I have always been a contrarian at heart.
I recall watching home videos (remember those?) of childhood birthday parties, usually my sister’s. I was shocked at how infrequently I was actually in the videos due to my penchant to abandon whatever the prescribed activity was and play by myself. Seriously, it’s 30 minutes of the kids oooing and ahhhing around my gregarious sister as she unwraps her giant barbie house, and just 30 seconds of me, across the basement, at the Play Kitchen Set happily cooking an imaginary omelette. I was quiet & well-behaved so adults tended to let me do what I wanted. This is probably where my independent — some might say stubborn — spirit was born. Independent child, party of one.
To this day, I’m still intrepidly independent. I’d rather speak up in a large meeting than sit silently confused. I’d rather be happily alone than miserably coupled. I’d rather do my own thing that makes me insanely happy, than genuflect to the crowd. I find crowds uncomfortable and stifling. I’d rather have a quiet night to myself, a few friends, or a date. The air is crisper. I can hear and honor my own thoughts. There’s more space to be me.
Something happens when we meet an independent person that is really hard to explain. We become incredibly attracted to them — either platonically or romantically, sometimes both. We want to be around them. We want to hear their thoughts and see what they see. We want to inhabit their space.
Here’s what I’ve noticed about independence. It has two parts.
Independence is owning the responsibility for taking care of yourself, while desiring and making space for others.
I can do it on my own, yet I still want you. That’s independence.
Most people think independence is ‘I can do it on my own and I don’t want anyone else.’ That’s not independence, that’s unavailability. For goodness sake, when it comes to love, leave such a person alone! They clearly don’t have space for you in their life. When someone says they don’t want anyone else — either through their words or actions — we need to believe them. We need to stop trying to launch relationship reformations in other peoples lives. How arrogant are we to think we know people better than they know themselves. It’s foolishness. We have no idea what has happened in someone’s life to make them the way they are. If a person is unavailable, their journey to healing is one they need to be make on their own, without our intervention.
Independence is ‘I can do it on my own but if you gave me the choice, I’d rather have someone with me.’ Someone to build with, to share with, to help carry the load. An independent woman is someone who has her sh*t together — financially, emotionally, mentally — but when you offer to help her she gladly and cheerfully accepts. An independent man is someone who can take care of things on his own, but is completely comfortable with a nurturing presence, with being looked after by his partner.
Independence means being comfortable in your own skin and admitting that that skin wants some companionship. Needing something or someone doesn’t make you needy. Most people think independence means I don’t need you. Again, that’s unavailability. Independence is I don’t have to need you, but god, I want to need you. Independence is vulnerable, it’s self-aware, and most-importantly, it seeks the higher thing — fulfilling relationships. An independent person realizes that they can do it on their own, but life is more fun and rewarding with others.
I still go off on my own.
I’m a grown woman, but sometimes, still feel like that little girl who walks away from the festivities to go make an imaginary omelette. Many of my friends are married and happily so. From where I stand — I love my job, I love my family, I love my friends, I love my apartment, I love the coffee shop down the block with the friendly barista. In sum: I love my life and I love my world.
At the same time, I’m dating. I’m vulnerable and open to building a life with someone, provided I meet the right person. I know this is something that I want and something that I’m actively pursuing. I’m also completely willing to walk away when things are not working. I’m going to go over here and make an omelette, mkay bye. That’s where the independent spirit comes in.
I think a lot of people are in this boat. And it’s more than okay. It’s beautiful. Most people would call this ‘not settling’ but to me, it looks a lot more like ‘not willing to be unhappy.’ Life is too short to be unhappy. If you have a life you love, why would you add something to it that will make you miserable? Doesn’t make much sense.
My happily ever after is now. And if I find someone worthy to share it with me, even better. Till then, I’m going to go make an omelette.
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