In 2018, I took a gap year. No, not that kind. I wasn’t schlepping round south east Asia with a backpack, attempting to ‘find myself’ amongst a horde of fellow Brits. I was still in Jersey (most of the time) going about my business, but for the first time in my Adult life I spent the entire 12 months entirely single.
It didn’t start as a deliberate undertaking or a New Years Resolution, but it became one.
I began the year so emotionally and mentally exhausted by unhealthy relationships and the effort of trying to be ‘good enough’ for people who (with a little hindsight) quite obviously didn’t deserve it, that I had nothing left. Several years of having my confidence and self-worth steadily eroded away by people who claimed to care about me had taken its toll.
Even at that low ebb, I was so hard-wired by habit to swerve loneliness that I continued to make bad decisions and blindly stumbled on seeking someone to fill the space beside me. I went on numerous dead-end Tinder dates, made an absolute fool of myself more than once, and genuinely considered packing up and leaving my adopted home to see if the grass was greener elsewhere (Despite single friends elsewhere assuring me it is definitely not).
It wasn’t until I went on holiday in March that the fog started to clear a little. I was anxious beforehand about going alone, so much so that I knocked 2 days off the duration as I thought a full week kicking about on my Tod might be a bit much. There were a few shaky moments of loneliness at the beginning but soon forgotten when I was having a great time doing exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.
Since then I haven’t really looked back. A couple more attempts at dating proved that I wasn’t ready to let anyone (no matter how lovely) get close enough to have the ability to harm me, so I knocked that whole idea on the head.
Since then – and I’m not convinced this is a coincidence – I’ve had the best year of my life. An endless summer at the beach, a host of new friends and some amazing experiences. I ran my first half marathon (and 2nd, and 3rd) and learnt to pole dance. I took a solo trip to Paris where I took full advantage of the solo rider queues at Disneyland, sipped champagne up the Eiffel Tower and wondered if the Moulin Rouge needs a pole dancer.
I also found and bought my dream flat, sorted out all the million things that need sorting out with a property purchase, humped all my stuff across the Island one Fiat 500 load at a time, and laughed in the face of the Ikea ‘2 man job’ instructions as I wielded my newly put together toolbox (It’s a biscuit tin in the shape of a Gingerbread Man. I may be newly independent, but I’m still a Girl).
One of the most unexpected but best things has been making new and reconnecting with old (Male) friends. For 7 years with my Ex having male friends wasn’t really an option, at least not without suffering his snide comments, so it’s been lovely just to hang around with good guys who make me laugh, being completely myself, without any romantic pressure and without having a care in the world about it. It’s also reminded me that not ALL Men are jerks, which was definitely not my opinion this time last year.
Obviously not everything has been smooth sailing, because it never is, and there have been moments of tears, jolts of self-doubt and the odd night wracked with anxiety, but actually none of those things have been as frequent as they were when I was in relationships. At times I miss having someone to snuggle up with or a hand to hold, because I’m still human, and I hate ALWAYS being the one who has to wash up, but at some point those things will happen again, and in the meantime feeling stronger, happier and more capable than I ever have before makes up for all of that.
For about a decade too long I thought that I needed a SOMEONE to love me or be proud of me or reassure me, in order for me to be valid, but actually as long as I’m doing all those things myself (which I clearly wasn’t before) then it’s enough.
So whilst I haven’t been sleeping in dorms, drinking amphetamine filled buckets or gazing a temples I don’t really understand, I feel like I have ‘found myself’ anyway. I’d spent a long time trying to be what other people wanted me to be and had completely lost track of the girl I used to be. This year I’ve found her again. She’s still 22, which is proving to be something of an issue, but she’s definitely back and planning on sticking around.
I’m not sure how long this will continue for; frankly the idea of going on any more awkward and forced dates is enough to turn my stomach, but for now I’m just enjoying being my new-old self, meeting people, laughing, flirting and seeing what’s around the next corner.