There is this very annoying, soul-sucking RUMOR circulating around the great expanse of the stratosphere. It's destroying the lives of many fabulous young women with insurmountable brain power and big dreams.
So what is this ~dangerous~ rumor, I'm speaking of? The idea that finding love from another human being should be the ultimate goal in life.
Nah, babe. Finding love is not the ultimate goal. Finding yourself is the goal.
Don't get me wrong, falling in love is a mind-blowing, rewarding, deeply profound, experience. I've been in love. It's electrifying, terrifying, black magic.
But it's not the only profound experience that will ever happen to you.
We screw ourselves over by spending all of our time searching for another person to fill the empty voids in our lives, rather than learning how to fill those vast spaces ourselves.
We exert so much energy into looking for another person to complete us that we end up neglecting the most important relationship we will ever have in our entire lives: the one we have with ourselves.
Let me tell you a story about a girl named Olivia*.
Almost a decade ago, Olivia and I were cast in the same pretentious play. She was love-obsessed.
I don't believe in the whole "girlfriend type" trope bullshit, but if there ever was a "girlfriend type," it would be Olivia.
Olivia was everything I'm not. Olivia drank "moderately" (AKA nursed her civilized glass of wine till 2am) and cooked complex recipes.
While I liked to dress like an expensive designer-clad slut who rocks lace stockings and crop-tops in the brutal throes of winter, Olivia dressed like she was the senator's wife — all prim crew neck dresses with her long auburn hair swept off her face in a gorgeous mega-bun half the size of her head.
She was pearls, I was distressed costume jewelry.
One day, Olivia floated into rehearsal with the light, airy grace of a lawn fairy.
"What the hell is going on with you? You look like you just won the lottery," I whispered to her as she gracefully stretched out her long limbs on the floor of the theatre.
I saw a light switch flip on inside of her. "I did."
She didn't need to say more. I knew she had met a boy creature.
After rehearsal, we went to a little dive bar in Tribeca where I slugged back my white wine as she sweetly sipped on her velvety red wine.
"He's gorgeous, he has his own CREATIVE DESIGN firm," She gushed, as if she was telling me he was the Prime Minister.
"We met last week, it's been a whirlwind. He's the one. He's perfect. The guy I've been searching for my entire life. I'm already in love and so is he. There's only one problem..." Her voice trailed off as a facetious grin crept up on her pointy, little face.
"What?" I slurred. I was getting unusually bombed.
"He lives in Michigan. Zara—" She took a deep breath. "I'm moving to Michigan."
I felt my blood pressure rise.
"You're an actress, what the fuck are you going to do in Michigan?"
"His business is based there," She crossed her long, skinny arms.
At the time, I was barely 20-years-old, but even then I knew there was zero reasoning with a hopeless romantic who's in the throes of her first rapid-fire romance.
And poof... Olivia was gone. Off in freezing, cold Michigan, leaving no trace of herself behind.
Aside from her Facebook updates — all pictures of her and her new bae, her new bae and his friends, her new bae and his kids — I didn't hear from her. It was just new bae. New bae. New Bae.
The whole thing was so boring that I didn't even notice when she stopped showing up on my newsfeed.
Five years went by without Olivia ever really crossing my mind (I had my own shit to deal with).
But then, one day, I was on the Upper West Side coming home from a hellish audition when I heard a familiar voice squeak out my name. It was Olivia. She was waiting tables at a chic restaurant on Central Park West. She had seen me passing.
"Let's get a drink later tonight!" She pleaded, desperation seeping out of her tiny pores.
"Uh, sure..." I had plans, but I could tell the girl was emotionally screwed and oh-so-badly needed an ear.
(PSA: If a girl is giving you emotionally screwed vibes, cancel all of your plans and be there FOR HER).
