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Love, or Lack Thereof

How to Be Single and Rock It

By Sydney Martin

When I was a sophomore in college, I entered in a Modern Love Essay Contest for The New York Times. The instructions for the contest were to write an essay about what you see love being in our modern day (This contest was just two years ago, so love hasn’t changed a lot since then). And at that point in my life, I had yet to experience a romantic relationship. So instead of writing about what it is to be in a relationship, I wrote about being single; why being single is a wonderful time in life. I thought that, in the spirit of this commercial love season, I would share with all of you this essay about Love, or Lack Thereof

I have been an observer of love and relationships for nearly twenty years now. I have had no bad dates, no good dates- no dates at all in fact. Each breath I have taken on this lovely planet has been that of a single, independent woman. And I’ve found that it’s not a horrible existence. I’m not weird and lonely- I have friends, school and a pretty fulfilling life.  

But everywhere I turn, society wants to remind me that I am single and try to help me cope with this fact- in the movies, on the internet, in the streets.

In numerous movies, I sit in the dark theater and watch the young college girl or boy head off to school and find love, as their weird friend who wears mismatched clothes or refuses to talk in full sentences remains single in the background.

If I scroll down my FaceBook newsfeed, there are quizzes titled “Will You Ever Get Married?” “How Dateable Are You?” “When Will You Meet Your Next Love?” And there are articles titled “We Know Why You’re Single,” “The Valentine’s Day Drinking Game for Single People,” or “Signs You’ve Been Single for Far Too Long.”  

If I drive down the highway, I see billboards loudly proclaiming dating sites, guaranteeing love in bright and bold font. You’ll never have to be single for another Valentine’s Day if you join cupid or match or [insert one of thousands of dating sites here].

In my vast experience of singledom, I haven’t actively worried about whether I would get married one day, or how dateable I am on a score from one to ten. I know exactly why I am single: because there has not been someone who came along to make me want to be unsingle. This time in my life is not a passive time of waiting, it’s a choice to hold out for something better. I celebrate love just as much as everyone else on Valentine’s Day, and can one really put a time limit on how long someone should take before being in a relationship?

The main thing these quizzes and articles and billboards and people around me are trying to convey is that there is something wrong with being single.

Just in case you want to write me off as some crazy girl who hates love and has the sole purpose of ranting to the public, I think it is important to know that I have a good understanding of love and relationships. I have experienced true and genuine love every day of my life. People all around me demonstrate great love each and every day. And I myself have participated in love of various types: the love of a daughter, sister and friend.  

Now, I believe that the state of love never truly changes. Real love is unchanging- with support and self-sacrifice and hard work, and all those lovely things that aren’t normally shown in romance novels or on the big screen.

Love is supposed to be something timeless, isn’t it? Something that stays constant throughout the years, and reminds us of a common purpose of humanity. Something to strive for, reach for, yearn for?

However, with the state of our world changing, people’s attitude toward love transforms right along with it.  And perhaps in this day and age, we are striving, reaching, and yearning a bit too hard?  

The United States is an impatient culture. We want things our way, right away. And this umbrella of impatience has grown to encompass love. Because people are not OK with waiting for love, people are younger and younger when they go out and search for it.

There is such pressure and desperation associated with love today. Younger and younger we are supposed to be experiencing love. High school, middle school, even some elementary school ages are relieving the pressure of finding their other half and jumping head-first into love.

And what does love look like to a freshman in high school compared to a college graduate compared to a mature woman with an established career? I’m not arguing that younger people do not have a capacity to love, but I am saying that at these ages, children do not know who they are and most of the time they have not taken the time to love themselves.

Instead of finding satisfaction and confidence in ourselves, our society is pushing us to search for fulfillment in others. Which means, when someone isn’t there to be in a relationship with, your sense of worth isn’t there either. This explains a lot of the negativity that comes with being single.  

But I’ll let ya’ in on a little secret as to why I’m not worried about being single – why I’m not worried about finding my other half: It’s because I am whole and complete all by myself.  

This obsession with falling in love keeps us from falling in love with ourselves. When we are focusing on why we haven’t found someone, people’s minds naturally gravitate toward the negative about themselves. “Oh, I’ll find someone after I tone up my arms and lose five pounds, after I get that deep tan over the summer, after I cut my hair …” People focus on changing themselves so they can find love, instead of celebrating themselves each and every day.

Every day that we are not “with” another person is another day to explore the greatness and potential within ourselves (Not that you can’t do this while in a relationship, but at what other point in your life can you dedicate all your time to getting to know yourself and falling in love with you?).

When taking the time to get to know things about ourselves that only we can discover – Do I like sushi? What is the thing that gets me excited to drag my tired self out of bed each morning? What’s the single thing that terrifies me most in the world? Exactly how many tears fall from my eyes after I watch a sad movie? – we have the opportunity to fall in love with the person we have become.

And it’s extremely important to love yourself before throwing someone else into the mix.

It’s OK for me to be single because I’m still learning how to love myself. This is not an easy feat, and it takes a while to learn acceptance of the bad with the good, the weird with the norm, and the embarrassing with the awesome.

It’s okay because you and I are not defined by our relationship status. We don’t need quizzes to tell us why we are single, and we don’t need articles to assure us that being single can be a positive time in our lives.

Because what’s more positive than falling in love with yourself?

Someday, perhaps someday soon, my singledom will come to an end, and that will be great. I’ll be able to experience the timeless kind of love; the constant kind of love that I know is out there. But there’s no rush. Because as for now, I find myself in pretty darn good company.

So now, in the spirit of falling in love with yourself, here is a list of things you can do to help yourself find love … without throwing someone else in the mix!

  • Start a journal
  • Give yourself a compliment
  • Treat yourself to a meal, to ice cream, to a manicure, to a long walk on a nice day … whatever makes you happy
  • Try something new
  • Adventure to somewhere you’ve never been
  • Have a girls night/fun night with friends
  • Volunteer
  • Go for a drive
  • Make a list of your accomplishments
  • Start a new hobby
  • Rediscover an old hobby
  • If there’s something you don’t like about yourself, work to love it or change it
  • Develop positive habits
  • Ask yourself what you need
  • Listen to yourself

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