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art theplaceShe grabbed for my hand and held it up.

“No ring, huh? You should meet my daughter sometime. Single. Beautiful. I think y’all would get along pretty well.”

Usually around this time of year, I find myself in these situations. Now, this isn’t to say I’m some “worthy catch” or “Prince Charming,” but seeing as I’m one of few bachelors in a small mountain town, the interaction tends to happen.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get married and, as I get older, I don’t think I ever want to. Sure, who wouldn’t want to spend their life with someone that completes them and turns everything to gold with the slightest touch or kiss? I’d get in line for that existence.

Around the holidays is when single folks start taking inventory of their surroundings. From shiny decorations to fancy parties, the sentimental warm and cozy feeling between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is enough to strangle us solo crusaders with an invisible force akin to Darth Vader trying to bring you to the “Dark Side.”

All of these holiday endeavors and obligations really push it home about being alone. You sit there on the couch or belly up to the bar, and all around you are couples, in every damn direction. Did I miss the memo about everyone pairing off, laughing and smiling and nuzzling their significant other into the sunset? And I find the more I’m around it, the more I detest it, or at least just don’t identify with it.

Which is a far cry from what I wanted and expected to happen years ago. I was all about the whole “Jack & Diane” life when I was 18, where you’d marry your high school sweetheart, pop out some kids, take’em to the Tasty Freeze every Saturday night, and just, well, keep living, until you retire and eventually drop dead, leaving some sort of hopefully memorable legacy. 

And to each their own. Whatever makes you happy or content or stable, then do it. Fine. All good. But, I wanted more. I’ve always wanted more. Not more money or accolades, but experiences and adventures. After my high school sweetheart and I broke up that first semester of college, far away from home, something broke within me, a floodgate of, well, “Screw this, I’m taking off.”

Sure, every few years along this chaotic journey, some femme fatale would rope me into a relationship. I’d fall in love, and think, “This ain’t so bad.” But then, as with most couples, things eventually get stale or difficult, and you either find yourself on auto-pilot or looking for the nearest exit. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about working hard for something, especially if it’s a woman I desire deeply. I’ll see it through, come hell or high water. As things would fall apart, I’d try hard to capture the sands of time and of her, only to have it all spill through my fingers onto the cold, hard ground. 

And through all the girls, the long-term and long distance relationships, the countless dates and weekend jailbreaks from normal life, I’m still here, still on my feet at 30. I’ll find myself in discussions, whether at a bar here in Western North Carolina or around a dinner table back home in Upstate New York, and the topic will always come up — “Do you ever want to settle down?”

My response? “I don’t put any value in it or lose sleep over the idea of it. If it happens, it happens.” I sincerely mean that statement, more so as 29 turned into 30, which will turn into 31 come February. I’m having too much fun living my life to its fullest everyday, cultivating deep and meaningful relationships with friends and family members, that I won’t let the image of an empty passenger’s seat in my truck deter me from the greatest adventure there is — my own. 

I’m come to label myself as an “extroverted loner.” I enjoy a room full of strangers, a festive event or get-together. I also enjoy simply wandering off, stealthy stepping out the door with my perfectly executed “Irish goodbye.” I want to be a balloon without a hand holding the string. I want to float and ascend into the bluebird sky. I want to be in my element, and also discover the essence of any and all within an earshot. I love people, truly, and want to make their acquaintance, to hear their story and make a connection with a fellow human being. Those are the relationships I want to be part of. 

So, to all you single brothers and sisters in the midst of usual holiday scrutiny from creepy uncles and close talker aunts, pushy parents and offensive-but-oblivious relatives, take a deep breath (and a sip of hard egg nog), find a comfy seat and relax into the scene unfolding in front of you. As dreadful as these interactions may seem, they will serve as comical memories as the years go along. Besides, what’s the fun in being an active participant in society without a little awkwardness, eh?

You’re alive, here and now, and you have the freedom to walk out the door and take on the world, one day at a time. And if you surround yourself with the right folks, those who support and encourage you, then you’ve got it made in the shade. If that ain’t love and passion, then I don’t know what is.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

 

Hot picks

1 Water’n Hole Bar & Grill (Waynesville) will have a New Year’s Eve Party with The Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) at 9 p.m. Dec. 31.

2 The Ugly Dog Pub (Highlands) will have a New Year’s Eve Bash with Fish Out of Water (rock/funk) at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 31.

3 Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will have a New Year’s Eve Party with Ol’ Dirty Bathtub (Americana/bluegrass) at 8 p.m. Dec. 31.

4 The Haywood County Arts Council’s “It’s a Small, Small Work” showcase will run through Dec. 26 at the council’s Gallery & Gifts in downtown Waynesville.

5 The Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will have Mean Mary & The Contrarys (Americana/ singer-songwriter) at 7 p.m. Dec. 31.

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