Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Toast to the Quirkyalones

For my first blog entry of 2008, I'm skipping the usual good wishes, list of resolutions, and hopes and dreams for the coming year. I'm skipping it because I know everyone else will probably be writing similar entries in their blogs about the above topics, and because I know you all already know I want only wonderful things for all of you who are reading this.

Oddly enough, I'm starting this year with a post about... being single.

I won't deny it... I am, at thirty, unabashedly and unapologetically single. Single with no prospects in sight, surrounded by many friends who have either taken the plunge and gotten married or are currently in serious relationships. Despite being alone, life goes on for me.

If I've managed to lose some romantic optimism in exchange for some hard-earned cynicism, I have gotten by. And, yes, I have learned to be happy. Being single, after all, is not without its perks. I like having the freedom to do what I want, when I want without having to consult anyone. I like the feeling of being independent and knowing I can take care of myself.

But I won't lie that I don't lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling and battling debilitating thoughts on growing old by myself, ruthlessly flogging myself and wondering why I've been singled out to be alone - because I do. I still fall prey to all the usual questions: What's wrong with me? Am I simply being too picky (not that there are men falling in line anyway)? What have I done to deserve this?

Over the past few years, these panic sessions have become fewer and farther in between, but I still have them. This year has been a bit harder than others for me because I celebrated a turn-of-the-decade birthday and have no definite plan in life.

A turn-of-the-decade year is always a bitch because it makes you look back and realize that you've already lived a big chunk of your life - and yet have nothing concrete to show for it. You wonder where the ten years have gone and what the hell you did with them. And you realize that for better or for worse that you can never have them back. Hitting a turn-of-the-decade year and a crossroads at the same time is a concept to try the sanity of even the most well-adjusted adult. Add being single with no prospects to the mix, and you very well have a mess on your hands - or, rather, in your head.

I am not, nor have I ever pretended to be, a well-adjusted person.

Thankfully, it has helped a lot that I am rich in friends (read: IM batchmates) who are in the same boat as me - hopelessly single for the moment. We've supported one another through heartbreaks and impossible unrequited romantic illusions (all ours) and weddings (not ours). They say misery loves company, and I am definitely grateful for the company. It makes me feel a lot less alone being alone.

Another single friend once forwarded an essay by a woman named Sasha Cagen as part of her New Year's greeting. This essay first introduced to me the concept of being a quirkyalone.

Quirkyalone: noun/adj. A person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than dating for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status.

After sharing the essay with the rest of my single circle, we were comforted by the idea that there were more of us out there than we realized. It may just have been the whole misery-loves-company principle operating again, but we all connected to the idea of being Quirkyalones.

So for this New Year, as a gift to others who may be Quirkyalones and do not realize it, I would like to share that same essay with you.


I am, perhaps, what you might call deeply single. Almost never ever in a relationship. Until recently, I wondered whether there might be something weird about me. But then lonely romantics began to grace the covers of TV Guide and Mademoiselle. From
Ally McBeal to Sex in the City, a spotlight came to shine on the forever single. If these shows had touched such a nerve in our culture, I began to think, perhaps I was not so alone after all.

The morning after New Year's Eve (another kissless one, of course), a certain jumble of syllables came to me. When I told my friends about my idea, their faces lit up with instant recognition: the quirkyalone.

If Jung was right, that people are different in fundamental ways that drive them from within, then the quirkyalone is simply to be added to the pantheon of personality types assembled over the 20th century. Only now, when the idea of marrying at age 20 has become thoroughly passé, are we quirkyalones emerging in greater numbers.

We are the puzzle pieces who seldom fit with other puzzle pieces. Romantics, idealists, eccentrics, we inhabit singledom as our natural resting state. In a world where proms and marriage define the social order, we are, by force of our personalities and inner strength, rebels.

For the quirkyalone, there is no patience for dating just for the sake of not being alone. We want a miracle. Out of millions, we have to find the one who will understand.

Better to be untethered and open to possibility: living for the exhilaration of meeting someone new, of not knowing what the night will bring. We quirkyalones seek momentous meetings.

By the same token, being alone is understood as a wellspring of feeling and experience. There is a bittersweet fondness for silence. All those nights alone—they bring insight.

Sometimes, though, we wonder whether we have painted ourselves into a corner. Standards that started out high only become higher once you realize the contours of this existence. When we do find a match, we verge on obsessive—or we resist.

And so, a community of like-minded souls is essential.

Since fellow quirkyalones are not abundant (we are probably less than 5 percent of the population), I recommend reading the patron saint of solitude: German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Even 100 years after its publication, Letters to a Young Poet still feels like it was written for us: "You should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to break out of it," Rilke writes. "People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of easy, but it is clear that we must hold to that which is difficult."

Rilke is right. Being quirkyalone can be difficult. Everyone else is part of a couple! Still, there are advantages. No one can take our lives away by breaking up with us. Instead of sacrificing our social constellation for the one all-consuming individual, we seek empathy from friends. We have significant others.

And so, when my friend asks me whether being quirkyalone is a life sentence, I say, yes, at the core, one is always quirkyalone. But when one quirkyalone finds another, oooh la la. The earth quakes.

—From To-Do List, July 2000, and Utne Reader, September 2000.

I am single. But I am happily single. Learning to love my life and live it to the fullest is a work in progress - but I'm getting there. And if I ever get to have my "momentous meeting," I mean it to be icing on a very fine cake.

This is my New Year's wish to the fellow quirkyalones who inhabit my life and make my singlehood richer by being there - and my wish to you as well:

Here's to a new year of discovering ourselves, enjoying our solitude, and living with the excitement that each new day could be the day when our world will quake.

Happy new year everyone! :)


Manggy said...

I wrote about something similar near the start of my blog: here. I realize we are kindred spirits, ha ha. I hope you enjoy some of the other entries on my life (it spans, er, a few pages.

But I have to say that you definitely have something concrete to show for your quarter-life of living. Goodness, your patients owe you a lot. And don't sell yourself short with the "oh-I-owe-them-just-as-much-it-was-just-my-job" thing. Whether you like it or not, you're sort of a big deal in the lottery of life, haha :)

Em Dy said...

Amen to all that.

Sabi nga ni Angel Locsin, I want to be complete.

You complete me is ---.

One can be whole alone.

dr_clairebear said...

@manggy: well-meaning parents and relatives sometimes don't know how exasperating their comments can be. I'm just glad I now live in a world where anyone can choose to be all they can be - with or without a partner.

@em: your comment reminded me of a book by shel silverstien called "The Missing Piece." if you haven't read it, you should try to get a hold of the copy some time. :) hurrah for the quirkyalones!