Can I be honest? This was the first year of my life that I found myself wishing I wasn’t single. I’ve had my fair share of boyfriends, friends with benefits and long-term hookup situationships, but I’ve always seen being young and single as a great thing. Rather than get too serious with anyone, I’ve dated mostly for fun while living in NYC, prioritizing my relationship with myself and the relationships I have with friends and family. That said, being single during a pandemic definitely wasn’t ideal, and I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned from it with me into the new year ahead.
I’ve never really had a traumatic breakup. I’ve never been cheated on, never cheated, never did anything truly “wrong” to a partner. Prior to college, my high school relationships ended as we outgrew one another; in college, I was far too busy enjoying my time with friends to take the boys in my classes and DMs seriously. Post-grad, I knew what I wanted for myself—an editor job, a solid group of friends, a crappy apartment in New York City to call my very own. While I loved the thrill of a Hinge match, a first date, a fun booty call, I never really pursued anyone beyond that.
Then, January 2020 came about, and I assessed how far I’d come since graduating in 2017. I had strong friendships, a good relationship with my family, a small apartment in a part of town I adored and (just a month away) my dream job offer on the horizon. More than that, my mental health was stellar; my anxiety had quelled and my clinical depression felt temporarily nonexistent.
At this point, I felt like the time I’d spent working on myself had paid off. I realized I was in a place from which I knew I could bring all that a good partner should into a romantic relationship. They say you can’t love anyone properly until you learn to love yourself first, and I’d accomplished just that. I was ready to open up.
They say you can’t love anyone properly until you learn to love yourself first, and I’d accomplished just that. I was ready to open up.
Then, out of nowhere, a pandemic. My plans to take my dating life more seriously—to swipe my heart out, endure a series of first dates, risk it all to potentially find a partner equally ready to share their life with me—were put indefinitely on hold as I fled to my parents’ house in New Jersey. The idea of spending months stuck in my tiny apartment alone felt damning, and I figured I might as well be with family if I had no significant other to quarantine with.
However, I couldn’t help but stress about the months I knew lay ahead. Unable to flex my dating muscles for most of the summer, I knew I’d be spending a long, cold winter alone. No one to make crappy meals with when indoor dining closes but the line for Trader Joe’s is too long to bear, no one to be by my side as I panic about every PCR test that ultimately shows up negative.
I found myself sending Snapchats to old flames (a perennially bad idea), striking up text conversations with exes (and reminding myself why they became exes, ugh), even wondering if maybe I was in love with my platonic best friend (most definitely not). I’d always believed that searching for love wouldn’t bring it to you. Love happens organically, when you least expect it and when you aren’t seeking it out. You can’t light a spark that burns forever with any old match. Still, my pyromaniac heart tried to do just that.
You can’t light a spark that burns forever with any old match.
Now, the year is winding down, and I am the most single I’ve ever been in my life—because now, my relationship with myself has suffered. I’m lucky to have my health, but the pandemic has taken a toll on me physically as well as mentally. I feel ashamed of my appearance; my quarantine weight gain and stress acne and general lack of pretty. My high anxiety makes going to sleep impossible; my depression makes waking up the most disappointing part of my day. I am no longer in a place where I can offer myself up, fully and whole-heartedly, to a romantic partner. It’s embarrassing to write, but I’m just being honest.
I spent most of 2020 trying to enter into a romantic relationship, but my 2021 will be devoted to rebuilding my relationship with myself. I am less than thrilled at the thought of spending a cold winter masked and alone, but in truth, I look forward to devoting my time to self-love, emotional growth and body acceptance. I respect my future romantic partners enough to know that they deserve someone ready to commit, and right now, that’s not me. So, I’m gearing up to enter 2021 alone, but (hopefully) not lonely.