Chasing Autonomy

To begin, I am the girl who always has a boyfriend.

I know you’re making assumptions right now and I’m here to tell you that yes, they are all true. I am needy, possessive, selfish, and in constant need of my significant other’s attention. I am your textbook case study of a girl who always needs to be with someone. Sure, I can claim that it might have something to do with my abandonment issues from my father constantly leaving and coming back into my life, or the separation anxiety disorder I harbor (among other anxiety disorders I have). But I’m 27 years old now, and with a year of therapy under my belt, I should be able to navigate my relationships onto a healthy path. Except, I underestimated how difficult that journey would be.

For the past year, I’ve talked about several things in therapy that have haunted me. From the childhood trauma of watching a video of my father telling me goodbye, that he hopes I remember him always as the happy person he is, and that someday he’ll get to know me (to be explicit, he recorded a video before he left for the Philippines to be with my half sisters and their mom) to the string of many unhealthy relationships I’ve been in, including one that was physically, verbally, and mentally abusive. I’m not claiming that I had it worse in comparison to anyone else, but I’ve definitely suppressed and internalized some serious issues, particularly with relationships.

Warning: You’re going to be hit with few bell hooks quotes to further articulate my points.

“We fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. Most of us prefer to have a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. What becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love.” – bell hooks

I’m not good at relationships. Not that anyone is, right? I mean, if you claim to be a relationship expert, then I’m sorry but you’re full of it, because no one is perfect at being in a relationship. I wholeheartedly believe this. Of course, there are examples out there of long-lasting, death-til-you-part relationships that are, fucking adorable. And we all want to believe that, that could be me! I could be a character in The Notebook! I CAN HAVE THAT.

But the truth is, it’s rare.

“To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.” – bell hooks

But this piece isn’t all about love and relationships, but about love of oneself. You see, I don’t love myself. I know, it’s harder to say it out loud than it is to type it, but it’s true. No matter the methods and tactics I’ve employed to try and love myself, like, meditation, exercising, buying material objects, indulging myself in luxurious massages, or whatever, I have come to the realization that I don’t really know me, and therefore I don’t truly love myself.

I’ve come to the realization that, after years of being in a relationship, and going through a year of therapy (and continuing), that I need to engage more opportunities in finding more about myself, thus in order, to finally love myself. I think that when we allow ourselves to truly embrace all our parts — the good, the bad, and the ugly — that ultimately, we can attain true happiness. You can do this while being in a relationship I’m sure, but I think in particular for me, as someone who has struggled to love myself when in a relationship, that has proven to be difficult and perhaps a hindrance in achieving self-love.

“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” – bell hooks

I have been comfortable for too long. I have been wallowing in the shallow end of this thing called life, desperate to test my limitations, but always in fear of what I’m truly capable of. To do all of this in a relationship is one thing I must decide is possible. And if it is, will I truly be happy? I guess I’m not at a point yet where I can answer that, I think a part of me is asking for your help. But deep down, part of me already knows what the answer is… don’t I?

By Luann

Feminist, Pinay, coffee lover, boba aficionado and pop culture enthusiast. Current graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies. Dwelling in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon but always California dreaming. You can also read more of her articles at

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