My life has been ruled by men since I can first remember. Since I was five years old, to be exact, and I first fell in love with my childhood best friend after bonding over the new Disney’s Hercules movie while we played in the block pit before lunch. Since then, everything I was and everything I did was measured by whether or not there was a special someone in my life.
Fast forward to six months ago when I made the decision to move to Ireland. I was going to live in this beautiful place that I’ve desperately wanted to see for so long. I decided that, after years of doing what I was told, going to school like I was expected to, taking the “right” courses and following the trajectory that was laid out in front of me, I would finally do something for me. Something grand, something marvellous, and that was completely and unjustifiably on my own terms. Something that, despite all the ways in which the experience could enrich my life, revolved around a fictitious man.
Let me put this in perspective:
“I bet you’ll meet your soul mate.”
“Make sure to bring home an Irishman!”
“It’ll be just like ‘P.S. I Love You!’”
When hearing of my move, 90% of the people in my life told me that I’d meet the love of my life and would then live out the rest of my days here. Everyone went on and on about this amazing love that I, of course, was going to find. What they said had inadvertently put a stamp on my adventure as if meeting a guy was now the sole purpose of my journey. But isn’t it possible that maybe, just maybe, there was more to my decision than potentially finding a man while traipsing around the countryside who just so happens to look like Gerard Butler, with whom I would fall madly in love and convince during my one year stay to follow me back to a country thousands of miles away where he has never been and knows no one, so that we may have a litter of children in the middle of butt-fuck-nowhere and live happily ever after?
With or without one, our lives (or at least mine) have been completely dictated by men. What we do or don’t do is judged by the rate at which it will attract a man, and the harsh reality that we’re doing amazing on our own deafens even our greatest accomplishments. All because of that minute detail: we’re doing it alone.
I’m not saying that finding love isn’t something I’m interested in (when all is said and done, I’d love to have me some Gerard Butler), and I know everyone means the absolute best and has the purest of intentions when they say such things. But it’s frustrating to think that my big, thrilling decision to move to a country thousands of miles away where I can experience a new culture, discover new things and, in the process, figure out a bit more of who I am and the person I want to be is completely shadowed by a man who doesn’t even exist.
As women, we’re often so hard on ourselves when it comes to finding someone to share our lives with. When men are single, they’re just wild, crazy boys who haven’t “settled down” yet. But when women are single, we might as well walk around with a huge sign on our chest saying “Danger: this chick cray.” Because of this, we often see ourselves as unworthy or pathetic when we’re alone, and even though we haven’t a clue about ourselves, love, or self-worth, we’re expected to just round up a man without ever giving ourselves the time or privilege to figure these things out.
I’ve been in two long-term relationships over the past five years, and although each relationship has taught me so many different things and have given me some amazing memories, they’ve also hindered my self-discovery. I was more enthralled with being the person they wanted me to be to ever give myself the chance to ponder whether this is the person I wanted to be. Since I was five years old, I tried to be the girl everyone wanted, whom everyone loved, and here I am, seventeen years later, with less of a clue of who I am now than I did at that moment in the block pit.
The one thing I do know, with absolute certainty, is this: be who you are. Don’t try to be who someone else wants you to be. Keep reminding yourself of just how awesome you are. I am smart, I am gifted, I am beautiful and I am kind, but most importantly, I am all of these things WHETHER OR NOT I have a man in my life.
And so, I declare that men will no longer control my self-worth or my happiness – but this is just the tip of the iceberg for me. There are so many things that I have yet to discover – about myself, about life, about everything – that I’m trying to figure out on my own; that I NEED to figure out on my own. I need to learn how to be my own knight in shining armour, sweep myself off my feet, and be the person of my own dreams. Having someone to love is incredible and worth finding, but loving yourself anyway, rejoicing in the attributes that make you, you, and giving yourself the chance to discover what you’re really capable of is even more amazing and worth fighting for. You’re stuck with you for the rest of your life, and that’s the relationship we should all be more focused on – not the ones that may or may not happen with these fictitious men.