By Joshunda Sanders
This Valentine’s Day, I’m thrilled to host my first guest writer, Joshunda Sanders. Her blog regularly takes my breath away, inspiring me to delve deeper into the love and pain in my writing. She has worked as a journalist at the Houston Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to publishing articles at Bitch Magazine, VIBE Magazine, and many others. You can currently find her teaching in the Journalism Department at the University of Texas. I dare you not to lose/find yourself in this post.
In my twenties, I lived on the West Coast.
Around the year I turned 25, I was living in California, land of the free, home of the hippies. The Bay Area Joan Didion made come alive for me was not the post-dot com environment that I slurped soup in. But what I loved about it was that I could just do whatever I wanted. I could work out with a group of other single people on steps overlooking Lake Merritt down the street from the Peacock Building where I lived in a cramped studio. Or I could run around the lake, when I got strong enough. I took a meditation class, and learned to love the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, with a cup of Peet’s Coffee afterwards.
Relationships didn’t factor heavily into my love of the place. I wanted love, and I sometimes settled for less than the real thing for the sake of companionship. But the defining aspect of my time in California was the fact that I learned to really like my own company. Without overeating, drinking too much or staying out all night long. I could stay in and read poems for hours, make myself dinner and crawl back into bed on the weekends without any guilt. I fell in love with myself.
But I didn’t stay in love. When I moved back to Texas, I suddenly entered a different realm. Socially, more of the people I was around were in couples. As I moved into my thirties, people became very interested in whether or not I was a part of a couple. Specifically, I began to feel judged for not yet being married, engaged or on my way to one of those states.Sometimes, during Valentine’s Day, I was in a relationship, but often I was not. In the years when I was single during the biggest love marketing push in the world, I sometimes succumbed to self-loathing and pity parties featuring Lindt chocolate truffles (the red wrapped ones), bottles of two-buck chuck from Trader Joes and all the pasta I was physically capable of consuming.
I self-medicated because I wanted what everyone else wanted.
After my last relationship went south a couple of years ago, I decided that I needed to love myself the way that I wanted to be loved. People often say that youth is wasted on the young, but in my case, I had actually learned something valuable during that stretch of my twenties.
Now, I am not totally sold on the Law of Attraction, but I talk to God often about what that should look like now. My intuition guides me on this front. Last Fall, I decided that I would quietly get engaged. To myself.
I purchased a rose gold ring with 12 small diamonds. I did it in part to quiet the judging stares of people who considered themselves a part of a different realm because they were in relationships and I was not. I also did it as a tribute to myself, a statement of self-love.
I encourage my other single friends, whether they are sad or not about pressure to celebrate in one way or another, to come up with their own rituals and gestures to celebrate themselves. I truly believe that you cannot love another person unless you are devoted to yourself. While my partnered friends are posting pictures of roses and participating in Love Fest 2012 based on the calendar day, I will likely run with my dog, make myself a decadent meal and read love poems to myself. (I’m reading the wonderful collection of poems collected by Caroline Kennedy, She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems right now.)
I used to think this kind of thing was just a defense mechanism, a default, no frills, not-as-good-as-someone-else’s-gift sort of reaction. The truth is that I would do the same thing with another person’s ring on my finger, year after year. Part of being well-loved starts with you. Don’t cheat yourself out of a good time just because you’re not in a relationship. Life is too short to waste.