Lisa Slavid returns as a guest co-host and introduces her friend, Annalyn Cruz, to discuss Annalyn’s journey off the relationship escalator and into her life as a remarkable single. In particular, keep an ear out for something that has not been talked about enough on the podcast: How to have a conversation about living your best life as a single with people who subscribe to a more conventional approach to life and relationships. For fun, the group concludes by sharing the message they would give our younger selves – if they could.
Listen to Episode #76 here
Rolling Into The Remarkable With Annalyn
My friend Lisa Slavid returns as a guest co-host and introduces her friend, Annalyn Cruz, to discuss Annalyn’s journey off the relationship escalator and into her life as a remarkable solo. In particular, keep an eye out for something we have not talked about enough on the show, and that is how to have conversations about living your best life as a single person with people who subscribe to more conventional approaches to life and relationships. For fun, we conclude by sharing the message we would give our younger selves if we could go back in time. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Annalyn Cruz. She is a first-generation Filipina-American, a Los Angeles native, and she lives in Oakland, California. She’s a senior manager and strategist at Electronic Arts where she focuses on leadership, management development, diversity, inclusion, equity and career development within the company. She’s the global advisor for AsPIRE, the Asian Pacific-Islander Employee Resource Group at EA, which is short for Electronic Arts. The team focuses on community building, activism, education, advocacy, and leadership development for its members and allies. Annalyn is happily solo and a regular follower of the show. Welcome, Annalyn.
Thank you, Peter.
We are joined by a special return guest co-host, Lisa Slavid. Lisa is an expert in strategic planning, positive psychology, strength building, motivation and innovation. She has over 25 years of experience designing, learning workshop programs and keynote speeches working with organizations from corporations, universities and nonprofits. She’s an organizational consultant, an executive coach, a Semester At Sea trustee and my favorite, the creator of the Peadoodles cartoon series. Lisa was a guest on episode 17, one of my favorites, Lisa’s Second Mountain. She was a guest co-host for episode 48, Digital Nomads. Lisa introduced me to Annalyn, which means she has the inside scoop on Annalyn’s remarkable life. Welcome back, Lisa.
Thanks for having me back. If I’m ever asked back again, I will shorten my bio for you. Sorry, Pete.
I should have edited it myself. You’re not going to get asked back. We keep having echo problems. We were having echo problems before this, but we are all sorted and ready to go. I’m going to kick it over to you, Lisa. There’s a lot of pressure on you because you nominated Annalyn to be one of my rebellious remarkable singles that I’ve been profiling on and off in the show. Why?
I’ll pick it up from there. I’ve known Annalyn for more than twenty years. I knew her as an undergrad at UCSB. We then ended up traveling the world together with Semester At Sea and becoming good friends. I’ve also seen her through the beginning and the ending of a marriage. She’s an explorer. I’ve been seeing her flourish as a solo and come into her own, and help others come into their own too because she’s a coach as well. She asks great questions. We listen to your podcast and we talk about it. She brought up interesting concepts about her process in terms of spreading her wings. I can see some of the joy she’s experiencing. Also, some cultural things too about some of the things she had to unpack with her upbringing in terms of owning and being a powerful solo. She does improv. She’s mildly funny so no pressure.
That’s outstanding. I can clearly see the overlap that the two of you have with regard to leadership, advocacy, consulting, coaching, diversity and inclusion. I can see why you two are friends and also aligned professionally. I had this image of you two walking on the beach in Santa Barbara talking about Solo episodes, although I recognize that’s not how you’re doing this but that’s where you connect.
It’s funny because we did meet up a couple of months ago when Lisa was up here in the Bay Area. That’s when she mentioned Solo to me. She’s like, “You need to check out my friend Pete’s podcast. It’s going to resonate with you, especially with what’s going on in your life and what you’re going through.” I’ve been hooked ever since, to be honest with you. I feel seen when I listen to some particular episodes. I’m like, “Finally, there’s something out there for us, single people,” because it’s for everybody else who is partnered off, wants to get into a relationship or has kids. You get into this monotony of, “What’s left for me?” That has filled some of that in terms of feeling seen and heard. Thank you for having this show. It’s fantastic.