Later that night I got the story: Olivia had moved, left behind her entire life in New York, stopped working, stopped going on castings, stopped giving herself orgasms, and devoted every fiber of her being to her new bae, only to find out that her perfect, precious bae had been cheating on her for the last nine months with his raven-haired, big-boobed, pot-dealing ex-girlfriend.
So here was Olivia back in the City of Broken Dreams waiting tables and feeling achingly lost, deeply alone and terribly afraid for her future.
Heavy, salty, tears ran down her bony face. As she cried black mascara into her fourth Martini, she explained to me that she had no idea what to do next. She had zero hobbies, zero interests.
Through free-flowing tears she explained how she hated being alone in her apartment because she felt wildly uncomfortable when left in her own company.
She explained that she felt homesick, but it was an inner homesickness that followed her everywhere she went — even at her mother's house in New Jersey (especially at her mother's house in New Jersey).
I began to realize that Olivia felt homesick all of the time, because she didn't know herself.
Olivia's mistake that you shouldn't make.
Olivia had spent her entire existence looking for love. She didn't know herself. She didn't love herself either.
When you don't know yourself, life becomes a very lonely experience because you're hanging out with a stranger all of the time.
For awhile, Olivia found a dude to focus all of her attention on. The dude was a tool, a way for her to deflect the focus off of herself and channel the attention on him.
It's hard as a woman to pay attention to yourself sometimes. We're taught at such an early age that this life isn't really for us anyway.
Our job is to be everything to everyone. Be perfect creatures for our parents. Be beautiful for the passersby on the street. Be thin so we don't take up too much space for men on the subway. And become so flexible that when we meet our partners, we're able to bend into their lives without breaking a bone.
We're told we're selfish if we decide we're more concerned with chasing after our own dreams over our parents' dreams. We're not to be trusted if we cultivate our own definition of style and beauty. We're "masculine" if we sprawl out.
And if we prefer to navigate our own lives, rather than join our lover's, we're fucking weirdos. Witches.
The ultimate goal is to be everything to everyone, especially to our "forever" partner.
And sometimes, like Olivia, we'll meet someone and the anxiety of having to face ourselves tapers off, and we can lose ourselves in another person. And oftentimes, like Olivia, the person we meet changes their mind and decides to leave us.
And suddenly we're alone. With a stranger. (We are the stranger.)
The bottom line is, people are wildly unpredictable. I know, I know, I say this all of the time, but the older I get, the more blazingly real it becomes.
Why your life cannot be defined by finding someone.
Kittens, our happiness, our fulfillment, and our lives, can not be defined by someone else. For two reasons:
- That someone else could leave us at anytime. They could cheat, they could fall out of love, they could even die.No matter how in love you are, you need to be prepared to be left at anytime. Because you might find yourself without bae, and you better like the girl your left with.
- You will never find real love until you love yourself. I know it's so cliche, I threw-up in my mouth as I typed out the sentence, but FUCK, it's true.
Olivia didn't really love that dude. She used him. She used him like a druggie uses the pretty blue pills. She used him like I used to use cocktails. To avoid facing herself. To avoid getting to know herself. To run away from herself.
It can be scary to face yourself, but until you do, you'll never have real love. Until you've looked in the mirror and been okay with your gorgeous flawed AF reflection, independently, without someone else calling you "pretty," you'll never find real love.
Because real love is derived out of wanting someone, not needing to use them as a filler.
And once you have that deep, kick-ass relationship with yourself, you'll draw in other people who have deep, kick-ass relationships with themselves.
You know you'll always be OK, because no matter what unpredictable shit life throws at you, your best friend will be there for you, through it all. And no one is cooler than your best friend, and baby, your best friend is you.
No one is cooler than your best friend, and baby, your best friend is you.
As for me, I'm almost there. I have days when I love myself, days when I hate myself.
But what I've learned from knowing Olivia is that no matter what, I'll never neglect myself. If I were to die alone tomorrow, at least I'll take comfort in the fact that while I wasn't perfect to myself, I fucking knew myself.