“Are you single?”
Relationship status has always been a sensitive topic for me. I get asked these question a lot, more so recently as people around me are either in a long-term relationship, engaged to be married or starting a family. Over the years, I learn the art of avoiding questions and sometimes get a little creative with my answers. People start making assumptions: I am too picky, I am enjoying life too much, I am too busy etc.
Yes. I am single.
I have never been in a relationship, officially.
For the longest time, I was ashamed of this fact. It felt like I wasn’t worthy enough to be loved (romantically). Ask any of us singletons and we will tell you a variation of the same set of answers: we are happy and self-sufficient, we are comfortable with our lives, we are too busy building a career, etc.
That is all true, just not the whole truth.
At least not for me.
And like all good stories, it all starts from the beginning.
I am a blessed child: I grow up in a supportive family with loving parents and a (over)protective brother. Even with a great support system, I have a hard time feeling good about myself and feeling like I belong. I was constantly seeking approval and I always feel like I was falling short and did not deserve any of the compliments.
Needless to say, I was a shy and awkward kid, who did not know how to interact with people well. Despite my odd character, I have a relatively good time at school and at home, apart from that one really mean kindergarten teacher who yelled at me countless times, one of which was because of my tiny handwriting. I didn’t realised I was so traumatised by this incident until I froze in cold sweat when I saw her at a toy shop after a decade. I was 16 then.
In primary school, things changed when I skipped a grade. I was suddenly surrounded by kids that are older than me and some of them were really mean to me. I didn’t have an outlet for my emotions then, so I kept it all in. It was also the time when I started gaining weight and growing horizontally, so my self esteem was low. I got into a minor car accident because I was trying to gain someone’s approval. What a silly thing to do. Though, I had a dream four years after that the person apologised to me. And I guess that was my way of letting go.
Things got better in high school, though the self-sabotaging thoughts never quite stopped. I was constantly anxious but I learnt to hide these emotions well. I eventually stopped growing horizontally and start sprouting vertically. When people developed romantic feelings for me, I couldn’t understand what they saw in me and I didn’t want to fill that void in my heart with someone else’s affection. I knew even then I needed to love myself first, but I didn’t know how.
I didn’t handle confessions well. I avoided a boy (or rather he avoided me) for an entire year even though he sat two rows behind me. I laughed at a boy to his face when he told me he loved me. I let the roses he gave me to die. I returned a love letter and went to prom alone. Needless to say, I carried the guilt of not being able to react the way they wanted me to for a very long time. I learn to forgive myself because I realised that I was only reacting the best way I knew how with the limited information and experience in love.
I am still close with some of the friends in this period, because they were so accepting of me when I didn’t love myself that much. They are kind to me not because they have to, but because they choose to. And I am glad for meeting them.
“He Broke My Heart”
I have been transparent about my (non-existent) love life with my closest friends and cousin, yet I have always left David out of the story. I convinced myself it wasn’t a story worth telling. But it is. After understanding the theory of yoga in my RYT200 course, it unlocks a part of me that kept all the traumatic pasts and bad memories away. And David was in the centre of it.
David came at the time when I was most vulnerable. A close friend had just plagarised my university applications and I struggled in trusting friends again. I started having really short lunch breaks and studied at my seat over lunch hour. David would come to my class, initially talking with his friends and then coming over and sat next to me. We talked a bit in person and chatted online, but I was still terribly shy then.
Looking back, I started feeling attached to him because he paid attention to me. I couldn’t remember much of the details, probably because there weren’t many. But I remember the day he messaged me online and that he was seeing someone he met from a church camp (during our one month semester break).
Truth is, I didn’t have time to process my emotions. It’s felt as though he pulled me out from a sinkhole, led me to the cliff, then kicked me off the ledge. After the initial shock had subsided, I shut my emotions all down and tuck it away. The remaining half year, I spent my lunch hour at the library and came back to class when I was certain he left.