This is as close as I’ll ever get to being an evangelist. When people shout out amen when they hear things, it makes me feel good. Before we get to your story because I want to hear a little bit about your relationship escalator experience, and then stepping off of it. Is there a particular episode that had an effect on you? Is there some idea that resonated with you as you’ve listened to this?
It was one of your first guests, one of the researchers who has been doing this work.
Bella DePaulo, episode 2.
Yes, episode 2 made a huge impact for me because to hear of actual research that’s gone on for many years, and then hearing about people who are partnered or married aren’t always the happiest, and what single people get out of their lives and the positive impact that can happen as a result of getting off the relationship escalator. That resonated with me, especially having been in a long-term relationship, having done the marriage thing for a little bit, and stepping off of that, and realizing how much happier I am now. I could say that with 100% truth. This is how I am experiencing life and it’s so much better.
By sharing my story and hearing other people who are also going through the same things, that creates an impact of we’re seen, we are here, our stories and experiences matter. That’s one of the things that I have embraced being solo, especially over the pandemic as well. It’s given me some time to reflect, journal and think within myself, and meditate on some of this stuff, what type of future do I want to create for myself by myself? That feels empowering. I know for some folks, that feels like a scary thought, but if there’s one thing that I could give back in this conversation, it’s I hope people feel a little more empowered about building and creating the lives that they want for themselves as a solo person. It could be done.
Annalyn, I have a question for you. I know Pete’s show and his guests are pretty cool, but I also know that there was a struggle to get to where you’re at too. I’m curious, what do you have to let go of?
It’s been about realizing how far back this has gone in terms of I’ve been on this relationship escalator or I’ve been wanting to be on it since I was a little girl. I was thinking about this probably since 4th or 5th grade in elementary school when my best friend had a boyfriend. I remember thinking to myself, “Why can’t I be her? I’ll be happier if I have what she has.” This has stayed with me up until my late 30’s. Whether it’s hearing from family or going to family parties, the first question out of everyone’s mouth is, “Are you dating anybody right now?” No matter what was going on in my career, where I had traveled. Lisa and I had gone to Semester At Sea together years ago, and that wasn’t even a topic of conversation. None of the other things that were happening in my life, which were important and big to me were never even asked about.
You have an incredible CV. I asked Annalyn for her bio and I’ve only given you a little bit of it. This woman is living a remarkable life professionally and personally. I do want to ask about what you described, “Is there someone special in your life?” in response to, “I just traveled the world. I just got this new great job. I just moved to this wonderful new city. I just bought this house. I just X, Y and Z,” I find it at best disturbing and worst, infuriating. It’s well-intentioned but it diminishes especially what women have been trying to do for generations. I admit it, these people are not trying to do harm. They’re just seeing the world through their lens. We know that’s part of the norm, but how much of that is connected culturally in your family?
It’s very much connected. I come from a Filipino background. Catholicism is huge in the Philippines for the past few hundred years, especially when my parents were growing up there. I spoke to my mom because I wanted to get more insight as to what she thought about my own journey. We had a deep conversation about this. She said that in the Philippines, generally speaking, people just suffer through their relationships, their marriages. That’s what you do. You get married and you have kids, and even if the marriage isn’t going well, you just suffer through it. That broke my heart thinking about relatives that I have and my own experience, suffering through that relationship and thinking, “I just need to make it work.” It ties in with people who don’t typically get a divorce because it wasn’t legal to do so at least back then when my parents were growing up in the Philippines. Sometimes people have another relationship outside the marriage. Some people go back and forth between the US and the Philippines and have two separate families.
Did I get this correctly? One is not enough? Someone may have two?
I’ve had relatives and friends who will say, “My dad has another family but he’s still married to my mom. It’s a deal that my parents have between each other where they’re still married.”
Someone should tell these guys they don’t need to get the whole family in order to have a little bit on the side.
I don’t know. That’s something that I’m interested in. There is something to do with the nuclear family and that relationship escalator, and people going through that. It’s something that I’ve actively tried to go against at this point. I don’t believe that you have to have that in order to be happy.
Lisa wants to chime in, but I want to point out one thing and ask a quick follow-up. This is for someone who hasn’t read episode 2 yet. One of the things that we’ve done on Solo time and time again is bust a bunch of myths. That’s something that Bella has been doing for her entire career. I’ll point out a few both from that episode and from elsewhere. First of all, the idea that marriage makes you happy. There is no evidence that marriage makes you happy. We know that marriages can, but we also know that marriages will make you unhappy as evidenced by a 35% divorce rate. The idea of there’s a treatment, you get married and you become happier, there is zero evidence for that.
