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The Lonely Guide to Being Alone: 6 Steps and a Sit Down

by Emily Wilcox 11 months ago in love

My ex-boyfriend’s sister is getting married. And I’m getting a ready meal for one.

The Lonely Guide to Being Alone: 6 Steps and a Sit Down
Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

My ex-boyfriend’s sister is getting married.

She’s two years younger than I am, the sweetest girl in this or any neighbouring universe, and she met her now fiance about a year after I started dating her brother.

Then, three years ago, I broke up with her brother (we’re still best pals, don’t you worry. He made me a cinnamon Danish milkshake last week. Love comes in a variety of flavours). His sister and her boyfriend did not break up three years ago.

And now — last night — they got engaged.

Have you ever felt your heart glisten with joy and shatter from sadness simultaneously? Feels like cracking an Easter egg under water. You’re floating around riding this wave of happiness (which is what I felt for her and her fiance, times 768,000) but also there’s this pressure sidling up to your surface until you’re flooded with wet, sticky, loneliness (which is what I felt as a side effect of finding out about her engagement, plus the existing weight of loneliness that I’d been lugging around for a few days already bearing down on my chest). I was so happy for them, I really was, I promise you. And I still and forever am.

But also —cough, splutter, smeared eyeliner — I drowned.

I’m 25 and I’ve never been in love

I had a boyfriend and I loved him — more than anything, anyone, any snack — but I think part of the reason why we broke up was because I wasn’t truly in love with him. There was more to it than that but, were we to tag its demise on Wattpad, it’d be defined as #notmeanttobe.

We started going out when I was 17. Broke up just before I was 22. I’m 25 now — old, ageing, achy — and I’m alone.

Disclaimer: this isn’t a pity party. Nor a forlorn fiesta. It’s not even a 2pm, mid-rainstorm gloomy gathering, to celebrate solitude and sadness with only mild flavoured cheese (no mayo) sandwiches served up at the event. You should know that I know exactly how lucky I am to be able to love those that I love in my lifetime. How fortunate I am that my people exist whilst I do. How thankful I am that the universe’s greatest creations are the humans I’ve lived inside of, lived alongside of, lived and loved and adored. On repeat. From now until all the forevers ever, plus seventeen more. I have found all my soulmates and I have stuck myself to them using existential washi-tape.

This post here is simply in regards to my romantic status — aka the lack of Robert Pattinson shaped lover in my life.

I found out about their engagement around 11 pm, in bed, just scrolling through my phone. After messaging her and her brother celebrating their love, I turned off my phone, set it on the side, switched off the light, lay horizontal in the darkness, and let my sadness body slam onto my heart, cracking my rib cage in the process.

I cried into my hand because I didn’t want any of the demons lingering at the foot of my bed to judge me. I pressed my lips together as I sobbed because I didn’t want to hear myself whine. I let my spine do most of the work, my body shaking as I desperately tried to suppress the audiovisuals of my crying and instead channel it straight into an interpretive natural disaster dance. I was an Em-sized Earthquake.

It’s weird, actually, because when I feel this kind of existential loneliness, all I want is to be alone. Hide away beneath a quilt, eyes closed and mind in a place far from this dimension where my eyeliner is streaking onto my earlobes. But sometimes even that doesn’t work. Sometimes all I can see are the faces of those that I love being in love. Faces of people I barely know being in love. The face of stupid Cupid receiving his employee of the month award, a suit jacket barely skimming the rim of his nappy.

Last night I saw all of that and then I saw myself. A 25-year-old who has never experienced love yet has somehow known heartbreak in all its variations. I cried because I was grieving all the versions of my heart that didn’t make it this far, that I had to shed, bury, leave behind in the places where it was beaten.

Sounds dramatic right? Well, my cousin studies drama, I’ve watched every episode of Vampire Diaries four times over and I journal as though I’m submitting my life’s story to Multiversal Studios™ for production. I’m over the top by osmosis. But I’m not just writing this to whinge. Again, that’s what my journal is for. Or Twitter. Or my indoor cats. Here, however?

This is where I make a change. Live-action, out loud and for good. And, hopefully, it can help any of you lonely loves out there feeling the same way.

You should know though: this contains no advice on how to Love Yourself First™. No tips on how to Realise You Don’t Need Anybody But You™. No actionable steps that allow you to Fall In Love With Your Own Life™. Because that’s the thing. I am happy with myself. I love doing things on my own. I know my worth and all its subsequent exchange rates. I am myself out loud and always. It’s just that now, I’m ready to be heard by somebody else.

So this is me, attempting to alleviate my loneliness not by just accepting it any longer, but by eliminating it entirely.

Ready? Here goes.

The lonely lady’s guide to being alone

Step 1

Do all those other suggestions first. The self-love, the meditation and yoga, taking yourself out on a date. Stop comparing, step back from social media, start connecting with the universe. Learn the sound of your own heartbeat. Realise your worth. Note down your joys. Wander and wonder and do both of those on your own. Love who you are and be grateful for what you’ve got. Rely on nobody but yourself. Be kind to everybody, including yourself. And then, when you’re ready, when you’re confident in your own consciousness and happy with who you’ve become — it’s time. Let the hunt begin.

Step 2

Stop settling. This is so important. Above all else, you cannot just embrace the first glimpse of being loved simply because it’s the quickest. Love is not a ready meal. Quality doesn’t always come pre-packaged and made in 2 minutes at 800W. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — you have to wait. You have to be patient. You have to be certain of what you want. As Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower said, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Well, if you’ve truly completed step 1, then you’ll realise that you are worthy of exactly everything that you desire. Don’t settle.

