Today's post certainly isn't the conventional travel guide. Instead, I'm bringing back some commentary from my early days of blogging.
A couple years ago, I wrote an article for "The Everygirl" about how to embrace being single. Every year since, as Valentine's Day rolls around, I always feel compelled to share it again (largely because I still get emails from readers this time of year who are newly single and asking for the link).
This year that I speak of in the article where I put dating on a shelf entirely to focus on myself was one the best things I've ever done. At the original time of publication, I'd only been single for about a year (after basically 11 back to back years of monogamy). Today, I'm three years into single life and I can honestly say it's only grown to be more fun.
Because of the time I took for myself, I developed the confidence it takes to start my own business, live out of a suitcase and travel the world without needing anyone else to hold my hand while doing it. It allowed me to approach dating (when I finally got there) with a lighthearted sense of ease instead of a eager state of desperation. It's made me more in touch than ever with who I am and what I really want out of life. So whenever the time comes that I do find love again, I'm more confident than ever in my ability to be a great partner. And until then? I'm more content than ever loving the life I've created.
So if you happen to find yourself single this Valentine's Day, I hope you'll find a bit of perspective and encouragement from this piece.
EMBRACING YOUR SEASON OF SINGLENESS
Yesterday I realized that this week marks exactly one full year that I’ve been single. This may not sound like a big deal, but coming from someone who was a serial monogamist (I’d been in relationships for the 11 years prior), it was a pivotal realization.
But what I’m especially proud of isn’t merely the fact that I’ve been single—it’s how I’ve been single. In today’s world of Tinder, Bumble, and everything else, there are endless ways to never be alone. Sure, you may not be in a committed relationship, but just swipe right a few times and soon enough someone is readily available to text with as often as you so please. At least, until you’re sick of them and ready to move on to the next option.
Don’t get me wrong. I think dating apps have the ability to connect people, and I have no doubt stellar relationships have been formed this way. However, they can also make it far too easy to distract yourself in the interim from grieving or growing before you move into your next relationship if you're not careful. So for the last 365 days, I’ve put dating on a shelf entirely and made a conscious effort to show up 100% to my season of single.
For starters, it hasn’t always been easy or fun. There are things about being someone’s companion that I absolutely loved and sometimes being single feels straight up lonely. But as equally as I’ll confess to that, I must also emphasize that it’s been pleasantly surprising and a little underrated.
So whether you’re just entering this season or you’ve been sitting in it for a while, here are some things to remember and celebrate about embracing exactly where you are.
Now is the time to focus on YOU.
How many times have we heard that cliché? But man, is it accurate. When someone first uttered that phrase to me I had to close my eyes to hide that they were rolling with annoyance. But there is so much freedom in this truth. Ever hear someone say they wish they’d moved to a new city? Or learned a new language? Or backpacked through Europe? People are dripping with regret for their lost dreams and quite often the culprit is a laundry list of responsibilities and obligations that stood in their way.
But as a single? The world is your oyster. Move if you want a change. Use your evenings to take a language class. Save some money, quit your job, and travel Europe for a bit if that’s what you really want. There are literally no valid excuses to not be fully chasing after the life you want to build.
This is the time when you’re allowed, hell, encouraged even to be selfish. Embrace it.
It’s really OK not to be dating.
Friends, family, and even colleagues have asked me dozens of times if I’m dating anyone. The question can feel uncomfortable if the answer is “no.” But try to remember that their intentions are almost always pure. Without pointing fingers or making generalizations, a lot of people think the solution to losing a love is to find another. And while most of us would agree we’d like to again at some point, I’d argue that there is a lot more out there for you to discover before simply finding another relationship. So fight the urge to over explain or agree to a date simply because people are asking. At the end of the day, they just want you to be happy. But only you know what is required to make that happen. Date when you feel ready and excited about it—and not a moment sooner. You’ll be doing both yourself and your future partner a favor.
Discovering who you are is exhilarating.
Relationships are about compromise, and that sacrificial gesture is a beautiful thing. But you know what else is pretty awesome? Being able to make all of your own decisions and discovering more about what makes you, you. After years of agreeing on restaurants, movies, and things to do, there was something so very liberating about making simple decisions by myself.
I discovered that I’m a significantly happier person when I’m hiking or adventuring on the weekends instead of always watching Netflix on the couch. Or that I love a good laugh as much as the next girl, but what really lights my soul on fire is someone who is a great conversationalist. Time with yourself is like a childhood Easter egg hunt where you’re constantly discovering treasure after treasure that holds a little surprise you were never aware of before. Eat up that delicious goodness.
You are stronger than you think.
So many things are easier with two people involved: household chores, traveling logistics, car maintenance, the list goes on. So when those tasks you used to divide suddenly fall entirely on you, it can feel overwhelming. There’s nothing like a flat tire weeks after a breakup to cue the tears and make you feel defeated. But if you can get past your emotions and self-pity, you quickly learn to suck it up and just get it done.
And suddenly, that self-pity turns to self-confidence. Because you just did that hard thing all by yourself. Channel that inner Olivia Pope badass, because you’ve got it handled.
You are already enough.
Whether we say it out loud or not, being in a relationship feels validating. It strokes our ego to have a companion that frequently reminds us that we’re loved, that we’re beautiful, or that we have a place in this world. But the reality is, you already are all of those things. And the more you are willing to sit with yourself and learn who you are (apart from anybody else), you will eventually start to look at yourself in the mirror every morning and know that it’s true without needing anyone else to affirm it.
More seasons lie ahead.
In the early days of my singleness, I found myself lamenting to a mentor about how alone I felt. My desires for marriage or perhaps a family suddenly felt so far away. She took my cheeks in her hands and squeezed them sternly. “You have the rest of your life to do that, my dear. But this is your season for adventure.” She then went on to tell me that while she adores her child and her husband, she appreciates them so much more because of the years she spent being single: living in London, exploring the world, and getting to know herself. “This time that you’re cursing under your breath will very likely be the same one you look back on so fondly someday,” she reminded me. “Don’t miss it.”
So while I still look forward to all that lies ahead in my future, I’ve learned to cherish all that I have in the meantime: that my cozy apartment is all mine and mine alone, the ability to go to a yoga class just about anytime that I feel like it, and the beautiful reality that I can move, travel and create any life I choose.
I’m not against relationships or judging you for your timelines. Hear me when I say that I’m absolutely excited to find love again someday. But I say this with confidence from what I’ve learned: Singleness is a sweet, beautiful place that’s intended to be cherished, appreciated, and fully taken advantage of. It’s our time to become a better person for ourselves and the people we’ll end up with someday. So enjoy it. Drink up all it has to offer, and don’t leave a single drop behind.