The other one is this idea that we solos are selfish. First of all, I respond to that in two ways. One is everyone is selfish to some degree. We should be pursuing happiness in our life. We should be pursuing a life in which we flourish, I believe that to be a good endeavor. When an individual flourishes, she or he helps other people in their life flourish in part. For example, Lisa is flourishing. Lisa is climbing her second mountain, and now she brings you into the fold and helps give you an alternative narrative that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
The last one, and this one is striking. Half of the single adults in the United States are not interested in dating and a relationship at the moment. That goes against everything that we’re being told. We think that every single person wants to find love, is eager to do it, and is waiting around for it. That is clearly not the case for a lot of people. It’s normal to want it, it’s normal to not want it. There’s nothing abnormal about what your wants and desires are as a single person.
I had to do a little PSA. Apologies to those of you who have heard this time and time again. I want to follow up on what you said, Annalyn. You said you had a conversation with your mother about this. I want to find out more about this because there are a lot of solos out there who are committed to their solo life and unapologetic about it, and yet the people they love don’t understand it. They need to be educated in some way because parents, aunts, uncles, friends or whoever, think they have the answer for you when they actually don’t.
You too have these conversations with people all the time. You help teach people to think in new ways. If either both of you could talk a little bit about that. What I don’t know yet is how to tell someone to talk to an important person in their life about how they’re happy, how they’re pursuing this path at this time, and that they should not worry, “Do not worry about me. I have this under control.” We’ll start with your conversation with your mom, and then the two of you can help others by helping them navigate these tough conversations.
What’s interesting about our conversation was that what we unpacked was my marriage dissolving and how she felt during that time. We’re a family that doesn’t typically talk about our feelings and all that good stuff. When I asked her that, she said, “At the time, you were pretty clear.” I wrote both of my parents this long letter about what happened, and I didn’t want to hear any sort of advice or questions being asked about what happened.
Did you mail this letter?
I snail-mailed it. My parents are old-school so I snail-mailed this and I was like, “Here we go.” I dropped it off at the post office and I’m like, “There’s no going back.” I will say that one of the other things I did was when I moved out of the house that we lived in together, I got my own place. I signed the lease. I got new furniture. I did all of this because I didn’t want my family to worry. Going back to the cultural piece, that was another thing where I did feel a lot of shame around that. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I was a failure for not having made it work. I had to spend years unpacking that.
Fast forward to our conversation, my mom said, “I was sad when it ended. I was hoping that you guys would work it out.” I told her, “Mom, I’m actually happy now. I’m so glad that it did end because there were a lot of things you didn’t know about that relationship that I only discovered years after of why I needed to be by myself and why I’m so much happier.” I’m my authentic real self now so much more than I was in that relationship. I left myself in that relationship, and that’s a hard lesson for me to reflect on. I share that because for some of us who have gone through that or maybe are going through that, it’s tough to think that, “I’m a shell of who I used to be.” That’s what one of my best friends at the time said to me, “I don’t even recognize who you are because you’ve lost your voice in this relationship.”
What I’ve been empowered with over the past few years is getting back my voice and getting back to who am I. What do I want in this life? What do I want to build for myself that doesn’t involve a romantic partner? It involves many friends, my family and my dog. If a partner happens to show up, if I happen to meet an awesome person, cool, but that’s not what I’m going to be striving towards. The conversation with my mom, she was a little bit surprised when she heard that because she didn’t know a lot that was happening at the time. She was like, “You’re my hero for actually taking a stand and standing up for what you want for yourself. Not a lot of people do that.”
What a reversal.
It was an awesome conversation. It goes to show you that even if you come from a family that doesn’t talk about your feelings too often, it is possible if you open the door for that.
It sounds like you had a lot of compassion, patience and thoughtfulness for your parents in writing a letter, mailing it and meeting them in a space where they could listen.
I knew if I were to have a phone call about it, there would be all these questions like, “Are you sure?” Whatever I thought would come up at the time. For me, it was important to just write that letter, state my boundaries at the time, and state what I needed from them. That was important as well. They respected that.
