Toward the end of my college career, I got rid of my car. It had been giving me all kinds of trouble, and so had the one before that, so one day, I left it at my dad’s house, telling him I’d come back for it when I was ready.
I never did go back.
Getting rid of my car was one of the best decisions I ever made, because after that, I started taking more walks.
At first, I just walked to the bus and back to get to the restaurant where I worked. Over time, though, I realized that even though technically walking was exercise, I actually liked it.
I decided to do it more.
After that, I started taking long walks down a trail near my house almost every morning.
My perspective changed. I saw the city differently. I began to love alleys and bridges, and understand them. I felt independent.
I had more time than ever before for uninterrupted thought.
Several years went by. Then, during my second to last year of college, I dated my good friend’s ex-boyfriend. His name was Chris, and she didn’t like him anymore.
The three of us hung out together a few times, going dancing and to bars. Then one night shortly after they broke up, I hung out with him and his other friends without her. We went to a bar and I don’t remember how it happened or why but suddenly, we were kissing.
It was the first really spontaneous kiss I’ve ever experienced.
After that, we went on a few more dates. I stayed at his house, which was nice. It was the first time I’d ever dated someone with his own house.
It made me feel very mature.
He had parties and even though I didn’t really fit in with his friends, I liked trying. We went to Las Vegas and he gave me mono. Then, after a month or so, I got bored.
One time, we went to a club with his best friend from childhood named Claire. I flirted with Chris in front of her and told her that I thought he was a really great guy on the off chance she’d want to steal him from me.
Six months later they were married.
And then, it happened. Somehow, not long after breaking up with Chris, there was a change—an important change, more important than any change in my life so far and that I had been waiting for for a very long time:
I learned to like being alone.
The way that it happened was strange. One day, I was visiting some friends—a married couple from my church—a couple that I thought was very cute and very happy together, always—but instead of being cute and happy when they were at home, they bickered the whole time and nagged.
It was horrible. It was, truly, a horror show, and worse than that, an embarrassment to everyone there.
I thought to myself, This must be the way relationships really are, when no one is looking—and even, sometimes, when they are.
For the first time, I realized that what was making me miserable to want might also make me miserable to have.
And, for the first time, too, I decided I was ready to be cured.
And, for a long time after that, I was alone.
When I think about it now, it probably wasn’t as long as it felt. It was probably only three years altogether—-one before I met my first husband and two after I met him. But a great deal happened during that time.
I was lonely, but I didn’t mind. Because of the shyness I’d fought since high school, I had few close friends, and those that I did have, I didn’t really like. So I decided that as long as I was getting rid of boyfriends, I might as well get rid of other kinds of friends, too.
And so, that is what I did.
I am going to be better than everyone, I thought. I am going to be really alone.
I took up jogging, and I walked more, too. I watched television. I read a lot. I caught up on all the schooling I’d ignored for the past five years.
I learned a lot, and I enjoyed it. I was always selfish—even before then I was selfish—but I became even more selfish than before.
I didn’t even have a pet.
I realized that it is a lot better feeling like no one listens to you when you don’t have to listen to them, either. I realized I could be happy, even when I was lonely. I realized that depression and loneliness are very, very different things.
These were my revelations.
And so, I enjoyed my independence. Of course, I always had enjoyed it. I just hadn’t realized it until then.
For several years before that time and for about one year after, I lived in apartment with a roommate who was also my sister, and I loved it. Not because my roommate was my sister—because of the apartment.
It was right near my school. It was small and cheap. And it was the first apartment I ever lived in. Being there made me feel like a grown-up.
One night soon after I moved there, while I was getting ready to go to bed, I turned off the kitchen light. The moonlight from the little window above the sink came through, streaming across the linoleum and the counters. I stopped for a minute, staring. It was dark. It was beautiful.
And only I ever get to see it that way, I thought to myself that night, because only I get to turn off that light.
It made me feel so independent.
It felt the same way it did right after I graduated from high school and moved away from home and I went to the supermarket and shopped for my own food for the first time in my life. I loved doing that.
I think I still do, even after all this time.