If there’s something no human wants, it’s to be alone for the rest of our lives. For the purity of the experiment, we’ll take ‘alone’ to presently mean ‘without the kind of partner whom we want to stay in our life indefinitely,” without the man or woman we’d consider a soulmate.
For the purity of the experiment, we’ll also not count the bad dates or relationships gone wrong, the people who used/abused us or attempted to do so, the “it’s complicated” FB statuses. With all those kinds of people, we’re still emotionally and intellectually alone, so they don’t count.
No one wants to be alone in life. So much of what we read, hear and believe in has to do with the ultimate goal of not missing out on love.
Against this background, I found it doubly strange to once hear of a curious thought experiment — the direct opposite of what seems instinctive to a society that doesn’t want to be alone. It consists of a single uncomfortable question:
“What would you do with life, if as a young person, you were told that you’ll never meet the love of your life?”
In real life, I think most of us would freak out and not believe a word we were told. But let’s imagine some prophetic being told us this, something/someone we couldn’t fail to believe. Imagine they showed us our present and future life and gave foolproof evidence of their words. Initially, we’d think this is the most cruel thing that could happen to us. But eventually, we’d start generating ideas on how to develop our talents and goals.
It’s been many years since I first heard of this thought experiment and it has resonated with me ever since.
Over these years, I noticed a curious pattern in my personal life: being alone activates my productivity. It makes me work harder, encourages me to reach out and connect to more than one person in my life (in a friendship, not relationship kind of way), it makes me tougher and more resilient. It makes me want to fight better and seek out opportunities.
Most importantly, being alone shows me the kind of person I need to be when I’m with someone I love.
It was at this point that I realized — the thought experiment isn’t meant to be cruel. It’s meant to teach us a simple lesson: no one really knows their own future or fate, and love will come the day it’s supposed to. But each of us has unlimited power over our private life right this moment, and that private life is so much more than chasing Cupid.
This very day, we can give birth to an incredible idea, take the first step towards a goal, start mapping out a project that will change a life or leave a mark in the world. All of this is possible if only each of us gives as much time and care to our projects, talents, and goals as we usually give our relationship struggles and hopes.
In this light, the real question we ought to be asking is:
“What would we do with life if we owed it only to ourselves to make us happy?”
This scariest relationship question is actually the most motivating because it’s not about someone else — it’s about us, and how we can change our lives today, without waiting for a special person or occasion to motivate or energize us.
It all comes down to a simple fact: the right people demand no chasing on our part. The right ideas do.
When that someone special does come, they won’t fail to notice the beautiful place we’ve taken our life and the strong, resilient human being we’ve become. Meanwhile, we will learn to cherish the well-being of our goals and ideas and continue to cultivate them consciously, regardless of relationship status.
Angela Yurchenko is a business journalist and classical musician. In her personal writing, she shares stories of the human experience through the lens of emotional intelligence, philosophy, arts & culture. Find more of Angela’s writing on Medium and on her blog, Birdsong.
Image courtesy of Aditya Saxena.