That’s great. They love you.
I like the letter thing because it’s not a negotiation. A phone call feels like a negotiation sometimes. It feels like you’re seeking feedback in that sense. It’s interesting, if you’re me, if you’re Lisa, if you’re you, if you’re a regular reader, these are not radical ideas anymore. They now feel normal to you, but these are radical ideas to some people. These are threatening ideas. They threaten a person’s identity as a husband or a wife, or someone who wants the escalator, or someone who has been thinking about it since fourth grade.
It’s everywhere. It’s in their TV, in the children’s books, in the songs, on Instagram. It’s everywhere. People are putting forth their best show. This is both for Lisa and you. I want to get back to this because I think there’s this paradox. If you ask parents, “What do you want for your child?” They’ll say, “I want my child to be happy.” The next thing they’ll say is, “This is how my child should be happy.” Those things can be in conflict in this case. A divorce may make you happy, but a parent doesn’t approve of the divorce. For readers who want to be able to start talking unapologetically about where they are in life, about what their long-term goals are, being single for now or forever, how do they have these conversations with their loved ones who are well-intentioned but misinformed?
When I was listening to Annalyn, I had this flashback to coming out to my dad years ago. I was lucky that when I came out to my parents, they were divorced. It was funny. The first question they each asked was, “Does your mom know?” “Does your dad know?” As a child of divorced parents, I was like, “Is this relevant right now?” They were both supportive and loving, but it was still a stage and a phase. They weren’t super excited. I remember specifically when my dad was saying, “I can understand this. I love women too so that makes a lot of sense to me. Women are great” He said, “The only reason I would wish that you weren’t gay is because life’s going to be harder.” My dad wasn’t the first person I came out to.
To the readers, what I would say is if you’re sharing with loved ones the path that you’re on, take it for a test drive with friends. Do those calls and beach walks or whatnot. Have some reflections so if somebody comes at you with a response like I didn’t say to my dad, “That’s homophobic.” He was just being a dad and wanted to be protective. The irony of that is I just needed to be myself. Not being myself was going to be harder than being myself. He’s like, “I know it’s going to make life a little bit harder for you.”
In some ways, he met with discrimination and I get that, but the reward is in being true to myself. A lot of this is our journey of being true to ourselves. How do you help the people who love you and have a concept about you that is a certain way? How do you help them evolve with you? I’m imagining that it’s part of their evolution too to hold space for them to change and grow in this. Annalyn, hearing your mom talk about you being her hero, her lens sounds like, “You just put up with it.”
Stiff up your lip. Put on a good show.
Put the straps and just keep going. There could not even be the possibility of saying, “It’s ended,” but the possibility of talking. It opens up the door to talking about like, “This is painful,” and then maybe figuring it out together wherever it goes from there. I don’t know what’s that spark for you, Annalyn.
One of the things that I was thinking about is being able to show your loved ones and whoever is asking these questions, “I know you’re invested in my relationship status or partnership status. That’s not a priority for me right now.” I have flat out said to people like, “That’s not something I’m spending my time and my energy on because I’m focused on moving up in my career, building my own coaching business, or cultivating my friendships in a different way. I’m spending time with folks who I want to hang out with and understand me completely. That’s not where I’m focusing my energy on. Let me tell you about some cool things that are happening to me. Let me share with you these other parts of my wheel of life, all the other slices of the pie that you may not know about because you’re maybe focused on this one sliver.” That has helped me in conversations with loved ones of, “Let me tell you about some of the cool things that I’m learning about myself, that I’m doing, or this new way of being that I’m creating in this world.” Over time, that has refocused some of the conversations that may have happened in the past. Also, as I get older people are like, “Whatever. We’ve lost whatever faith we have in you.”
It helps to get older.
It’s like, “I guess we just gave up on that idea.”
Start a podcast called Solo and no one will ever ask you again.
People have not asked me a whole lot since then for whatever reason. I’m cool with that.
I hear there are these three steps, not exactly, but one is you have to be honest with yourself. It’s important to say, “At this moment in time.” I don’t talk a lot about the pandemic, but one of the benefits of the pandemic is it has made me and many of us as present-focused as we have ever been. I’m a forward-focused person. I’m always thinking about the future. I’m always planning and strategizing. Sometimes to my detriment, I’m living in the future too much.
