November 21, 2016
I’m 26 years old, and I just moved to a new city. I have a law degree and work as an attorney. I have the best family, an amazing group of friends, and a life full of hobbies (yoga, exploring my city, hiking, et cetera). While I’ve casually dated, I’ve never had a real boyfriend and have never been in love. Everyone tells me it will happen when I least expect it. But I’m 26. What am I doing wrong here?
Looking for a Partner
Dear Looking for a Partner,
Your life is already full. How many people at your age can say that? Hobbies, good job, great friends, family; clearly you’ve busted your ass to get where you are. Take a minute and acknowledge your hard work. A full life you love is no small feat.
This was not the case for me at 26. I hated my boyfriend. Instead of dealing with it, I dove deeper into the problem with the bold abandon that only the youthful and delusional possess. I begged him to propose to me, and when he did, I only started to hate him more. The night of our engagement party, we got in such a vicious shouting match that someone called the police. But who cared? Not me. It all seemed incidental, as long as I could keep up the charade: If the ring was on my finger, everything was moving in the right direction!
Long story short, we broke up three months later and I spent the next six years battling psychic demons. Cut to montage: Plucky blonde bawls in therapy, endures bad dates, falls asleep to a TV blaring Matthew McConaughey movies, wakes to smeary mascara tears on the pillow. In all seriousness, I did a lot of soul searching those years. Dug deep into who I was, who I wanted to become. What I needed to do to get there. It was scary and painful. It never seemed to end.
Weird story: During that time, I ended up at a yoga retreat over Valentine’s Day. The actress Heather Graham was one of the attendees. She had a boyfriend with her; they seemed really happy. One night I asked how she met him. Her response? Something along the lines of I wrote down everything I wanted in a guy on a piece of paper, then ripped it up, let it blow away in the breeze. Total Hollywood mumbo-jumbo, I thought. But I had nothing to lose. That night, while my fellow Ashtangis snored in swinging hammocks, I scribbled a list of traits on loose-leaf, then let it go over the ocean. Six weeks later, I met the man I’m married to today.
I don’t know what the point of this story is. Maybe it’s that things happen when you least expect it. Or that you should go on yoga retreats with movie stars and bond with them during dessert. Or that spending years by yourself exploring all your psychic crevices can feel stupid and self-indulgent when, in fact, it’s just the opposite. Self-awareness plus the ability to spend time on your own terms can prepare you for transformative love with another, just when you least expect it.
Listen, I have no doubt that a partner-in-crime is in your future. But the thing about a soul mate is that finding one is totally out of our control. It happens when it happens, a strange confluence of luck and right time, right place mixed with an open heart and mind and a wee bit of magic.
Ayn Rand said, “To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I.’” And maybe you, dear Looking for a Partner, know yourself very well. But also, perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you know what you do and how you spend your time, maybe all the boxes on your résumé are checked, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you have tons more emotional terrain to traverse. That the time you spend yearning for that one perfect person is time you can spend expanding your own spirit. Deepen your intellect; challenge your imagination. Travel; have sex with strange hot men; become a better friend, daughter, employee; become the kind of rad, trustworthy, beautiful person who you would want to meet and fall in love with. Short answer: There’s nothing you can do now except exactly what you’re doing. Just do it deeper, harder, better. Then write it all down, tear it all to pieces, and release it to the wind. You never know when, or how, it’s going to come back to you.
Originally published on vogue.com, August 24, 2016