Two years ago next month I became single, although I’ve not felt like that was the truth until a few months ago. Single, after 10 years of being in a monogamous relationship. But I was only single 6 months prior to that and I’d been in a year long toxic relationship before then. So let’s round up and call it a dozen years since I’ve been single.
In that time, as I have gone on numerous first dates and dabbled (with great failure) at dating again, my mind has returned often to the film I ❤ Huckabees, a weird film that I no longer have the DVD of and so I can’t even re-watch it to see how it holds up with my current politics and views. In that film a character off-handedly responds to a question with the question “How am I not myself?” This question immediately reveals itself to be the central theme of the film.
Identity is ever-morphing and rare is the person who firmly knows who they are and is able to keep that knowledge stable for a long time. I think of my dad – emblematic of his generation – who claims that he knew in high-school he wanted to be an architect and so that’s what he went to school for and that’s what he’s done, happily, ever since. I have had no such luck in finding personal steadfastness.
Divorce is many things, and holy shit I wish I could write better about all questions it introduces into your life. But a prominent question that divorce introduced to me was the question from the film: how am I not myself?
I’ve found it incredibly difficult to answer this! Which I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I was younger I assumed that by the time I was in my early 30’s (I’m 33) this would be much less of a conundrum. This past year I have rediscovered how much of a bookworm I am (woe to you if you follow my IG stories) but I’ve also learned that I love karaoke and hitting the dance floor. The bookworm thing traces from when I learned to read at 4 or 5 but the karaoke and dancing don’t necessarily have long-term roots. They are me, but before I discovered them perhaps I was not fully myself.
One of my best friends remarked to me earlier this year that I was definitely weird: I’m extremely extroverted but very nerdy and I love to party. She’s not wrong. It’s hilarious to me as I explore this new single phase how difficult it can be to balance the competing pulls in my life. But every day that I practice that balance, I find that I am more myself.
If the question “how am I not myself?” brings up longings or pains for you, may I suggest that it’s a good thing to listen to? One of the things that held me back from better understanding who I am is that a relationship is often premised on being who you were when you entered. Allegiance to who you are expected to be, over time, broadens the ways that you are not yourself. And if you are not yourself, who are you being? Surely there is a better you to find.
If you find that who you are involves books or dancing or karaoke and you’re anywhere near me– reach out. My extroversion means I’m always looking for new friends.