4 November 2013

Of Dark Novembers and Lonely Milestones

I thought a long time about whether this blog post is something I actually want to write. The topic is deeply personal, I doubt it's of much interest to anyone, and it's also largely about things I have little power over, so whingeing is really of little use. But this particular anniversary has been weighing on my mind, on and off, as the autumn has progressed, and writing is one way to process thoughts and feelings. Be warned, though—personal, gloomy thoughts lie ahead...

I don't remember the exact date, but I recall it was sometime in mid-November when she told me she wanted a break. Or, at least, that's the word that was used at the time—a 'break', never a 'break up'. But the break grew longer and eventually we just drifted apart. I took it pretty hard at the time, but in hindsight it was doomed to happen, sooner or later. Things hadn't been perfect for a while, and we were obviously both too young for a committed relationship.

That was fifteen years ago. Fifteen. F*cking. Years. Which, in itself, is a frightening thought. Where has the time gone?

Those events long ago aren't the reason I'm writing this, though. It's those fifteen years and what's happened during them. Or more precisely, what hasn't happened. The fact is, I'm still single, and have been for all those long years.

Let me share another memory. Several years ago (I really don't remember when exactly), a friend on Facebook announced she was in a relationship. There's no reason that should have affected me much. It's life. People's relationship statuses change all the time. It wasn't like I had any real interest in the matter. Sure, I'd always thought the person in question was pretty, and at some time there could have been the slightest of crushes, but never anything serious. But I remember that reading that update was like an epiphany. It just hit me at that moment, and I knew it with absolute certainty: it would never be me. I'd never be more than a friend. Simple as that.

The years since have done nothing to convince me otherwise. Some might call me pessimistic. But I think most of those are people who are in relationships, or at least have been in a relationship at some point during the last fifteen years. Because at this stage in my life, the majority of the people I know actually are in relationships (which doesn't make being alone any easier, or increase the odds of ever not being alone). I do think I speak from some experience when I state my doubts about future romantic prospects.

Why is it then that I'm alone? That's a complicated question. It's obviously not any one reason. I guess you can sum up a lot of it in the good old 'haven't met the right person' platitude. I have for a long time identified myself as an introvert. I don't meet a lot of people, in general, and I certainly have no interest in meeting people just for the sake of it. I have a reasonably steady circle of friends I share activities with, and that's pretty much all I need, or want.

I've certainly grown more cynical over the years. But I have to wonder whether I've always been this introverted or whether those tendencies as well have increased with time. I think I tend to steer away from social situations more than I did, say, in my early twenties. But perhaps that's simply because experience has taught me what things I actually enjoy in life, and I avoid things that are less interesting?

There are many other factors as well, of course. I'm well aware of my many shortcomings. I'm hardly what you'd call a looker. Shaggy appearance, awkward demeanour, lousy articulation. (And there's my less than flattering life situation as a 30-something student, still living with his parents, with almost no income. I don't want to use the word 'loser', but...) Some might be quick to point out such things don't really matter, but I think that's a little naive. At the very least they matter when making first impressions. And, like it or not, first impressions are important.

Then there's also the question of whether I actually want to be in a relationship. Often I'm not at all convinced. I need a lot of space and time on my own (again, the introvert thing). I find the idea of planning my life always (or even occasionally) having to take someone else into consideration... extremely troubling, to say the least. (I'm quite selfish in some ways. That's a trait I fully admit.) But then again there are of course things I miss. A lot. Living a life utterly void of intimacy, either emotional or physical, can be pretty f*cking (no pun intended) hard, at times.

Some of my most treasured memories from that period of my life beyond fifteen years ago are of walks, holding hands, on dark, cold, damp autumn nights. Much like this night, in fact. I still think autumn is the most romantic season. There's nothing quite like cold and gloom to make you feel and appreciate another person's warmth. And it's most likely in the autumn that I most miss that feeling.

It's a bittersweet time of the year, in many ways. I do find a kind of pleasure in nostalgia and melancholy. 'Better to have love and lost', they say, and sometimes I agree, wholeheartedly, but sometimes I curse those memories of things I can't have. Like a tantalizing, half-remembered dream, they haunt me...

And there you have it. This tragedy of mine, which, in the greater scheme of things, really isn't that great a tragedy at all. I'm used to being on my own, and often, like I indicated, I might actually prefer it. Often, but not always... My friends can continue to expect the occasional wistful, gloomy poems and status updates, the sharing of melancholy songs, etc. 'Cause sometimes you need to vent, and the options, alas, are somewhat limited...

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