We sat opposite each other on his floor mattress. He was older, he’d been loved, he’d accomplished things I could only dream of, and he’s listening to me but he’s not hearing. I was telling him that if I died alone, like Jane Austen, then it wouldn’t be a terrible thing and he kept saying how ridiculous it was that someone my age (21) would think it likely they’ll die alone. Needless to say he did not fall in love with me. But I did stop talking about it from that moment, because there’s no easy way to tell someone, ‘I’m all I need, and if I do die alone, I won’t be wishing I wasn’t, I’ll be grateful I spent every moment making my life something else”.
Aside from being an inherently sexist paradigm similar to the ‘clock-is-ticking’ bullshit, designed to guilt women into settling or selling out for a relationship because it’s your primary value-base as a female, dying alone is nothing more than shaming the self. When I see people now, who look teary-eyed into their selfies or slouch across from me at coffee saying they know they’re dying alone, I feel like saying “yeah, so what’re you going to do about it?!”. Trouble is, I know they’ll loathe me for that because there is no way to stop yourself from dying alone unless you meet someone who loves you until-and while- you die, and you can’t control that, you can’t force that.
- Darling heart, you have no clue when you’re going to die, so there’s never going to be any way of telling if you’ll die outside of a relationship. You could break up with someone who has been emotionally belittling you and physically abusing you for over a year, and when you leave in floods of happy tears that you’re free be hit by a car. Did you die alone?
- Darling heart, you know as well as I do that no matter how well you think you know someone or how much love you give them, there is no guarantee they’ll be with you until you’re old, until you’re old and for fuck’s sake they still won’t leave you the hell alone and thank goodness for that!
- Darling heart, even if you could force someone to be with you forever, you know it like a ball of wool sitting under your stomach scratching at your diaphragm that you’re only together because you’re full of fear, not full of love. You stick by each other because you prefer the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But that’s not love, that’s punishment. It’s not trust, it’s dependence. You both deserve better.
- Darling heart, you know what to me is worse than dying alone? Dying beside someone you don’t love, and who doesn’t love you. You can spend your whole life pretending that’s not true, but I genuinely believe that at the last moment of our lives is when we reach the most clarified and pure truth of our lives. I would rather anything than my last moment feeling that though I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t happy.
That all being said, I think there are ways around this nightmare we continually empower, this obstacle we keep building a skyscraper of then applauding ourselves that we can’t overcome, an unsinkable ship. Here’s three ways you can stop the seemingly inevitable:
- Work out what “dying alone” actually means. Does “dying alone” mean never being in a meaningful relationship, does it mean not having any children, or any friends who call you more regularly than once a month? Does it actually mean you never having a fulfilling career, or travel to India, or own a home, or lose that last seven kilos? What do you want to look back on? Once you actually work out what it is, the steps to overcoming it instead of crucifying yourself with an unknown therefore insurmountable regret become easier to break into steps to walk on.
- Take a look at the map of your life. How far do you ever travel from home, or from work. We humans are truly creatures of habit, but we’re also creatures of comfort, now more than ever. We frequent the same places, we see the same people, we sit on the same train carriages and stare into our screens, we shop at the same stores. Make an effort to go to one entirely new place a month and not hide in your phone or earbuds the whole way. Take a friend if you feel the need, but just try and observe the undiscovered world around you- if it’s in a small way like a new bar, or a gallery opening, or a big way like a mystery road trip or surprise visit home to your family. You might catch someone’s eye, you might find the best coffee in ever, you might like yourself a little more for growing a vagina and getting the heck out there.
- Being sad, or feeling lonely, is never something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to be encouraged by, it’s your soul telling you there’s something you want, something you’d like to change. In the same way our bodies tell us we’re hungry, but we ignore it because we’re busy, or that we’re tired but your ex will be there so we’ll still go and look drop-dead gorgeous, or that we’re in pain but the shoes just look so good. We know intuitively what we need, but are so capable of starving ourselves of for some alternate, usually regrettable purpose. Stop doing that. Eat the food, get the sleep, try the talking, do the changing.
There is no living creature to whom nature has been more generous, but in turn has been most ungrateful to and destructive of. We use our gifts of critical thought, mass production-and reproduction- and ingenuity to squander and destroy our planet’s resources, each other, and ourselves. All the while we hate, we fear the end of our suffering and we admonish those who love, anticipate it. Sometimes I go to bed feeling wasted, like there’s some unfulfilled purpose, some soul-level goal I’ve not even begun walking consciously toward. That means something. That means there’s more to be gained. Sometimes I go to bed feeling like I’ve fallen too far behind, because I’ve never been serious or long-term with anybody, but that has never stopped me, and never will. Whatever it took for me to learn I can only count on myself, I’m grateful for. I think it will make me a better partner someday. But today, I don’t matter any more or less, but I do.
In love and independence,