"I began focusing on myself." What being single for a decade has taught me.

Another wrong turn.

Another dead end.

But in this small town, teeter-tottering on a sliver of land between ocean and canal, wrong turns are welcomed. The labyrinth of palm trees and cobblestone homes bisected only by setting sunlight on the skin and salty air in the lungs.

Dead ends simply mean I’m able to relive the streets I just walked down. Absorb all from a different angle. A different perspective.

New details.

New beauty.

I could take every wrong turn and never grow upset. Never frustrated. Never annoyed. I turn to say so, to take hold of her hand next to mine, but I come up empty.

Because she’s not there.

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She hasn’t been in over a decade. The solar-kissed air holds my palm but offers no satisfaction. I let my wrist drift to my side, retracting its movements like a person’s rebuffed dance request.

Holding my comment in, letting it absorb the sea air residing in my lungs, I continue on, in search of another wrong turn.

Forced isolation.

After my divorce, I didn’t want anything to do with dating. I didn’t want anything to do with relationships. At first, I wanted nothing more than something casual.

But even casual encounters ripped open scabs. It plucked at the strings of a dead relationship I didn’t want to hear from again. It was the reminders of what I no longer had that hurt the most. So I closeted the casual relationships.

I pushed myself into a forced isolation of sorts. Not completely away from the world, but I took the pieces of my damaged soul and heart and slipped them into bubble wrap, and hid them away. Away from the dangerous world.

I couldn’t handle having what remained of my being broken down any further.

And so, I returned to the world. Not complete, but not capable of being hurt.


And yet, as I quickly discovered, it’s impossible to live a meaningful life without being fully there. Without being fully present. With a well-guarded heart, I missed opportunity and potential. The enabled defenses prevented me from experiencing again what I had lost.

At the time I didn’t realise what I had done to myself. I didn’t understand the walls I’d put up were not only preventing hurt from getting in, but from myself from getting out.

Because while it’s possible to still have strong protective barriers constructed around the heart, it’s impossible to be vulnerable to love if there isn’t some kind of opening.

The first lesson.

It’s possible to be overprotective. Over guarded. The pain in my chest fired off through the rest of my body, shutting me down. I didn’t want to experience such a feeling ever again, and so I overcompensated. I over-protected. It took a long time to realise this. To discover the lack of any meaningful encounters came about because I had constructed such a fierce defensive system.

I had to lower my guard. If even a little bit.

Lowering the walls around my heart allowed me to finally see out on the land surrounding me. It let me spot connections and potential that had long been present, I simply had not been able to see it.

But I still wasn’t ready. I still held back.

Fear is a difficult web to cut free from. It ensnares and holds firm, and even when one appendage breaks free it easily becomes stuck attempting to free the rest of my body.

It’s not always possible to pull free of the fear. At least not right away. But when the brain stops looking for something, something else takes its place.

I discovered in the absence of relationships and the quest to find a meaningful connection; I began focusing on myself. On what made me happy. What could drive me and motivate me, beyond the desire to connect with someone else.

Instead, my brain started to connect with itself. It came about so gradually I didn’t even realise what had taken place. New passions arose, some of which the seeds hadn’t even been planted until long after I’d boxed my heart and soul away from the world.

For a time, I had an online cooking program. It paid well, and it allowed me to use my film and television degree. And yet, years later, I discovered something I hadn’t realised before: I truly loved to cook. It became therapeutic. A way to both follow instructions and experiment. At the same time, I shifted away from writing screenplays and started to write long-form. From articles on relationships to books of science fiction. Things I never foresaw myself ever doing. They came about with a shrug of the shoulders and spare time not invested in relationships.


I didn’t realise just how much I could take away from writing in such ways until years into doing it. That I could write about my own shortcomings and feel a sense of security in my own ability to spot where I fell short.

I continued to discover.

'Discovers' are always there. 

I think we all have an urge, somewhere inside of us, to find the perfect mate. To be with that person that makes us happy. However, there’s a flawed notion that we need someone to "complete" ourselves.

That’s not true.

Nobody completes you.

Only you can complete that.

If you’re searching for someone to fill in a gap in your chest, there is no such thing as a perfect fit. They cannot fit into the puzzle piece of your life because only you know what the perfect fit is. Only you know what it will take.

Many people try to hammer and cram and force something into that space and then tell themselves it completes them, but it doesn’t. It’s simply filling a gap of your own being.

The right relationship is an addition to your completed self. Getting a better understanding of yourself and discovering yourself will help fill in that hole, and in the end, it will help new relationships become more meaningful because you won’t be reliant on it.

Listen to The Undone, where each week Emily and Lucy will be sharing dating stories and talking about the biggest issue in their world, because... nothing is simple in your 20s. Post continues after audio.

Don’t be reliant on a relationship to make you whole. Don’t be reliant on another person to fill your gap.

Get to know yourself better. Fill that hole up yourself. Learn about your passions and discover new things about yourself. Because the more complete you are as your own person, the more of yourself you have to give another, and the less of them you’ll need to feel "complete."

Sometimes it takes being single for longer than you’d like. God, I know that’s the case with me. I wandered around a lot of dead ends and wrong ways, looking for something to share. But when it means learning more about my own self and, eventually, being able to offer a more complete me to another, it’s well worth all the time and lessons it took.

A film graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Greyson has reflected on love, life, and everything in between for USA Today, Lonely Planet, Yahoo, and in his own books. When not writing he can be found travelling with his two pups or enjoying a beer with good friends. You can find Greyson on  Twitter, or subscribe to his newsletter.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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