Don’t stay with the boy who doesn’t open up to you because at least he’s here, right now. Don’t go for the girl who treats you poorly simply because she thinks you’re pretty enough to keep around. Don’t accept quiet love when there’s somebody out there this very moment, just fixing the handle on their megaphone before they stride straight into your life, screaming their adoration of you right up to the stars. Please don’t settle. Though it might seem speedier now, I can promise you — it’ll only prolong the pain in the long run.

Step 3

Stop forcing it. If you aren’t being loved, being treated in the way you deserve, don’t push it. Don’t bully them into being the person you want — because they clearly aren’t meant to be them. You can’t force an apple to be an orange. Nor a planet to be a star. Nor a person to be your person. Let them go. Move on. Try again.

Step 4

Stop taking everything as a sign. I did, do, and have always done this. Met a boy who hates anime as I do? He’s the one. Found somebody who has also done North America’s longest zip wires? Soulmate stuff, that. Bumped into a bloke who’s named Edward thus reinstating the purpose of all my Team Edward Twilight memorabilia? Universe, you’re not even being subtle now.

Or at least, that’s what I thought. I took everything as a sign, as the neon lights presenting the love story of my life. But by blindly focusing on those maybe-but-not-actually hints towards finding the one, I completely missed all the red flags that were desperately trying to send me back home. In staring at the signs, I didn’t see the cliff-edges I was inches away from plummeting over.

Not everything is a sign. When something is right, meant to be, destiny or fate, or the cosmos playing Sims 3 with your existence, you’ll know. You won’t have to talk yourself into believing it. You’ll just know. It’ll feel right. It’s less “signs” and more “certainty.” Your heart will keep you updated.

Step 5

Start making your own signs. This one has got me sweating nerves, because for so long and so often I kind of just expected the universe to thrust love right into my lap. I assumed it would be as easy as walking past an usher in the cinema, bonding over my supersized pick ’n’ mix, and thus spending eternity together. But love isn’t passive. It’s active, it’s powerful and it’s everywhere. But you can’t be everywhere if you’re holed up in your room, spine curved as you tap away on your laptop complaining about your lack of romantic activity (that’s me. Right here. Right now).

You need to actively seek love out. You need to get yourself out there. You need to message that pretty girl on Twitter. You need to bite back the fear and ask the checkout boy for his number. You need to hold their eyes when you smile. You need to listen to others, learn about others, meet new people and open up your mind. You need to cold call on behalf of your heart.

Don’t wait for the universe to order you a bulk box of Romance™ on Amazon Prime and wrap it up in velvet ribbon. Go to the craft store, buy some labels and fairy lights and golden glitter glue and make this love yourself.

You won’t find love at first sight if your eyes are closed. You need get up, get out there, get looking.

Step 6

The final step is the hardest. But it’s also the easiest. So we’ll call it a solid. Stop feeling ashamed for feeling alone. It’s not embarrassing to have emotions. It’s not shameful to feel sad. It’s not weird to want somebody to share your life with. It’s normal and it’s natural and it’s friggin’ human.

You’re not disregarding all those you know and love in your life. You’re not calling them out for being crappy friends or absent family. This isn’t about them or their ability to alleviate your loneliness. You can be immersed in the front rows of the main stage at a festival whilst Fallout Boy rock away — and you can still feel paralysingly alone. This isn’t to do with the number of human people around you or who care for you, this is about you and your heart and you should never feel ashamed for listening to it.

Like Matt Haig said, “Loneliness isn’t an absence of company. Loneliness is felt when we are lost. But we can be lost right in the middle of a crowd.” And all we are trying to do is find ourselves, find our way, find our person. There’s no shame in that. Only strength and an existential Google Maps.

Sit Down

But before you do any of this, just sit for a second. Close your eyes. Visualise who and what you want. There’s no wrong way to do this (unless you’re picturing Robert Pattinson then shoo, he mine). It just helps you know what to look for.

Looking for love and finding our way

You can wholeheartedly love yourself and still feel sickeningly lonely. You can be certain in who you are but unsure of who you want. You can be happy when isolated whilst also craving somebody to share that free space with. You can be perfectly okay and also really not — at the exact same time, you know?

Life, love, our thoughts and feelings and values, they’re not linear. They’re plural and run in parallel and they can exist all at once. We are people and this is how we come. Out loud and in full and sometimes we just want somebody else’s fingertips to entangle with our own and tether us to this reality a little more.

You’re not selfish for wanting to be loved. You’re not narcissistic for desiring attention. You’re not wrong for wanting to find the person who feels right.

You’re human. You’re you. And you’re pretty damn great. So why wouldn’t you want to share such greatness with the world?

Or at least with that guy over there — you see him? Yeah him. The one who keeps glancing at you over his chai latte? Yeah he’s pretty cute right? You seen that jawline? Could slice a butternut squash, that. Sharp, but soft smile. Kind eyes. Oh look he’s looking at you again. Man, he’s blushing. Go on. Go say hello. Maybe he’s the one — right?


Oh hey, whilst you’re here: why not put the “em” into your “emails” and lob your name onto my mailing list for weekly em-bellishments on my rose-tinted, crumb-coated lens of life. It’s the equivalent of the reduced section in the supermarket (low value Weird Crap™ that you didn’t know you needed).


About the author

Emily Wilcox

I am a writer. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon. But here I am a writer, armed with an astrophysics degree, a Paperchase pen and a half empty box of biscuits

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