Compromise? What is compromising? Compromise for what? Compromising for what? Compromising for what reason? …. Stupid. A man comes into my life and I have to compromise? You must think about that one again. A man comes into my life and you have to compromise? For what? For what? For what?
A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned! Not to compromise for… and I love relationships, I think they’re fantastically wonderful, I think they’re great, I think there’s nothing in the world more beautiful than falling in love. But falling in love for the right reason, falling in love for the right purpose. Falling in love. Falling in love. When you fall in love, what is there to compromise about?
– Eartha Kitt
These are the words I live by now. Eartha’s unapologetic rejection of compromise may seem abrasive to some, but for me, it’s just what I needed to hear.
I used to feel guilty for wanting to live my best life, on my own terms. Let’s be honest: that’s not usually something we usually celebrate in women. Even coming from a family of feminists who always taught me to put myself first, to define myself by who I am, rather than whether or not a man accompanies me, I was not immune to society’s messaging.
Hence I found myself compromising over a series of relationships, postponing my dreams.
For too long I tried to force myself into the mold of a nice, agreeable girl. I can count the number of fights I’ve had over ten years of relationships on two hands. As in, maybe one fight per year. I hope you can agree: that’s some bullshit.
I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to need, loudly and vociferously. I swallowed the blue pill that told me to follow the rules. To be quiet, to be deferent, to be polite. In other words, to make myself small. To not take up space: verbal, emotional, even physical space.
People fight and disagree. That’s natural and human. But I was afraid to use my voice to do just that. So I sat quietly, letting my silence fester into feelings of anxiety, despair, frustration, and anger. Not only is that not fair to me – pretty sure that any partner I had wasn’t really feeling my silent, deepening frustration. Generally not an aphrodisiac.
Finally, I said “fuck this” to making myself small. I tuned into my wants and needs, quit my job, and started traveling the world. On my own damn terms and my own damn schedule.
Ever since I decided to stop compromising, I feel so much more myself and alive. Every choice I make is my own. I pursue my passions, and I say no to anything that I don’t want to do. Sounds simple? It’s not. It took a lot of mental rewiring, believe it or not.
When I first started traveling on my own, I was almost confused about what to do with all my time. Because I had never really given myself permission to be on my own 100% before. I always answered to someone – a significant other, a job, a self-perception. I hewed to some commitment or another that, in my heart, I wasn’t ready to make. Because I wasn’t fully myself yet. And if you’re not yet yourself, it’s hard to be with someone else, unless they encourage you to grow with them – or rather, alongside them – without reservations.
Now the fun part comes in: I’m figuring out exactly who I am. I’m discovering new things about myself all over the place because no one is there to give me a confused side-eye when I do something seemingly out of my comfort zone. I’m pushing myself to become a stronger hiker – I’m aiming to climb 50,000 feet this year (I’m about 6,000 feet in!). I’m learning Russian. I’m getting deeper into yoga and meditation. I’m diving into learning about astrophysics, mostly because I have a serious voice-crush on Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
I’m learning not to care what people think. I’m taking selfies of myself all over the world, because fuck it, it’s my life and my memories. I’m sleeping in until whenever I want. I’m slothing around when I’m tired. I’m waking up at the crack of dawn and going on adventures when I’m not. I’m ordering whatever the hell I want, and no, I don’t want to split a salad, you filthy animal. I’m learning to be okay with being weird, being selfish, being my own boss. I can’t make everyone happy – and why should I? I can work on making myself happy, each and every day. Or – let’s be realistic – at least most days.
Despite this I-don’t-need-a-man-ifesto, let’s #realtalk for a second. I’m not immune to loneliness. On my weaker days, I admit to wondering if my refusal to compromise on my love of travel dooms me to dating failure. Sometimes I even glare at the Instagram feeds of couple travel bloggers, doubting I’ll ever find the person who has the perfect blend of physical and interpersonal chemistry, the right timing, and shared passions (or at least, the enthusiastic permission to independently pursue our divergent passions). Sometimes I fear I’m doomed to a life of remote-and-tripod selfies and “table for ones.”
Sometimes… but not today. It’s Valentine’s Day, I’m in Nicaragua, I’m alone, my life is sweet, and I couldn’t be happier.