For the past week, my subconscious has been doing something delightful. Every night, consistently, it delivers to me a dream of one of my ex-boyfriends and his current girlfriend (either real or imagined) mocking me in some way, shape or form.
In this context, the previous use of the word “delightful” actually means “remarkably shitty”. Thanks a heap, subconscious. So obviously the subtext of this whole situation is worth delving into, and what it comes down to for me is the idea that’s been deeply rooted in all of us, especially women: the greatest thing you can accomplish is a relationship.
At this point, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that every man I’ve been with for any vaguely prolonged period of time is now in a substantial relationship with someone else. I, as it happens, am not. I’ve written a novel, am currently enjoying a wildly successful career, I’m traveling to Europe in the fall, and I’m surrounded by wonderful friends. But, I’m still single. I am presently failing at the one thing that I, as a woman in our society, should value above all others. And while I know that a relationship isn’t nearly as important in terms of my happiness as I’m meant to believe, it’s also hard to shake something that we have been told to strive for since we were little. The definition of a happy ending is a marriage, the definition of a sad ending is someone alone. And it’s bullshit, yes, but it’s still hard to get past – especially when your brain, like mine, is serving up custom-made reminders.
Relationships are wonderful. They’re also hard work, messy, and full of complications and annoyances that aren’t worth the hassle unless you meet someone you’re willing to work through it all with. And I can feel myself swimming upstream a lot against the idea that if I’m not in a relationship, it means I should be looking for one. It means I’m not “complete” or can’t reach true happiness, when in reality relationships can add to happiness, yes, but relying on them as the only means is unhealthy and dangerous.
It’s easy to fall into the “yes, but you’re still single” way of thinking. But be careful, it’s a trap! (points to anyone who got that reference). It’s the mindset that tells you that everything you’ve accomplished is wonderful, but you haven’t completely succeeded yet. If you let it run wild, it’s a mindset that can devalue friendships and downplay that value of all of the incredible people in your life. Because I believe that you do need relationships to be happy and fulfilled – they just don’t necessarily have to be romantic.
So I hope my brain will shut up tonight, or at least let me dream about publishing and traveling and making memories with my best friends. Because I’m still single, but I’m also happy. And the two are not mutually exclusive.