Once upon a time, in the suburban landscape of Farrhaven, there was an awkward and lanky 16 year old girl who worked at the local grocery market. One day, a tall, shy, and handsome boy arrived at the market to purchase a French baguette for his family dinner. Long story short – they fell in love and lived happily ever after forever and ever. The end.
Although that was in fact an anecdote (exaggerated for literary purposes of course), unfortunately life doesn’t always turn out to be the fairy tale we’ve envisioned for ourselves…
(yes, this is a Star Wars pun)
As someone who spent the majority of my young adult life in long term relationships, being on my own for the better part of the last year has been quite a transition. After eight years of being someone’s someone, becoming single felt like a major loss of what had been a huge part of my identity. From the age of 17, I was a girlfriend; and when I wasn’t one any longer I sure as hell had no idea how to navigate the world as – ‘gasp’ – a single person.
Over the past months, I have experienced more than enough stereotypical nights of drinking a bottle of wine and eating an entire (gluten-free) pizza to myself while binge watching Grey’s Anatomy alone in my bed. However, I have also had ample time to reflect and rediscover who I am – independent of someone else.
In an attempt to avoid criticism for preaching the ‘finding yourself’ mumbo jumbo; I will begrudgingly admit that it really is a thing that happens…
My ‘singledom’ has provided me with the opportunity to start new hobbies and pick up old ones; it has given me more time to spend with friends and focus on my fitness; it has pushed me outside my comfort zone and reminded me that sometimes it’s kind of nice to sit and read alone in a coffee shop; and lastly, it has offered me the freedom to actually date for the first time since high school.
In other words, being single is awesome.
…and being single sucks.
Those of you who have been single in the last few years are aware of the complexities of dating in today’s society. Long gone are the days of normal human interaction or chatting up someone in line at the coffee shop – In fact, in the rare instances it actually does happen, we often perceive it as creepy and uncomfortable; we avert our eyes and awkwardly turn the other way, mentally willing the barista to finish making our latte as quickly as possible so we can get the hell outta there.
Now we live in a world where dating is a game. We aimlessly swipe through people’s faces while impatiently waiting for the millisecond rush of endorphins that occurs when we finally get a match. The feeling immediately dissipates, and so we continue on, until the dying battery of our phone reminds us that we’ve just wasted an hour of our life judging people based purely on how photogenic they are (or if there is a puppy in the picture).
Dating has become impersonal. We invest our energy exchanging casual messages via Tinder, Bumble, and the like, only to stop responding or never hear from the person again. If we actually make it to the stage of a real life encounter, we immediately assess their potential; and without an instant spark we write them off and return home to resume swiping through the endless number of dating prospects literally at our fingertips. At the very least, we temporarily distract ourselves from the boredom and loneliness we feel after yet another failed date.
Don’t even get me started on the intricacy of dating labels. Hanging out, hooking up, seeing each other, and boyfriend/girlfriend status all apparently mean different things – but no one seems to have clear definitions for what these differences entail. Commitment has become a terrifying notion.
Single Life Lessons
Despite the fact that I’ve done a very poor job of masking my cynical view of today’s dating culture, I have learned a lot from my single life experiences over the last year. While discouraging at times, dating has significantly boosted my confidence, given me a chance to meet some really cool people, and clarified what qualities I value and am looking for in a long-term partner. It has also taught me a few other things:
- How to handle rejection
- How to (gracefully?) reject someone (…although I’m still a bit unclear on the rules around ghosting)
- There are an abundance (and almost excessive number) of Irish and Australians living in Vancouver
- A picture of you holding a fish does not make me want to date you (…but a hiking one might)
Fall in love with your solitude – Rupi Kaur
For a while, and particularly initially, dating became a source of validation – if someone else is interested in me, then I must be interesting; if someone else thinks I’m pretty, then I must be pretty; if someone else thinks I’m smart, then I must be smart. It is surprisingly easy to become dependent on other people for affirmation of our “worthiness” – to convince us that maybe we won’t be forever alone.
Which brings me to the most important lesson I’ve learned from dating:
In order to truly love someone else, you first need to love yourself.
Sometimes it’s harder than you’d think, but I am finally learning how to be happy on my own so that when the right person comes along, I will already be a strong and independent woman who don’t need no man (but would still like to have one). In other words, in order to be the best partner I can be, I need to be satisfied with who I am, what I value, and what I have to offer, without the validation of someone else.
At the end of the day, you are interesting, pretty, and smart – not because someone else tells you so.
Embrace your freedom.
And when the time is right, settle for nothing less than you deserve.
Happily ever after is just around the corner.