Now, because we don’t even know what the future looks like, it makes you be in the present. You say, “At this moment, this is what lights me up. This is how I’m going to be my most remarkable self.” The idea then is to be honest with others that that’s the path that you’re on, and that they may need some re-education and some re-adjustment. You said something that is good. I’m always looking for a title idea. I like this idea of romantic relationships are just a sliver of who we are. It’s not all of who we are. It’s not our entire identity. To be able to say, “That’s just a small part of my life, look at all these other things and how exciting they are.”
The last thing, if I can add to what you two were saying is, “I appreciate that you care about me and that you want me to be happy and thrive, and you don’t want me to be an outsider and deal with discrimination and so on. However, you have to trust that this is right for me. This is not an arbitrary decision. This is something I’ve given thought to and that there are many ways to live a good life. This is mine at this moment.” These things are hard especially for parents or older adults.
In psychology, there’s a transactional analysis where it’s a triangle of communication between people, parent, adult, child. With parents, especially sometimes, instead of speaking adult to adult, it can slip back into parent to child, or it can flip too. You can start parenting your parent. Behind people’s concerns or pressure could just be fear, “Are you going to be okay, Annalyn, when you’re twenty years older? Are you going to be lonely?” People are carrying their fears with them that are leading to themselves and not even you. People that we love and who love us care about us. Especially with older generations, they want to make sure that you can stack life as easiest for yourself as possible, and being single might seem hard to them.
One thing I wanted to mention was that I remember early on, my dad was like, “Who’s going to take care of you?” I’m like, “What do you mean who’s going to take care of me?” I was like, “I make my own money. I am planning for the future. Trust me, this is not something I’m willy-nilly deciding to do.” I’m conscious and deliberate about the type of life that I’m having now and the type of life I want to lead for the future. What my dad shared is something that many parents share, “I’m concerned about you being by yourself alone and decrepit somewhere. You’re going to be out on your own. Who’s going to be there to support you?” For me, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of months especially is my friends are the family that I truly have chosen. I believe that many of these people are going to be in my life later on in the future. I would love a Golden Girl situation. Put me up with Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose. I’m down for that. That’s the type of soul lifestyle I want to be living when I’m in my 70’s and 80’s. I love that idea.
You’re right. There are a lot of ways to do this. This idea of we don’t live on farms anymore where we need this familial unit to make things work. There are other ways. There are new technologies and innovations. There’s this thing called money that can solve a lot of problems if you do a good job saving it and planning for the future. I love that you have a plan. I want to ask about this reinvention. I love this word reinvention. I use it in the show all the time. It’s one of my three R’s, to recognize, rebel and reinvent. What are some of the ways that you’ve reinvented yourself? What freedoms have you experienced as a result of that?
The first part of the reinvention process is the consciousness of I’m going to take a different path. I’m going to take a different path than what the majority of my friends are doing or what my family expects me to do. I’m going to stick to that because, in my soul, I know that this is the path I want moving forward.
Can you say a little bit of what that is?
For example, your follow-up question was like, “What freedoms do I have?” One day, I was hanging out with my best friend and we were roller-skating on her deck at 7:30 at night. The sun was setting. It was a beautiful night in Oakland. If I was married with kids, I would not be able to be roller skating on a deck and trying out my new pink glitter skates. There are moments where I’m taking a hike with a friend. I’m not at a soccer game with my kids. I’m going to go to Cambodia with Lisa and another friend of ours, Kate, in 2022. I saw the deal and I called Lisa, “Do you want to go to Cambodia in 2022?” She’s like, “Yeah.” The three of us booked it that afternoon. We’re like, “We’re going to Cambodia.” I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was in a different situation. I could spend my money on redecorating my place the way that I want to redecorate it. I don’t have to negotiate anything with a partner.
I don’t want your throw pillows.
I don’t want your neon sign that’s going to be up in the man cave.
It’s so funny you say this. I have a friend and he’s solo-minded. I sent him an Airbnb apartment, a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in Buenos Aires. I said, “What do you think? Why don’t we just pick a date? Let’s just pick a date.” What you often get is, “I don’t know, let me get back to you on that.” He wrote back, “Let’s.” There is that element.
