If you’ve been single for a while—whether intentionally or not—you’re accustomed to seeing a variety of reactions from people when it comes up in conversation. As with most topics of discussion, you’ll most likely get one of three typical responses:
“That’s so sad.”
A positive, a negative, and somewhere in the middle. You might fall into the second or third answer categories depending on your situation. However, if you’re single by choice like I am, you’ll side with the positive. Being single is awesome. I’ve spent twenty-five years doing it. Anyone with that much experience should have the expert-level skills that I do.
At the same time, it can be hard to receive commentary from people who think being single is sad or challenging. Even if you are a picture of confidence and exude nothing but bliss and contentment, they don’t quite believe you because they can’t wrap their heads around why someone would prefer to be alone.
It’s sort of a valid question, but it also isn’t. To put it epically, since the dawn of time, humans and even animals have been drawn to togetherness. We want support. We want community. We want one person, specifically, to be that for us and also, to fill our hearts with joy. While it may be an innate, genetic desire to couple up, I can say from my own experience that gene might be extremely recessive in one person compared to another. One person may tell me how much I’ve missed out on by choosing to avoid a relationship, but I will tell them right back, I’ve gained much more than they might imagine.
COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Not only do I wish to be single, but as a moderate-to-severe introvert, I spend a lot of my time alone. Because I choose to be alone so often, it’s become important for me to recognize when I’m feeling too much of something to handle on my own. I know when to go to someone with a need that I have. On the other hand, living in my quiet, I’ve learned to listen. Being able to sense other's needs—often branded simply as ‘compassion’—is a skill that all of us should learn and continually develop. Building close friendships with people both like and unlike me has helped in this area immensely.
HOW TO TRUST. Although I’ve come a long way, this one is still the biggest challenge for me. When you live alone, work alone, eat alone and sleep alone, it’s incredibly easy to develop a wall—not quite as strong as bricks and mortar, but maybe along the lines of sticks and mud—and only trust those on your side: namely, yourself. Even when dealing with friends, it used to be quite easy for me to doubt their ability to follow through, and I still convince myself I’m the only person I can count on. But trust is such an important quality of our unique human experience, and without it, you may come to fail yourself one day, and then where would you be? I guess I’ll say I’ve learned the importance of trust, although I’m still growing and developing the skill itself.
SELF-CONFIDENCE. Never in my life have I felt the need to have a man tell me that he thinks I’m cool or beautiful. I don’t dress for attraction. I dress for myself. I dress for the people that will appreciate the effort and art and investment that comes with creating an outfit. I’m the girl that loves indulging in beauty and fashion as a hobby, and I treat it as something fun. I don’t care one way or another if someone sees me without makeup (my Snapchat is essentially daily proof of this), but taking the time to put myself together makes me feel ready to take on the world from the inside out. It’s completely and utterly crucial to get this message out to young girls: you should never do anything just to please others, especially if it does not bring you joy. I am lucky to have never struggled with this, but your worth is not found in others approval. I would say this skill is even easier to develop as a strong single woman outside of a relationship.
PERSONAL GROWTH. Young couples are fascinating to me. Getting married early is wonderful for some—they blossom and develop within another person, which in some aspect, does make it easy to grow in love and understanding. On the other hand, I have always felt that I simply do not know myself enough to be able to get involved on such a personal level with another human being—it’ll take my whole life to get to know myself, and putting another person into that mix has never made sense for me and my situation. As a single woman, I’ve been able to travel the world on my own (that alone develops a strikingly hefty skill set in itself), have once-in-a-lifetime experiences that literally would not have happened if I were in a relationship, and been able to love and support close friends and family at any time or place. I also enjoy total freedom in my living situation, my finances, my career, and my interests. I used to be totally anti-relationships and anti-men, but I’ve grown even in that area. I’m perfectly content in my life and where it’s going, but at this point, whatever the world throws at me…I’m happy to roll with it.
COMPROMISE. Friendships teach you many skills that you might learn in a relationship. Whether it’s with a roommate or a travel buddy or even one of your siblings, most of us compromise every day. I’ve always loved the very idea of compromise. Google defines it like this: “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” There it is, right in the middle of a tense situation. You put your wants and needs aside to help someone you love, and someone you love does that same thing for you. Even though compromise means you, personally, are settling for something less, I just think it’s the most beautiful idea. Both sides are offering equal olive branches for the sake of being on good terms. It works the same way for anyone you love—romantic or not.
WEAKNESSES. It isn’t easy to admit your faults. But here are mine. I hold grudges. If I think someone has wronged me, I’ll dole out a tragic combination of the silent treatment and the most passive, cutting things I could possibly say to make them feel bad—even if they don’t realize I’m upset. I’m lazy. I have a terrible spending problem. I have unrealistically high expectations and false hopes about most things I encounter in my life. I hate listening to the same story twice. I’m annoying on so many levels. The list goes on and on, but the redeeming quality is that I’m working on them. We all are, every day. The important thing is to realize your weaknesses, which is the first step before you can work on minimizing them.
There are umpteen sides to every story, but for me, there’s no question in my mind that I’m exactly where I need to be in my life right now. At some point everyone wishes they could go back and change the past in one way or another, but this is one area that I would always keep the same. So now, let’s say you and I are having coffee. It comes up in conversation that I was single, am single, and will continue to be single for the foreseeable future. I think it’s great. And I hope, after reading this, only one response will come to your mind.