10 Things I’ve Learned About Being Single (That I Didn’t Know 10 Years Ago)
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Thought I’d do a little #TBT post today back to 2004. The year I turned 21.
To set the stage…
I was living in Winfield, Kansas, getting ready to graduate early with a music degree from my little Midwestern college, while working as an accompanist to help pay for school, and traveling with a band on the weekends. My parents had just bought me a fancy (and heavy) new thing called an “iPod”, which I dialed to play Maroon5 and Switchfoot incessantly. I knew how to cook a grand total of about 10 things that I learned from allrecipes.com. I used MSN Messenger and a Razr phone to chat it up with all of my friends. It was the year of Ron Burgundy and Napoleon Dynamite, my roommates and I were obsessed with all of the “story” shows on TLC, and we bid farewell to our Friends and cried happy tears when Rachel Green “got off the plane”. A friend had just introduced me to this thing called “The Facebook” at her college. I had just saved up to buy my first (pink) electric guitar. And I was very ready to graduate and dive into a new career and meet that husband who I assumed was waiting just around the corner and get going with the life of my dreams.
Oh, and I was single.
And if you would have asked me then, I would never have dreamed — not for a hot second — that I’d still be single 10 years later.
But guess what 21-year-old me? That’s the way the cookie crumbled. And it turns out that, after decade of (mostly) singleness, it’s not nearly the sob story that I thought it might be. In fact, quite the opposite. Life has turned out to be pretty great, single and all.
But hey, there are always things we wish we would have known “back then”. So since I’m a sucker for those sort of cheesy posts where people dispense sage advice to their younger selves, I thought I’d offer one today to my single self a decade ago. Or better, as a reminder to myself (or anyone else) today. So at age 31, here are my thoughts…
10 Things I’ve Learned About Being Single
1. Friends? Crucial.
The biggest piece of advice I’d give to anyone who’s single?
Find good friends.
And hold onto them tight. And love the heck out of them. And let them love you right back.
Because they will be your absolute backbone while you’re single. And hopefully, those relationships will last a lifetime through good dates and bad dates and good days and bad days and even potentially through the days when you’re no longer single. So take the time — and it might take some time — to find good ones. And invest in them, and really get to know them, and get busy making lots and lots of stellar memories together. And give lots and lots of thanks for them, because they are the best!
2. Hey, guess what? Turns out you can…
Fix the damn toilet. Buy a house. Sell a house. Travel around the world. Rock power tools. Launch a successful business. Learn to mow a perfectly zig-zagged yard. Remodel a kitchen. Learn all about the world. Assemble furniture like a boss. Do your taxes. Move cities. Raise a puppy. Grow a garden. Host epic parties. Repaint an entire house. Buy a car. Drive a car in England. Light a pilot light. Kill enormous spiders and trap mice. Make investments. Build lifelong friendships. And everything else that comes from leading a full and meaningful life — while single.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never raised thinking that I couldn’t do any of those things. But I always just kind of figured that I’d “split” some of the big responsibilities in life with a husband, or that we’d figure them out together. Instead, I’ve either learned that I can (with the help of YouTube) legitamately do just about anything I set my mind to. And if I can’t — hey! — that’s when those awesome friends come in to help, which usually makes any task more fun anyway.
3. But with one exception: there’s only so much you can “do” about being single.
I’ll say very clearly that I didn’t know this point when I was 21. I figured that if I wanted something in life — including finding the guy of my dreams — it was just a matter of doing what I needed to do to make that happen.
Whether that was online dating, or asking people to set me up, or going out on 5 million setups, or praying about it a certain way, or striving to become the perfect “Proverbs 31” type of girl that books were telling me I should be, or whatever else was on the checklist to “do” — you’d better believe I was willing to do it. But quite obviously, there’s only so much you can do about finding the right person. And frankly, a lot of that stuff did not feel healthy, did not feel encouraging, and did not authentically feel like “me”.
So follow your gut and don’t let the world convince you that your single status is the result of you not “doing” enough. Because that’s just ridiculous. If you’re going to “do” anything, give yourself a break and just relax and work on enjoying and celebrating the single life you’ve been given.
4. There’s something to be said for dating “older men”.
Let’s just say it — guys in their 30s are a totally different kind of “hot” than guys in their 20s. And I’m pretty positive they just get better with age.
I mean, being established in their careers? Having a place of their own? A strong circle of other adult friends? The ability to travel? Some legit “life experience”, with lots of stories to share? Maturity? And by definite contrast to the guys in college, the ability to pay for an actual date??
Um, yes please. :)
5. “Settling” is for the birds.
I’ve observed over the years that there seems to be this preoccupation amongst single people and the idea of “settling”. Sure, there is the annoying (although well-meaning) advice from others that the single person “shouldn’t settle”. But amongst single people, I’ve heard many people reference fears that they might someday “end up” settling. Or they might “have to” settle. Etc. Etc.
First off, you are the one in charge of your life. No one or no life experience is ever going to force you to settle.
