Adolescent me is a stark contrast from today me. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Most people change between middle school and adulthood. Theoretically, we get taller. We lose the acne. We get jobs. (Or you don’t and you go to grad school and prolong a miserable academic existence. Just kidding. Or am I?)
However, my personality has changed more dramatically than my complexion. And not in a Charmander becomes Charzard way (that was a Pokémon reference for those of you didn’t collect cards in second grade). Rather, I was like a Charmander who became Wartortle (don’t worry, I had to Wikipedia the evolution of Pokémon to make that joke).
She asked me yesterday if I was single.
I said, “Yeah, I am happily independent.”
She shook her head and said, “No, that sounds too transcendent.”
I insisted, “I don’t need anyone to make a smile.
And please, don’t ask me to repent.”
“Why not?” she asked. “I can be worthwhile.”
“Because a long, long time ago I invested myself—
Put my body, heart, and soul into another,
But then she let me go, and I fell until I landed.
She was like a boat leaving a dock,
And there I was to watch her sail away.
My cries didn’t reach too far across the water,
So there I was left alone to find myself,
So I went and found a few others.
But you’ll find that in life,
Things tend to repeat themselves,
And once more I felt the knife before it was too late.”
“And all this means?” she asks,
And I just answer,
“I wear a few too many masks.
My mask is my shield,
So that I’ll always be healed,
And you’ll never see me take it off for you.
So don’t waste your time;
Cut the line.
I’m sailing away, too.”
Growing up, I was the sensitive bookworm. I wore glasses, read Peter Benchley novels, and kept my heart on my chewed-up sleeve (I teethed a lot in third grade). I hid behind my parents’ legs when confronted by strangers. I also ate a lot of cookies (okay, I was morbidly obese; I’m not even joking). And “leader” was the last thing a teacher would write on my report card.
While I definitely followed my own drummer (I didn’t enjoy sports; I played with action figures, but not cars or GI Joe’s), I also was a follower. In friend groups, I embodied the timid, sheltered child. I doubt anyone would associate me with that persona anymore.
What changed? I really can’t say. And that’s not the point of this reflection.
I write a lot about independence, so much so that I’m sometimes sick of hearing myself harp about ~*independence*~. It’s probably because of this that I’ve begun to question whether one can be too independent.
Since late high school, when I “broke up” with a certain friend, I declared I would never be dependent on anyone again. I even wrote a poem junior year about this attitude, which I’ve posted to the side because I still love it so and think I’m a poet because it actually has a rhyme scheme. I’m traditional in many ways, but I gag at notions of subservience, following expectations just because, and relationships. More and more I embrace “do you” philosophies as long as you’re not reckless (financially or otherwise) and you harm the least amount of people (or nobody at all; that works, too).
In this vein, I have taken to living my life without expectation that others come with me. I go to the movies alone. I travel to countries alone. I say I don’t want to date, and I honestly believe that. I no longer say I want to do something and invite someone thinking, “I’ll only do this if you come.” Yes, I’m inviting you and I might prefer companionship, but I’ll be damned if I won’t do it on my own if you won’t come.
But as I increasingly reinforce this mantra in my everyday life, I wonder if it’s sustainable or healthy. This piqued last week when I told a friend I didn’t want to travel with them. As you may recall, I went to Copenhagen by myself this past March. The very day I returned I bought tickets for my next trip. I did not wait, or even ask, anyone to come with me.
Once I bought the tickets and excitedly shared the news with friends, I told multiple people, “Sure, get a ticket and come with me!” I knew most people would not follow suit. One friend, however, expressed interest, and I initially encouraged them. “Oh my gosh,” I said, “it would be so awesome.”
But as I listened to my friend say they were requesting time off and now they were waiting for their new credit card, they would be buying their tickets any day now, I realized, “I was joking. I didn’t really mean it. I want to go alone.”
What was wrong with me?
They say you must love yourself before you can love others. But I already love myself. Me traveling alone – or doing anything alone – is not about finding myself. I simply enjoy it. And…okay, a part of me wants to be steeled for the possibility that I never do marry or find a “life partner.” Because I’m not sure if I want that. Or believe in that. But I also enjoy just being alone in a non-introvert way. So I need to know and be sure that I can be with myself forever.
But is that healthy? Or realistic? Are humans meant to be solo? Is there such a thing as too much independence?
Most sources point to yes: humans are social creatures. We desire companionship. And I know that most of all since I’m an extrovert. So I worried and still worry, Have I taken it too far? Or will I take it too far?
Ultimately, I told my friend I wanted to go alone. I worded it like this: “If our trips happen to not overlap, it wouldn’t be a big deal.”
Subtle, Cazey. Subtle.
My friend and I agreed to book a trip together soon, which I’m totally about. I don’t want to travel the rest of my life alone or always go to the movies alone or do anything always alone. But in this instance, and in many, I do want to be alone.
I don’t have a compact answer for, “Can you be too independent?” Really, what I have are follow-up questions and “will I marry? Do I need to marry? Will I be happy at 60 or 75 if I am never ‘with’ someone? Are these even the right questions?”
Most people will never worry about being too independent. Usually, people have the opposite concern. And for now, I am fine doing what makes me happy (as long as I keep my long-term happiness in mind too). If you don’t want to go to the scary movies with me, that’s okay, I already have my ticket. And I will continue to do me.
I’m not trying to find myself, but I am trying to find these answers.