The funny thing is if you give anything time your perspective changes. On December 15, 2018, I was heartbroken, sobbing to “All Too Well” in my car as I drove home after what felt like the end. It turns out that was only the beginning.
On December 15, 2019, my friends and I met for bottomless mimosas and brunch at a casino buffet. Not only to commiserate about finals and exchange Christmas gifts, but also to celebrate my single-versary. At the time, it was the longest I had gone without a boyfriend since I’d started dating back in high school. We enjoyed delicious mimosas, sampled a variety of flavors (with lots of seafood since it was Sunday), and gossiped the morning away in our Christmas sweaters. It was a far cry from the previous year; my tears had been replaced by laughter. And, yes, my friends bashed on my ex, and I let them.
Because somewhere in that year—around July 9th, I’d say—I’d realized the relationship I’d built up in my head as this great romance gone wrong had never been that. I’d started to unravel my own love story, my wants and desires, and would continue to do so. But that’s not what this is about.
Instead, this is celebrating December 15, 2020—two years since my life changed for the better. I’m still single, happily so, and have done almost everything I wanted to do to take back my identity and more. Even with COVID-19 derailing my hopes for the year, I still found ways to make this a good time for me and stayed true to myself and my small joys. When I compare this year to the last year with my ex, I still think 2018 is worse somehow. So, even with the mess 2020 has been, I’m grateful for the time for reflection, appreciation, and communication with the people who really matter in my life.
In 2018, I shared a room with a toxic relationship, grief, and anxiety; additionally, I lived with my ex’s mother, her boyfriend, and other son. I was largely isolated, escaped the house for my sanity, and was constantly trying to save money for a place of our own. I had a hard time balancing school and work, and felt socially distanced from everyone but my ex (who wasn’t home often). Now, in 2020, I rent the same apartment I’ve lived in since I moved out, and my only roommates are two cuddly cats. I’m still isolated, but it’s pandemic-related; I leave the house for groceries and to do laundry, and not much else. I graduated this year, and even though I didn’t imagine myself teaching it’s something I kind of like. Some of the students even call me their favorite. I still feel a bit socially distanced from everyone but my close friends and family, and sometimes I wonder if that’s a me thing or fallout from the toxic relationship. Despite all that, I’m celebrating my independence.
I wear makeup even when I’m only going out for groceries or seeing someone over Zoom. Contour, highlight, blush, the works—and if I can I wear lipstick, preferably red. I have about the same amount of dresses in my closet now that I did in high school: fancy ones for parties that aren’t happening, summer dresses for warm weather, little black dresses, etc. Almost every day I wear something that has a pattern, and recently I bought a leopard print coat. It makes me feel like a mafia boss’ wife. My hair is longer than it’s ever been and it’s been green since September. I wear it up or down, in braids or a bun, and love it every day. I’ve listened to music so much this year, and I haven’t even been driving. I decorate for Halloween and Christmas, and I’m thinking of adding other holidays into the roster. Pre-lockdown, I’d traveled to more new places in the last two years than in the previous six. My Instagram is full of the yummy things I’ve made since all I do is cook and eat. I actually have a nighttime routine now, like an adult. I dance. I sing. I smile.
Everything that was missing or small in my life has come back in bright and vivid Technicolor. I want to hold onto these things tightly and never let them go. They’re so much a part of who I am and what makes me unique that I don’t see why someone would want to take them away. Any person who really loves or values me has to appreciate all of these things, too, because they’re mine. Maybe they won’t matter as much and that’s fine, but I can’t lose them again.
There are a lot of good things about being single and independent, but I appreciate my freedom the most. I get to make decisions about the small things, like what to eat or when, and the big things, like vacations or jobs. I don’t have to put my life on hold for someone else, value them above myself, or worry over their impression of me. To be honest, I’m done doing that anyway—relationship or not—because I’ve already done it once, and it wasn’t that great.
So here’s to two years of being a single lady, living it up on my own, becoming a spinster, and enjoying every damn minute.
Cue: Martina McBride’s “Independence Day.”