Pete, can I take a slightly different angle about the question you asked Annalyn in terms of the freedoms she’s feeling? I’m curious, Annalyn, do you remember any a-ha moments on this journey that you had like, “This is going to be okay,” or “I get to try this.” Any transformational or maybe a surrendering?
Being able to buy my condo on my own was a pivotal moment. A part of it was I was able to do that because of the divorce and how that all shake down. I remember, when I finally got the keys and I was settling in, I’m thinking to myself, “I have this place that I know I should be happy. I know I should be feeling fortunate, but I had this place because I failed at my marriage.” That was my mindset years ago, “I don’t know if I could enjoy this.” Fast forward to 2021, I love it. I feel like I’m in a completely different space of, “This is my own space.” Especially during the pandemic, I could create my little home for myself. It is all about the way that I want to do things and how I invite people over and creating a warm space for myself to take care of myself. Looking back on where my mindset was back then and where it is now, I had this thought in my head where I was like, “I feel lucky and fortunate to have this place, to have the life that I have and be able to have the wonderful friends around me and community.” I have been feeling full of abundance and gratitude, honestly.
What have you done with the place that you wouldn’t have done otherwise? How have you entertained in a way that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
I redecorated the place. Part of the process for me was getting rid of the old furniture that I had from before as a result of having to leave the house that I was in. I was looking around. It was like a darker wood and some stuff I got off of Craigslist because I was broke at the time. I’m like, “I’m in a space where I could afford this and be able to create a space that I want for myself that feels good. I could entertain people when things are back to normal.” I love having people over and for them to step into my space and feel like it’s their own. Before, I felt like I had to negotiate that with someone else. There’s no negotiation. It’s only me. To me, that feels like such awesome freedom. Maybe for some people, that sounds like, “What’s the big deal about that?” I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit like, “I created this. I helped design the way in which I’ll be living in the aesthetics and how it feels.” There’s a new energy in my space. I believe that makes a difference.
One way to start a reinvention process is to tidy up. There are different ways to tidy up. One way to tidy up is to get rid of this old furniture and to donate it, to give it away, to sell it or to find a better home for it that it’s going to fit better in. You tidied up your entire living space by redecorating.
I definitely reorganized. I threw away stuff that no longer serves me. I KonMari-ed. I still need to do a lot but that was a part of it. Lisa, going back to your question. It’s being firm and proud within myself of this is the life that I’m leading for myself. I’m going to stand and be proud of what I’ve created for myself as a solo person. Being not ashamed of that but proud of it. The difference in the past has been I was embarrassed. I was ashamed about the life that I felt like I was failing at when really, it was the complete 180 from that. Even philosophically thinking about, “This is my mindset moving forward. This is how I’m going to be living.”
I feel like it shows in terms of my own energy and what I even coach people about if they’re struggling with the same things which I often hear from some of my clients. They’re at the fork in the road of deciding, “Should I leave this relationship or not? I’m scared. I’ve never been on my own since high school. I’ve always been in a monogamous relationship. What does this mean for me moving forward?” What’s important for me as a coach is to start exploring other possibilities that this person may be dreaming about but maybe even too scared to say it out loud. I was working with one person who is making that big decision about what to do moving forward, “Should I leave or should I stay?” It’s not my job as a coach to tell this person what to do. However, it is my job to be able to explore their possibilities and to explore other dreams that they may have been scared to say out loud.
I have a follow-up question for you with that. I’m curious about a coaching question you might ask yourself, so tuck that away. I can hear the joy in your voice when you talk about not having to negotiate and wearing your pink roller skates. You’re exploring things. You’re at the stage where there are excitement and ease to it. I’m curious if you could share a stage where you had to push yourself. What was scary and how? Sometimes, for folks, a big revelation that they’ve had is like, “I went out to eat dinner by myself for the first time,” or “I went to the movies by myself for the first time.” I hear that as part of people’s steps in being okay being alone. I’m curious if you had anything like that where you had to push yourself to go do something or try something.
I remember early on having meals by myself going to restaurants alone. Sometimes that happens when I have to travel for work anyway so that was good practice. I love doing that around Oakland. I’ll go and have a meal by myself. The other thing I would say that was hard in the beginning was sleeping alone in my own bed. That was tough. When you leave a relationship and if you were sharing a bed together, that’s hard. I remember that first night and I couldn’t sleep. I remember thinking like, “How am I going to do this?” There were many moments where I felt, “I don’t know if I could do this.” I feel like I’m under the rubble. How am I going to get past this? It sounds cliché, but part of it is with time. The other part is Deep Therapy. I will plug that for everyone who hasn’t done it.