Ten years later (i.e. this year), when I admitted to myself that I had invested more feelings towards David than he did to me, it was not as liberating as I thought. But acknowledging that he broke my heart was what set me free. It was then I knew the impact he had on me; the fear of losing control. The fear of attachment. The fear of abandonment. The fear of falling for someone who leaves.
Becoming That Woman
That very same year, my aunt passed away. Her death affected us all differently, and it probably hit me the hardest. Once again, I could not process my emotions; I was numb, confused and lost. I remembered cancelling plans at the last minute on days I find it so difficult to leave the room. Needless to say, 2009 since was a very difficult year for me. In a way, university period was my space for healing. And I’m glad I allowed time for it.
The funny thing was in the process of being ready to write this piece, I realise that I am not alone in this journey of self-discovery, self acceptance and self-love. Everyone have a traumatic past, in one variation of another. But the real demon lies within us.
When I graduated from university I started forcing myself into uncomfortable social situations, partly because I am always uncomfortable anyway.. I led social activities at work and joined a commercial gym partly to meet new people. And I met some pretty interesting people along the way.
There is some truth that time heals all wounds. I have an idea of the person I want to be: she is kind, courageous, outspoken and empathetic. Yet I was still held captive in my own mind. I am more aware of my thoughts and though the self-sabotaging thoughts were there, I am more determined to fill my mind with positive ones instead.
Since last year, what people have to say about my personality surprises me. The adjectives they use to describe me are what I didn’t notice in myself: sociable, thoughtful, observant, caring. I come to a realisation that I have become that woman; the person I wanted to be. How did that happen?
Meeting My Soulmate
I met James on a blind date. I remember the first time I saw him. It was as though I met a stranger I have known my entire life. I was very drawn to his energy and the kindness in his eyes. It was a connection that cannot be truly explained in words.
I have always trusted my heart, even when I don’t understand it. And this emotion was something I never experienced before; both exhilarating and deeply terrifying at the same time. It was as though our vibrational energy aligned and that feeling was the best feeling in the world.
I believe in soulmates but I never thought that I would ever be so lucky to meet mine. It was during my difficult period; I was having a lot of anxiety attacks from processing all the emotions I unlocked during my yoga course, and I was crying behind closed doors a lot. On the surface it wasn’t obvious because I had already mastered the art of hiding my vulnerabilities. But on the inside, I was drowning in quicksand and I couldn’t reach out for help. Looking back, it was very scary to hit rock bottom without realising it.
Since I met James, I love myself a little more each day, the good and the bad, as though my soul reawakens to the beauty of what life has to offer.
And that is when I knew.
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. […] Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Soulmates and life partners are almost not mutually exclusive. This time, I acknowledge my feelings and still be free of attachment. I learn to respect his space, free will and the quest for solitude. As we go back to our separate lives, our messages become staggered and eventually, they will stop completely.
And I know that when that happens, I will still be okay.
Life of an Empath
I am an empath.
Acknowledging that I am one is probably the most liberating feeling. Finally a noun that accurately describe my personality. And it shows in the way I act and react to situations. I tend to try to be there for people who needed someone, because I know how it feels like to be alone. I tend to put others need over my own.
The trademark of an empath is that we have a keen ability to feel and absorb what people around us are thinking or feeling. I tend to be very drawn to people’s sob stories, and sometimes strangers’ sadness. Yet we are often mislabelled as hypersensitive or overreacting.
The thing about empaths is that nobody can really tell us if what we are feeling are real or not. Unless we ask the right questions to the right people. I remember entering the office one week and feeling a deep sadness in my gut. When I asked, my friend finally confided in me that a year ago, that week was her difficult period.
You see, an empath sensitivity can be overwhelming to themselves and also others, as well as in romantic relationships, which is why most of us stay single. (See Top 10 traits of an Empath). There are no in-betweens, I either feel too much or nothing at all. There is a switch in me that can turn the emotions on and off, and I’m leaving the switch on as long as I can.
Because, we empaths didn’t come to this world to be victims. We are a very rare bunch and we should be grateful for that. The world needs more of us. Until we embrace our inner sensitivity and learn the art of moderation, we will forever be held captive in our own mind.
I am finally free.