I’ve spent my entire life a chameleon. A serial monogamist, I jumped from one relationship after the other, completely conforming to what my partner at the time wanted. Whether it be their type of music, their favorite shows, their style of doing, well, anything. You name it, I was eager to please. It was no wonder I continued down the vicious path of leaving “great guy” after “great guy”. I would never come close to being happy with someone else unless I mastered the art of being alone. And dammit, Did I have my work cut out for me. Through trial and error and then a little more error, I somehow find myself here, today, completely awestruck at the fact that I have never felt more confident in where I am in life, as well as who I am right now. I’m sure there are plenty of things that qualify me as a strong (finger snap) independent wo-man, but these solid five are true to my heart.
1. “Comparison is the thief of joy”- Theodore Roosevelt
By far the biggest change from within came when I stopped comparing my life to others around me. I’d spent years trying to be in line with everyone else. My friends were getting engaged, surely that had to be what I needed to do as well. Buying houses, settling down, having babies; it all seemed like the next steps to happiness, because, well, everyone else was happy, werent they? I used to scroll feverishly through social media, sizing up other’s relationships and travels, all the while thinking about how I could be more like them, instead of even coming close to being myself. I find myself, now, truly happy for everyone around me. I look upon my best friend as she plans to marry the man of her dreams with pure joy. Just a year ago, a pang of jealousy would have come over me every time she would ask my opinion on bridesmaid dress colors, or flower arrangements. Now, I am honored to be there through her time, because I know that it’s not mine, and that’s okay. I watch as friends close deals on houses and thrive in their startup businesses, and not for a second do I start to think that I should be doing the same. While others are successfully building their 401k, I am currently making the choice of whether or not the extra $5 is worth air conditioning in my Chiang Mai hostel. We all have different things that fuel us, and again, that is okay.
2. “…And even if you’re not here to stay, I’m happy the universe allowed your soul to stop by”- Unknown. Or if you do know, tell me, could have been a 12 year old in Maine for all I know.
I have had many past relationships. Some short, most long, but all meaningful in their own way. Almost all ended by my doing, and it was always my own battle within between loving them enough to let them go, and holding onto something for comfort and familiarity. Jealousy used to fuel me as I watched past lovers move on with their lives. I would become so fixated on their new relationship, that I would forget why our own had ended in the first place. Again, I would compare myself to them. I would convince myself that clearly their relationship wasn’t as good as ours was. That she didn’t treat him as well or know him like I had. It was all consuming and I didn’t even realize it. That was until now. Now, I look back on prior relationships with a light heart. Trust me, just a short while ago, I wouldn’t have been even close to comfortable watching all my exes in seemingly happy relationships as I sit at a table for one in a foreign country…alone. To find out that they are now engaged would have ruined me, and now it fills me with incomparable joy to see them as happy as I am, just in different stages in life. It’s a hard pill to swallow, looking upon “what could have been”, and being confident enough in your decisions to move forward. But I promise you, if you find yourself at that point, it’s a good place to be.
3. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”-Oscar Wilde
This, by far, was the most difficult of them all. To be comfortable being alone, meant I actually had to love myself. Alright then, good luck with that one, universe. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been decently happy with who I was, but I was a far cry away from knowing and appreciating all that was Alex Mays, flaws and all. Truly, the root of my problems, especially in relationships, stemmed from this. If I wasn’t comfortable in owning the fact that I was an empathetic, people pleasing, control freak, how would I ever stop myself from hiding such things for the first few decades of my life? And that is exactly what I did, I hid them. I hid them when I thought men appreciated a woman who could crush a burger with her beer, when all I really wanted was to eat literally anything BUT an animal. I hid them when I would reluctantly endure climbing mountains in the summer, and then skiing down those same ones months later to be the cool, outdoorsy chick, when I would have much rather been on a beach or lake or doing any other activity possible. So many times I did things to accommodate for who I thought others wanted me to be, instead of realizing that the ones who mattered most, myself included, wouldn’t care about any of that. Now, without a blink of an eye, I can confidently let whoever comes my way know that I’m an animal obsessed vegan who thinks the gym is one of the worst places in the world and that I would rather cut my own Achilles than pretend to enjoy the game of golf. Seriously, screw golf.
4. “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired”-Robert Frost
Perhaps the reason I have always found myself leached onto someone else, is because of my need to feel wanted and desired. I was never the type of person to not give someone a chance. If they were interested, why not? I had no type, and I guess you can say that’s the reason I have had some of the best relationships in the past. I never cut anyone out immediately. Come one, come all. This was something I didn’t necessarily want to get rid of, but definitely something I needed to pick apart. Did I instantly start to become attracted to someone that was attracted to me, simply because of how it made me feel at the time? All until someone new would come along and desire me more, or in a different way? Well, precisely, I’m sure. In the end, I didn’t even desire myself, so I began to seek that anywhere else it was given. It wasn’t until I started to appreciate this being I inhabitated that I lost the need for affirmation and longing from men. This is a battle I continue to face, but hey, we are all a work in progress, right? I find myself now, mastering the art of friendships and reciprocating interest in only those that I truly desire myself.
5. “You’ll have many friendships in life, but the only ones who matter are the ones that remain effortless”- My Mother
I spend a whole lot of time talking about my past love relationships with men. But the greatest change I have found within myself is that of my relationships with people I haven’t slept with(to put it lightly, of course). I have learned throughout the years that there are different friendships for different purposes in your life. The second I started to appreciate my friendships for what they were, for their purpose, and not expect them to be anything else, they began to flourish. In return, I made sure to reciprocate what that friend needed from me, my purpose. Instead of placing them high on this pedistool, expecting them to keep up with my everchanging mind set and lifestyle, I remained steady in knowing all that that certain friendship was. As I find myself across the world from those closest to me, it’s hard not to have envy surface as I watch those people share memories and drinks and normal daily activities with others, all the while I continue leading a life completely different. They may never think or feel or act the same way as me, and that is alright. Instead of feeling hatred against them becoming close to others in a way that we used to, I find myself excited to one day meet these people that have stolen the hearts of those dearest to me. Clearly, if they like them, I will like them as well. Most of all, as I continue to empower myself to be the best version possible, I yearn to do the same for them. I no longer feel the need to not give my full support to help them thrive, but now, rather, I thrive from giving them my full support. THAT, right there, has been the single most meaningful change of them all. The golden rule, will always stand true, y’all.
“Perhaps, we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done”- Rudy Francisco