Yesterday I was walking on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches in Piha, New Zealand. Breathtaking views and endless moments of exploration.
I live for these moments and embrace them every day I can. I am so lucky.
But, in one of those moments, it struck me, as it often has over the last eight years.
I am alone
Is it strange how alone I am?
When there are families and couples all around me enjoying the beach and time together.
Is it strange that I have no children or long-term lover?
Is it strange that I am enjoying this?
Is it okay if I am happy alone? Am I missing something?
I wasn’t always alone.
For 35 years I was always with someone.
Early on I was with family, sort of.
When I moved out, when I escaped at the age of 16, I moved in with a boy.
I’ve lived with three lovers since then. I married the third.
He was exactly what I was told I wanted, what we were all told.
The handsome athlete, with a great sense of humour. The man everyone liked and he was an accountant! He would be a great father.
I was always with him. All the decisions were together.
He influenced me with his norms, desires, biases, wants and needs. Before I had a chance to explore those things on my own.
I sometimes told him what I really wanted. He would nod and forget.
Like it was cute.
When he asked me to marry him, I saw stars. The stars you see when you feel really sick and dizzy.
That quiet voice, deep inside didn’t want to.
I said yes. He had, after all, saved me.
This was, after all, exactly what I was told I wanted.
His family was all around. That perfect, close-knit family.
Their traditions, their realities, their expectations.
I was expected to be wallpaper. To fit in. And be quiet.
I was alone while they all moved, all around me.
I tried to conform. I knew I needed to, to survive. I tried to be the good wife.
At the same time working 14 hour days to make something of myself.
At the same time fighting to figure out the woman I am.
The one who was never alone to think, to be herself.
The one who wanted to explore ideas, the mind and heart.
To question tradition and freely explore a different way. To be free.
I remember when I started to rebel.
I told everyone I wasn’t doing Christmas anymore.
I gave all my gift money to a kid in Africa. Asked everyone to donate my gifts too.
My reluctant husband and I went ice skating with all of the immigrant families in the city plaza.
We ordered Chinese food for dinner. It felt great.
We had a wonderful day – it felt right, like I had chosen it.
Like the pressure was off.
No one else liked that idea.
Especially his family. It wasn’t the way things were done.
It was the beginning of a big battle. And the beginning of the end.
I continued to lead with my heart and make my own choices.
I remember when I chose to move out of our house. I was alone.
I boxed up everything that was mine, by myself.
I hired a moving crew and they came and took it all to my new home where I would be really alone – for the first time in my life.
I proceeded to do a lot of things, alone.
I ate out alone in fancy restaurants.
I traveled alone around the world and on tropical vacations.
I cooked and drank wine, alone.
I went to the gym and rode my bike, alone.
I started my own business, alone.
I moved to a different country, alone.
Years later… now. I’m sitting in a chair in a lovely retreat cottage in Piha, NZ.
Contemplating my aloneness.
I realize the idea of “alone” has been defined by the same social thinking, norms and pressures that defined the idea of “together”.
An idea that pressured me to get married to the wrong person – that “perfect” man.
Before it was “too late”.
I’ve been told all this time that alone is bad.
Especially alone women – they are not valued.
When I was young I never dreamt of being alone.
It was considered the worst way to be.
No one wanted to be a spinster or a cat lady!
That’s the horrible way we labeled alone women.
To be happy you needed to have a husband and a family.
That is “happiness”, that is the life we strive to lead.
To be “together” you need a husband and kids.
At the time of my divorce, although I didn’t realize it, I needed time to explore and learn my values, alone.
Become the woman I am.
That journey came to me intuitively after a lifetime of emotional struggle.
This time, I didn’t wait for someone to come with me.
I just pointed to where my heart wanted to go and went.
It was not easy.
It still is not easy.
And now here I am eight years later living in New Zealand, alone.
Exploring what that means and why I’m here and if I can truly be happy, alone.
Maybe it is the magnificent energy in Piha or the amazing women around me today who are also here alone. But today I have realized –
I am not alone, I am brave.
I have surrounded myself with the strongest, most positive, supportive, successful girlfriends and mentors – because I am brave. I went and found them. I let go of the rest.
I have made equally positive connections in a whole new country – because I am brave.
I was often told I wasn’t smart enough, but now I work as an executive at cutting-edge software company because, I am brave.
I have worked with many “at-risk” immigrant teens and helped them turn their lives around because, I am brave.
I get up on stage as often as possible and talk to hundreds of people, because I am brave.
I truly enjoy exploring, cooking, eating, sleeping and laughing alone just as much as I enjoy sharing those things with others – because I am brave.
I am brave enough to find new, joyful positive connections wherever I go alone.
I seek and see the beauty in everything, because I am brave.
When I decided to move to New Zealand I sold or gave away 75% of my belongings and rented my beautiful home to a stranger – because I am brave.
As I was saying my goodbyes my 95-year old Granny, she said to me that she would never have been allowed to do what I am doing.
She wasn’t even allowed to work or travel. “Not allowed”!
She was not allowed to follow her heart or be alone!
No wonder I was never taught how good alone can be!
I walk the beach alone and I walked into Te Wahi Ora alone. Happily alone.
And because of this I have been able to experience one of the deepest, most wonderful experiences I’ve had since I have been in NZ.
I met wonderful women we shared our amazing stories and poems.
Since I arrived in NZ I have been terrified to go into the sea, alone.
Today I rushed into the surf arm-in-arm with two new friends who I met because I was brave enough to go to Piha alone.
It was one of those moments of joy I will never forget.
So I’ll end it with this,
I am not alone, I am brave.
I am one of the bravest souls on the planet because I will go alone and I will also find togetherness. Wherever I am, whenever and however I chose it.
Xo Evangeline E