Episode 15, How to Find a Therapist.
My therapist has been instrumental in my journey. The other thing is for me, I felt like I lost part of myself. What did it mean to regain who I was again in discovering that process? A part of it was rediscovering improv again. Taking more improv classes. I’m going to try roller skating again since I haven’t done it since junior high. It’s picking up things that I either didn’t have time for before or that I didn’t have to negotiate anything with someone else.
There’s so much wonderful stuff there. One of the things I would add to that, and this is me as a psychologist speaking, is that people fail to anticipate the magic of adaptation. Humans are adaptations machines. Unfortunately, we’re better at adapting to positive things than to negative things. Nonetheless, we are able to cope, to change and so on. That first night sleeping alone, one might say, “How am I going to do this,” but you will adapt to this new situation. There is a flip side to this. There are those people who are like, “Oh my God. I get to sleep alone.”
I love it now. I can’t imagine it the other way around. I’d flip back to that if that ever happens.
We bring to the world our own perspective, and our own perspective is based a bit upon the domestication that we have undergone. You’ve talked about it culturally in particular and so on. I had a conversation where I was making a cheeky comment about divorce, and a woman couldn’t believe that I was framing a divorce in a positive way. It was impossible for her to see how a divorce is anything but a massive failure rather than a massive celebration. A theme of our conversation is, how do you re-educate yourself? If Solo helps, I’m thrilled. If your friends help, your chosen family and so on, that’s great, and this idea that you might have to re-educate someone else. Lisa and I have talked about this at times with regard to her being a lesbian, which is like, “Here I go, again. I got to take this person who is well-intentioned and well-meaning. This person is not a bigot, but they don’t understand. I got to do this lift again to be able to explain all these things.” It is a burden, but it seems like a worthwhile one for our circles to be able to do.
It gets better. I do want to add that while I probably sound positive and I do feel that way, for sure, I’ve hit rock bottom. I have hit rock bottom over the past few years where I didn’t always feel this way. Know that if you’re there or if you are concerned about hitting rock bottom, it happens to all of us. You have to almost go through that process in order to come out the other side. It’s a part of the process.
What Lisa said has got me thinking of a final question, if I can. Lisa, you said it’s going to be okay. This is for all of us. I’ll answer too. What advice would you give if you could show up in the night to your younger self and give that person advice about being solo? These are two elements to this. At what age would you do it and what would you say to your younger self?
I would start so early. I would start at the age of five saying to my younger self, “You are whole on your own. You do not need a romantic partner in order to feel whole.” I think that’s what I was searching for back in the day up until my late 30’s. Know that you are completely whole as you are, and you have other parts of your circle of life, your pie, or however you want to look at it. This is one sliver, and if you choose that path, that’s cool, but know that there are many other things out there for you to have a full life and you already have it. You don’t need to find anybody to complete yourself. That’s bullshit.
You would show up. This would not be a letter.
I would show up, not a snail mail letter.
As you’ve been answering, Lisa has been quite pensive.
I’m trying to figure out what age I would do and then that brings into the whole thing about sexual orientation. Would I start at five and say, “Whoever you are, just be you?” That’s spun me in a loop, but in terms of relationship or being solo, I’d probably drop in with my twenty-year-old self. I’ve been a serial monogamist with chunks of time between relationships. Sometimes those chunks of time have caused me a little bit of angst, but my compass was still pointing me in the right direction. Connect with people who click with you. Don’t force anything.
I’ll go back to my twenty-year-old self and say, “It’s a little bit like surfing, just be in flow with it. Enjoy the time you have with people and enjoy the time you’re not with people.” I would also say to myself, “It’s okay to have a romantic interlude,” which is different than having a one-night stand, which I’ve personally have not done. Lesbians are notorious for moving in on the second date. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had romantic interludes, and it was more than one night, but I knew that it wasn’t going to go in that escalator. It was just enjoyable anyways. I would go back and say, “There’s going to be a lot of flavors out there. Know that there’s an ebb and a flow to that, just go with it.”
