I’ve been single for eight years. Up until I decided to spend some time alone, I chose the wrong men. Unavailable men. Selfish men. Cruel men. Over and over, I made bad decisions. Until the day I decided I was incapable of making a good one. So I chose to be alone.

Achingly alone.

Since that day, I’ve lived life fast and hard. I go out too much, spend too much, drink too much. I run. Like I still have the fire and frenetic energy of the fourteen-year old runaway I once was. Like I’m being chased by a predator. If I stop, if I breathe, I feel. So I keep running.

Last night, I saw a photo of an infinity pool overlooking a beach, with two beers in a bucket in the foreground. The photo shattered me for what it implied. Two people will share that view of the beach. Two people will meld their bodies and drink a beer together. Two people. The image triggered the kind of deep, empty sadness that makes it hard to breathe.

I’ve been thinking a lot about solitude; what it feels like to be solely responsible for every household or life decision, every hardship, and every joy. To feel the vacuum of a joke without an audience. Does a solitary path still feel solid under my feet? The walls I have built to protect myself have become a prison, and I’m starting to believe they no longer serve me. I can’t run fast enough to escape my history. There are remnants of my past that push the notion that I am not good enough, or pretty enough, or worthy of a healthy relationship. It’s hard work to counter those thoughts. But I’m trying.

This time of year is predictably more difficult than the long, warm days of summer. For me, the expansive hours of darkness feel oppressive, and the loneliness cuts deep. I have no need to be rescued. For years, I’ve proven to myself that I am strong and capable. But I feel a growing yearning to share my life, to share adventures. And tell someone my damn jokes. My resolve is softening; my commitment to living a solo life is slowly crumbling. There are good men out there. Kind men. Compassionate, ethical, honest men. I know there are, because I know some of them.

These thoughts scare me. A lot. So … baby steps. Beginning with saying out loud what my heart has been whispering. To quote Forrest Gump, “And just like that, my runnin’ days was over.”