I'm the girl who always has a boyfriend. What usually goes down is this: I'll be in a relationship for a while, things don't work out, we end up separating and then I'm instantly on the search for a new dude.
I always had this idea in my mind that being single meant being sad and alone, and since I (obviously) never wanted to feel that way, it was always my mission to find someone to change that.
Obviously, that hadn't worked out very well because I kept jumping into relationships that clearly weren't right for me. I only realized this after I'd gone through the ringer with said shitty relationship and ended up getting hurt. I was in a constant cycle of getting hurt, and then being temporarily happy.
It took me a while to finally break the cycle. When my ex and I broke up a few months back, I decided it was time to really focus on myself and make it my mission to have fun, get to know myself, travel, take chances and enjoy what life has to offer. I decided I wouldn't look for a boyfriend. I'd just let things happen naturally.
There are a few things that helped down the road:
Reconnecting with friends helped.
I decided I was going to try my hardest to get all the family and friend relationships in my life in check first. I started to spend my time having Friday night card games with my family and heading out for nights of dancing with my closest friends, whom I had neglected during my past relationship. I did this to show them how much I really care about them and love being with them.
Being with these important people really helped me break the cycle because they filled the void of love and companionship I longed for. It made me realize that a friendship is just as valuable as a relationship, when it comes to support and encouragement.
Since I'm also someone who just wants to care for another person, I started to do this in my friendships, and because of this, my friendships have never been stronger and more valuable to me.
I also took the time to mend a connection with someone who was really important to me: my former best friend. After having a falling out and not speaking a word to each other for years, I knew in my heart that I couldn't move forward in my life if I didn't apologize to her and get all my feelings about our falling out on the table. Turns out she was feeling the same way, and again, our friendship has never been stronger.
I've learned that no relationship should ever make me neglect my friendships because these are the people who make me happy and feel alive inside, and I should always appreciate that about them. They'll be there for me, even when some dude is not.
I've also spent a lot of time traveling during this time. I've been taking weekend trips into the city and spending days at the beach. While I love traveling, it's usually not something I did more than once or twice a year simply because I was afraid to take time off and neglect my work.
I realized this is the only time I'll ever be in my 20s, and it's the time for me to be truly living my life to the fullest. While traveling, I learned so much about myself and really started to follow the true feelings I had always bottled up inside.
I started to have a glass of wine here and there, spent more time on the dance floor (not caring about who was watching) and learned which kind of scenes are best for me. I started to be real with myself and only did things that made me happy.
Saying "yes" helped.
While I have always been the "good girl" who wants to go to work, come home, relax and go to bed, I recently realized I was settling into the routine of a 56-year-old, and I wondered how I let myself live my life like I had.
People would ask me to go out on a Saturday night, and I'd say "no" just because I had an article due the next day. Or, a friend would ask if I wanted to head to the beach on a beautiful summer day, and I'd decline because I planned on spending the day catching up on work.
It's not that I stopped caring about work or my passions (I've actually focused on them now more than ever), but I realized there are ways to say "yes" to fun things and still get the mandatory things done when they need to be.
I started to plan my days in a way where I could be productive and have fun all in the same day. When people asked if I wanted to do something exciting, I'd say yes and still be confident that I could find a way to get all my to-dos completed.
Meeting someone new helped.
I was having a great time sparking up conversations with random people on dating apps and dancing to *NSYNC with dudes at the bars. I wasn't looking to meet anyone special, until it happened. I met someone who has seen me in all my rawest forms, truly being myself and still accepts me.
When I first met him, I was afraid I'd go back to my old ways, but I decided I would let this new form of myself come forward and see what happened. I had to prove to myself that, even when I'm completely myself, there are still people out there who will accept me. And that's exactly what he did.
His outgoing, adventurous personality has me constantly having fun, exploring new places and taking chances I would normally be terrified to take. Every day I'm learning something new about myself, and I've learned that I'm truly not as boring and sheltered as I once thought I was. And I've never been so happy about it.
No matter where life takes me from this point on, I'm making myself a priority. I never want to go back to focusing on everyone except myself again. I'll never stop taking chances and experiencing new things. And most importantly, I'll never be anyone other than myself.