I am sitting in a coffee shop by myself updating my blog. Listening to a business meeting in one corner, some friends effortlessly catching up in another, and what appears to be a first or second date directly beside me (poor guy is super nervous). And yet...here I sit all by myself sipping my chia tea. If you had asked me to do this three years ago I would have adamantly refused, I hated being alone. I thought that it was the simple fact that I got bored but then I realized it was a much deeper problem, it was because I didn't like me-actually three years ago I hated me. But, surprisingly, over the past few months and years my life has changed more drastically than I ever thought possible. My perception of myself, my future, and my world has taken on an entirely new frame.
Until a few years ago I was constantly looking somewhere, anywhere, for acceptance and validation. I desperately wanted someone to tell me I was good enough, smart enough, pretty enough...just enough. I quickly discovered that is a VERY empty way of life. A life that is lived for the sole purpose of pleasing others and not myself. And, honestly, I just couldn't do it anymore. I do not know when it happened. I can't put my hand on one event and say "that, that is the morning I decided to live for me" but it happened. It wasn't one big event just a bunch of little setbacks, a few hard break ups, a few friends stabbing me in the back or simply fading out of my life-little things that on their own that weren't earth shattering but they added up to a heavy load that I just could not carry anymore. At first it was lonely as the people that I had always bent over backwards to please quickly vanished out of my life. I felt guilty when I enjoyed a pizza causing me to lose my size two figure. I felt incomplete when I looked at what everyone else was doing and where they were going and who they were becoming, but (strangely enough) slowly and surely I felt happier, more fulfilled, and more free. I was able to read things I was passionate about, my life became filled with people who were headed in the same direction as me and not simply people who I thought were cooler, smarter or prettier. And, more importantly my life began to soar to new depths and new directions that I never imagined. I learned to appreciate true beauty in nature, history, and myself. I learned to speak up for myself instead of simply being the cute little girl people could say or do anything to. I learned to love at levels I never even knew existed. But, to get here I had to be alone. I had to be lonely. I had to face myself-who I had become and who I truly was.
If I ever go through an incredibly hard and lonely time again I hope that I come back to DC. This is the perfect city to come face to face with myself. Walking the same streets and halls as some of the greatest and most powerful men and women in history strikes a deep cord in my heart. Being in DC is empowering and yet humbling which is a dangerously powerful combination. Yesterday I had a whole day off when everyone else was working and I was so excited I couldn't stand it. As I was wandering around the city I stumbled upon the Supreme Court Building (I mean I knew it was there but I wasn't planning on going in). But that quickly changed as I realized I had nothing else to do and it was about a million degrees outside so inside I went. As I walked around I found myself face to face with an exhibit on Sandra Day O'Connor-the first woman to ever sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. As I looked at her life in pictures, mementos, and statues I couldn't help but wonder...was she lonely at times to? My favorite statue of her is one in which she is standing on glass shards representing how she shattered the glass ceiling. I can guarantee she did not get there by pleasing the crowds. She was a very controversial character-she wasn't the good housewifey woman that many in her era expected. Actually she was hated by many men for her outspoken spirit and quick wit and she was despised by women as unfeminine. But, by not being "the usual" she changed the course of history, not just for herself, but for every woman in America. And the best part? She didn't do that by being the most popular woman and pleasing the world. She did that by tenacity. She did that by living a life above and beyond what anyone ever dreamed possible. She did that by having periods of being lonely so that she could pass by those who did not want her for what she truly was. That is how I want to live. Full of tenacity and spirit and love and passion for whatever I pursue.
Five months ago I was in a relationship with a man that I loved more than I ever thought possible. I poured every ounce of myself into that relationship (in hindsight not the healthiest decision). And then, one night, he literally looked at me and told me he didn't love me. After an intense screaming match-he won and I lost (bad). I drove home broken, not just in my heart but in my very spirit. I have never felt so worthless, used, disgusting, ugly, or incomplete. But, more importantly, I have never felt so alone. My friends and family went above and beyond-sleeping on my floor, taking me out, lots of hugs and phone calls, planning great weekend adventures. But it was no use. I looked around the world, my world, and felt like a completely useless outsider. I did not want to get out of bed but I didn't want to sleep..honestly I didn't want to exist. And then one morning the weirdest thing I happened. I went for a walk around campus BY MYSELF and felt satisfied. I felt complete with just me. I didn't need him to tell me I was enough because suddenly I WAS ENOUGH. Just me, without his approval and without someone telling me I was. I have been "lonely" for the past five months and I have learned so much about myself. I've reveled in history, I have laughed until I cried, I have danced in the streets of DC with strangers, I have met new people and more importantly I have flown way out of my comfort zone.
He was not a bad guy...just to clarify. But, without him my life has taken on new direction and soared farther than the farthest reaches of my imagination could go. If I had been with him when I was offered this position in DC I wouldn't have accepted it. I would not be dreaming of jobs in far off cities. I would not have met half of the amazing people I have met. My life would be good but I can't help but wonder-would it be as great as it is right now? Would I have that feeling I get as I sit on the steps of the capitol every night watching the sunset-the feeling of being completely and deeply satisfied and like I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be? Looking back now I realize that night in January was legitimately one of the biggest blessings that has ever been rained down on me. I am still lonely at times. Sometimes I still am like "what the heck am I doing?!" (as I am sure most of the people who know and love me wonder at times) but I am learning to embrace these lonely moments as blessings. I am learning to look deep into these days that feel so isolated and to search for the hidden blessing because I KNOW it is there. I am learning to love being lonely. And that in and of itself is very tenacious...and being tenacious is the first step in living a life of tenacity.