experience? Honeymooners.
Every single one of them.
Our tour guide, a fit, queer woman in her mid-thirties, also had no problem singling me out any chance that she got. Like I didn’t feel single enough.
Her seemingly fun Australian accent got annoying rather quickly: “Katina, stand in the middle for the group picture! (I could feel the irony: you have no one to stand next to anyway),” or “Everyone kiss your lover—oh sorry Katina, except you! Make a kissy face for the camera!” She even went as far as having the couples that I stood in between for the entire trek take turns “talking” to me. I mean, I wasn’t a child who needed watching; I was a strong, independent, single woman who could most definitely take care of herself.
Well, that confidence quickly dissipated as soon as the sun began to set.
Our group was instructed to sit on the makeshift steps literally on top of the bridge. And this moment was the epitome of the entire trek. We faced the city as the sun began to dip behind the skyscrapers in the distance. The couples around me began to kiss and cuddle and look into each other’s eyes, like honeymooner’s do.
And what was I left with? My thoughts. Myself. And that pit in my stomach felt heavier than ever.
I sat on those metal steps and watched the changing sky, in awe of my life at that moment. I made it halfway across the world. I was oceans and continents away from the people that I loved.
But, my heart wasn’t heavy with the usual homesickness that accompanies the first few weeks of travel. It was broken, and in that moment, I felt like nothing could fix it.
I missed him. I missed us, and the person that I was when I was with him. He was my best friend, my soul mate. He knew more about me than I knew about myself. We spoke at all hours of the day; he got me through stupid fights with my parents and bitchy fights with my friends. He was my first love. And, I couldn’t fathom how I could make this love stop, even if I wanted to.
Mike* and I met in high school. He was two years older than me, and one of those cute, quiet soccer players that usually hung on the outskirts of the Cool Kid’s group. I remember spotting him immediately. His sweetness, and overwhelming kindness was not typical for an eighteen-year-old guy. I never had the patience to date the (literal) meatheads I was typically friends with; football players who were too self-absorbed for their own good.
I can’t even remember how we first met, but during my 16th summer, things moved rather quickly. We spent too many nights in his red Jeep before he left for college, and that was it. We were a thing.
I never expected our relationship to last. He was leaving for college, and I was entering my junior year of high school. My schedule was loaded up with AP classes and sports and SAT prep. I didn’t have time for a boyfriend—let alone one who wouldn’t even be living in the same town.
Yet, life always happens when you least expect it.
We ended up dating for five years (give or take a few break-ups along the way). He slowly morphed from the nice soccer player that I barely knew into my best friend. He was with me through college acceptances, moving to New York, getting my family’s first dog. He was my first everything. He morphed my identity, and became part of me. Frankly, I didn’t know who I was without him.
And that’s why we broke up for good during my senior year of college.
I spent those first few months that we were separated in a fantasy world. I pushed away my feelings of hurt, and my confusion with “happiness.” I didn’t even cry. I smiled and immersed myself in a million and one activities. I thought that if I didn’t feel sad, it would go away. I didn’t have the strength to confront my feelings head-on.
Until I was alone, halfway across the world.
It all came crashing down in that romantic, sappy, moment where I was surrounded by love and beauty. Of course. It felt like there just wasn’t enough to go around.
So, I stayed in that position, clasping my hands together and breathing deeply for what felt like forever. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t cry. I just sat there, and contemplated curling up into a fetal position.
Then, I remembered my tour guide and I thought better of it.
The rest of our trek down the bridge was a blur. I just remember clasping the cold, steel ledge and wishing that this gnawing feeling would go away.
When was I going to be happy alone? With myself? Why did I need someone else to define my happiness?
As I walked back to my hostel wrapped up in the warm, foggy air and my swirling thoughts, I couldn’t help but notice every single couple around me. There were posh twenty-somethings strolling into the fancy restaurants downtown, and older couples, hand-in-hand, taking in the clear summer night.
I tried to keep my eyes straight ahead.
I plodded along down Henry Street when I passed a well-lit dessert shop that was brimming with people. No, I couldn’t. How sad is that: poor, single girl eats chocolate alone on Valentines Day. It was too much.
But for a moment, I just thought, “Fuck it; I can do whatever I want. If chocolate makes me happy, so be it.” I turned around and got the chocolate.
And you know what? As I walked with my decadent chocolate mousse to find a comfortable spot in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens, I sat myself right next to a teenage couple midst make-out session. I ate that chocolate slowly, savoring every bite, and watched the twinkle of the Harbor Bridge in the distance.
I can honestly say it was my best Valentines Day yet.
I felt powerful. And happy—all by myself.