I would use the word tryst, but I like interlude better. Tryst has slightly too much of a negative connotation.
I got that from a hiking guide in South Africa, going back to Semester At Sea. He was leading a hike of 30 college students. He said, “This program seems like it would be ideal for a romantic interlude.” I was like, “Yes, it is.”
That’s fun to listen to. There is a temptation for me to go back to my fourteen-year-old self, thirteen-year-old self and tell him, “This is all going to be okay. It turns out great,” and so on, but I wouldn’t. That pain, those experiences, and the uncertainty that it would turn out great would put me at a disadvantage. In many ways, I’m happy that I had challenges early in my life in part because if it was easy, I don’t think I would have the tenacity that I do now. It would have made me lazy. I would go back to my twenties. Once I tell you what my older self is going to tell my younger self, I’m going to let Lisa pick the age in my twenties.
I would tell my younger self, “Pete, you are not conventional. You’re not normal, and that’s good. This is not a weakness, this is a strength. This is not a bug. This is a feature. As a result of the fact that you are unconventional in the way you think, behave and approach the world, you’re going to benefit from it.” That’s when I was starting to recognize that in my twenties. I was starting to feel out of place. Lisa met me at 24. We worked together until I was 27. We have kept in touch since then. What time do you think that message would have been most useful for me?
Probably 21, in terms of legal drinking age. You’re a big sporty guy. You could have fallen into this is what you do. You go watch sports and drink. Maybe at 21, that message would have been good to be like, “You don’t have to go that direction. It’s okay knowing that you’re going to be unconventional.”
I didn’t start drinking until I was 25. Looking back at it, I could have just as easily avoided that as someone who doesn’t drink much anymore that chunk of time. I don’t think alcohol added that much value. Some fun times, alcohol is fun. That’s great. This has been interesting. My mind is racing with possibilities. One of the things that I’m happy that we were able to do, Annalyn, with regard to your story, besides celebrating your remarkable single life and hearing the joy in your voice, and giving people further examples of this is how to have those conversations. That’s not something we’ve talked a lot about. We’ve talked a lot about educating people, but we haven’t talked about how to talk to other people in our lives who don’t listen to the podcast, who don’t say, “Amen, Hallelujah.” Are there any closing thoughts for the two of you about those conversations? You two do this for a living. You help people change the way they see the world. You help people by coaching them, guiding them, opening their minds up. Is there anything that you would say as your parting bit of wisdom for our readers who wants to be able to lean into those conversations if they want to?
One thing that came to my mind over the past couple of minutes is I want to re-emphasize that your self-worth is not tied to your romantic relationship status. As long as you truly believe that and keep reminding yourself about that, that will show in these conversations with your loved ones or people who may be concerned about where you’re at, at this point in your life. To actually say, “My self-worth isn’t tied to that. Here’s what else I have going on in my life that makes me who I am. I hope you could be happy for me because of that.”
It’s a sliver. I love this idea. It’s not the whole pie. Lisa wants to end on that. I love it. Lisa Slavid, welcome back. Thanks so much. It’s always good to hear your voice. I appreciate that you nominated this remarkable single. Annalyn, it’s great to meet you. I’m inspired and you will inspire readers. There are people who are saying, “Amen. Hallelujah,” to your story. I hope they’re inspired to redecorate, to buy those pink roller skates, and to enjoy those sunsets rather than cooking pork chops and mashed potatoes.
Thanks for having me. I appreciated the time we all had together. Thank you.
- Lisa’s Second Mountain – previous episode
- Digital Nomads – previous episode
- Bella DePaulo – previous episode
- How to Find a Therapist – previous episode
About Annalyn Cruz
Annalyn Cruz a first-generation, Filipina-American, a Los Angeles native and currently lives in Oakland, CA. She’s a Senior Manager and Strategist at Electronic Arts, where she focuses on leadership, manager development, diversity/inclusion/equity and career development within the company.
About Lisa Slavid
Lisa Slavid is an expert in strategic planning, positive psychology, strengths building, motivation and innovation. She has over 25 years of experience designing learning workshops, programs, and keynotes speeches, working with organizations from corporations, universities, and non-profits. She is an organizational consultant, an executive coach, a Semester at Sea Trustee, and the creator of the published “Peadoodles” cartoon series.
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