It’s 8:30pm and my phone buzzes with a cancelation text from a guy I’d been seeing. It was getting pretty serious. “Hey sorry I really don’t know if we should be hanging out anymore.” Never mind. Not sure where that came from but another one bites the dust. The next episode of Gossip Girl plays on my laptop, I finish my slice of greasy cheese pizza, and decide to just leave the message on “read” for now. Leaving the message on “read” lasted a total of ten minutes and ended in some pathetic unsuccessful attempt to try and get him to change his mind.
After a glass of wine or two later, I find myself re-downloading Tinder to pass the time swiping right and sparking up conversations with a bunch of random people in my area with absolutely no interest in what I have to say. “Hey babe..” one guy says “If you’re not doing anything this weekend, how about me?” Just like that Tinder was re-deleted. It’s still early so I go over to a friend’s house and tell her that yet another guy I thought was really interested in me just mysteriously decided he wasn’t. My friend, who is no stranger to my love life woes simply says “Yeah man I don’t know. It’s really weird. Your life is kind of like one really bad rom com.” Well said girl. One that needs a six season contract and a premiere on Netflix.
I seriously used to think I was cursed. Ever since I was given permission by my parents to date in high school, my love life has been a series of extremely dramatic storylines and plot twist endings. You’re probably thinking “Yeah sure”. So let me provide you with a few instances. Although there are probably over a hundred examples, these are my top three favorites of all time: The first guy I ever fell for told me he liked me and wanted to date me. Then a few months later told me he never even said any of that, and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t leave him alone. Cool. The first person I ever told “I love you” to, replied “I’m sorry about that…” through text. Awesome. Mostly everyone has been forgiven, some even apologized, and I occasionally even laugh about these stories now with friends. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but contemplate why every single romantic encounter ended the same way. Tragically.
It wasn’t until my closest guy friend told me, jokingly of course, “Yo you always cryin’ over a new dude every week ” that I realized I had to take some time for self reflection. Yikes. Obviously that wasn’t true, but it made me question what actually was. I’m outgoing, I’m intelligent, and I’m really strong. So why was I able to create boundaries in my friendships but repeatedly accepted less than what I deserved in my love life?
I realized that I had been putting myself in continuous toxic cycles that caused me to doubt myself and my worth. The hard truth was that although I didn’t deserve the situations I had been in, I played a part in allowing them to continue. I made excuses for people who were emotionally unavailable. I put people on pedestals that treated me horribly in the hopes of finding some sort of validation or silver lining, instead of taking their actions at face value. I had to ask myself why I ignored red flags and continued the chase. At that point did I even like them? Or did I crave possession and control to fuel my ego?
In reality a large percentage of our society today is emotionally unavailable and has adopted an avoidant attachment style. This is largely due to the fact that we have an overstimulating amount of options, and a belief that anything is easily disposable. Many of us crave intimacy and emotional connection, but have a paralyzing fear of rejection and “what ifs?”. In the age of the “situationship”, we can keep everyone at a distance, have our cake and eat it too. While it’s fine and fun if both parties are on the same page about what they want, many times this is not the case.
This ideal in general strays us away from being vulnerable, so that we never have to be hurt. We tend to push people away who want more emotional connection, trying to uphold the belief that nothing works out anyway so why try? Our past traumatic experiences become the expected outcome for every situation involving personal connections. Many today are actually afraid to even admit they want love. We subconsciously make ourselves emotionally unavailable by holding onto the belief that we will always be hurt, even if we really do connect with someone. Unhealthy patterns are difficult to identify, and become comfortable for us to live in. To actually recognize toxic emotional patterns in ourselves and in others is tough, and psychologically demanding.
I began to meditate on what love was. Not just romantically, but inherently. Through meditation, I realized that I began seeking validation from emotionally unavailable people, because I was emotionally unavailable to myself. I neglected to give myself the basic foundation every healthy relationship needed: Patience, kindness, gentleness, peace. Instead I tried to find those gems in other people, who didn’t have them either. It was easier for me to contemplate all the things that were wrong with me after getting out of something unhealthy, and blame others, rather than accepting the fact that nothing was wrong with me. I was drawn to toxic cycles because healthy ones were foreign to me.
I realized that as much as I wanted to take control of an emotionally unavailable person, I couldn’t. Love isn’t about possession or control. When I was chasing people, I was running from the parts of myself that were yet to heal. I didn’t want to be alone and deal with them. The painful truth is that when you run, you end up being codependent, and trying to find parts of your identity in others. You attract people who are also running.
I wish I could tell you that I am all self love all the time now, but the truth is I am still continuing to learn how to love myself harder. Not just so I can be more aware of emotional unavailability, or for a relationship of any kind. Simply because it’s important. The world wants you to believe that being a work in progress is a bad thing. In reality self love is a lifetime of learning. Realizing you deserve better for yourself out of life in general sadly takes time. It isn’t impossible, but to unlearn negative patterns you’ve conditioned yourself to accept takes an abundance of self reflection and self awareness that only actually comes from being alone.
There is no rush to this life thing. Have the courage to be in solitude in order to seek personal growth. When you understand your worth, so will others. You’re stronger than you think. Now, if you don’t want to listen to my advice, no hard feelings. Maybe you’ll listen to music. If you’re feeling a little angsty and bored go listen to track eleven “On a Plain” off of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind. Just maybe you’ll hear the late Kurt Cobain singing the lyrics “Love myself better than you”.
McKenna is a NYC native performer and creative with a BFA in Musial theater from the University of the Arts. She aims to create art that inspires vulnerability and societal change. You can catch her sparking conversations and spreading light on Instagram, exploring the city, or at your local thrift store