And second, my experience has actually been the opposite. The longer I’m single, the less I have any desire to settle. It’s not me being any pickier, and in fact, the list of qualities I’m looking for in a guy has been whittled down over the years. No, it’s more due to the fact that I just really love my life! So the idea of settling to be with some guy who wasn’t a great fit — vs. doing living the life I enjoy now — well, it’s just no contest.
So yeah, don’t settle. But also don’t worry about settling.
6. The financial side of being single isn’t fair, but it’s still empowering.
Statistically, it is simply cheaper to cohabitate.
You get a tax break if you’re married. Housing is cheaper when split between two people. Everything inside of that house is cheaper when split between two people, and you’re not having to buy everything on a single salary. And there is something to be said for having the “backup” of a second income in a relationship if one of you loses your job. (Or wants to, say, quit a job and take a risk to pursue full-time blogging.)
But hey, there are a lot of financial perks that come from being single too. Namely, getting to spend your income however you please. And being able to go out to dinner or to a concert knowing you just have to pay for one ticket. And the sense of accomplishment that comes from signing that first mortgage check completely on your own.
Maybe someday soon those tax breaks will be evened out. But until then, I’ll still say that I’m darn proud to be paying those taxes, and my bills, and for plane tickets, and nights out, and cups of coffee each day on my own, thankyouverymuch. :)
7. Going to a restaurant on your own is overrated.
For some reason, it seems like people always hold up the goal of going to a restaurant, sitting down, ordering, and enjoying a meal completely by yourself as the pinnacle of single empowerment.
Maybe for some people it is.
I find it completely annoying and awkward. (Unless, of course, I’m in an airport or traveling.) If I’m at home, I would much rather call up a friend to go out together. Or stay in and order take-out. Or cook a meal at home together, my favorite!
8. Be careful what you pray for.
If I had a dollar for all of the prayers I’ve prayed about being single over the years…
Just kidding. I’m all for praying about being single, and dating, and everything that has to do with relationships. Actually, I can’t imagine not praying through the ins and outs of my experience of being single over the years, and having the Lord alongside me all the way. But I will say that I’ve changed how much I pray about it over the years, and what I pray for.
I may devote a whole post to this one some day. But in short, while this may sound bad, I actually don’t pray specifically about being single that often any more. I used to pray about it a lot. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that I used to do what I call “worrying” (or arguably, obsessing) about being single through prayer. A lot of people around me were doing the same thing, which was encouraged by some of the books we were reading, or sermons we were hearing, or scriptures that were being taken a little out of context to pray about things “without ceasing” or “asking” for things, or praying for that guy wherever he was at the moment, or just trying to become some sort of scriptural woman that I was supposed to be. It’s easy to do, and I’ve seen many people justify worrying through prayer about all sorts of things in their life. But you know what, quite simply the more I prayed about being single, the more I thought about it. And the more it stayed at the forefront of my mind and became a central focus in my life. And the more frustrated/discouraged/ (fill in the blank) I’d get about it. And frankly, it was taking away from appreciating and just living the life that I believe the Lord had given me to live in the moment! So yeah, at least for me, less is more, and I think the Lord’s totally cool with that.
As far as exactly what to pray for, let’s just say that there are about a zillion different angles to the topic that I used to pray. But now, I keep it simple. If anything, I pray for the Lord’s grace and guidance to help me be fully present to my life right now while I’m single, and to live that life well, and with gratitude. Sure, I still talk with Him through the ups and downs that come with being single, just like I pray through the ups and downs that come with any day. But I’m less concerned about praying for the future, or who that guy may be, or who I’ll be, or any of the stuff that comes with being a good “wife” or whatnot. Because the way I see it, the Lord has given me the life I have and has said that it’s “good”. Yes, right now. Single and all. GOOD. So I’ll be thankful for that, and stick to praying about that too.
9. Being single is not always easy, but you’ll get through it.
It goes without saying that there will be hard days. Hard break-ups to recover from. Hard weddings to attend. Hard holidays to get through. Hard milestones to celebrate. Hard moments when you just simply feel alone.
Those hard moments never go away. But as with any hard moments in life, remember that you will get through them. And while I wouldn’t say they get easier, they do over time become a little more familiar. And as you learn more about yourself, you learn how to navigate through them a little bit healthier and a little bit better. And you learn how to bring other people into those moments when you need them, so that you don’t always have to navigate them on your own.
Because being single does not have to mean being alone.
No way, Jose. That’s what friends are for.
10. Do NOT waste time “waiting” until you find a spouse to ________
…buy that mixer you really wanted (that might have been on your registry)…go back to grad school…move to a new city…adopt a pet…travel, travel, travel…chase after that promotion…decorate a house…take a huge leap…or whatever else that you want to do.
You’ve got a life to live!
And a good one, at that. :)
So don’t wait around. Do all the things! Go all the places! Be the person you want to be!
These single years are literally bubbling over with potential and purpose and awesomeness. So get busy living them fully. And well. And with lots of gratitude.
And if you’re doing that, by the way, I’d totally love to hear from you and any advice that YOU might also have to offer to yourself 1, 5, 10, 20, or however many years ago. Of course, avoiding the 10 things NOT to say to single people though, please.