From an early age, romantic love is marketed to us as the foundation of a happy life. This is why, despite going through heartbreak, we persist in trying to find "the one."
But, something is missing from this modern dialogue on love: the importance of singlehood.
In various versions of popular media — movies, books, songs, you name it — being single is just a temporary phase that leads into romance. If singlehood is mentioned at all, it's only to provide contrast to the main theme of love.
If my life experiences have taught me anything, it's that singlehood is infinitely more important than romance.
It is far beyond a temporary phase you immediately forget about once you're in a relationship; it's the time of your life when you delve deeper into who you are, who you want to be and how to get there.
Here are three key reasons why being single should not be viewed as a phase:
1. It's when you learn to take care of yourself.
When we were kids, we didn't have to think about the nitty-gritty details of survival. As adults, though, the responsibility is on us to figure it all out, whether it be basic budgeting, finding time to do laundry or even cook a simple meal.
The fast pace of our lives requires us to have incredibly steep learning curves when it comes to surviving as adults.
It's not enough to just study and get a job. We have to maintain our physical and mental health during the process.
An added challenge is we have to learn to curb our own bad habits. When you reach a certain age, you no longer have (or want) your parents looking over your shoulder to point out when you've gone too far.
We have to become smart enough to look at ourselves in the mirror and stop before we go over the edge.
Otherwise, the sense of independence we've worked so hard to attain goes down the drain in needing other people to take care of us.
2. It's when you realize your passion and take your career to the next level.
Unless you're okay with working at minimum wage for the rest of your life, you can't put your career on autopilot.
You have to hunker down, do some digging within yourself and research ways to get the skills and certifications for the job you're looking for.
Even getting your first job out of school can be a huge challenge, and that's in addition to putting in 110 percent at work every day to prove to your bosses you're worth keeping around for a promotion.
Besides the mere effort required to build a career, what about the time you need to just think about it?
Before you take one step into college, you need to have a rough idea of what you aim to discover and where you plan to go with it.
In other words, you have to take a long, honest look at your life and be astute enough to understand what career experiences you want to have and how you're going to get them.
Career building is as much about strategy as it is about effort. You have to work hard and know what you're doing at the same time.
More often than not, when you're single and unattached, you can really focus on developing your career.
3. It's when you learn to value the important people in your life.
When you're dating someone, the person tends to become your top priority. Your friends, family, acquaintances and everyone else takes a backseat to your partner.
This is because preserving your romantic relationship takes precedence over all your other relationships.
As a singleton, though, your family and friends are all you have, so keeping them happy is very important.
You can't just ignore those texts or let every call go to voicemail. You have to respond in time and go to their events with a smile on your face.
You have to stomach those tiny betrayals and hope they pick up the phone when you desperately need someone to talk to.
It can be pretty scary not to have one person you can hypothetically rely on all the time.
But being committed to your friends and family, despite their imperfections, can lead to a large support network that lasts a lifetime.
Sure, we'd love to find that special person. We'd love to settle down and throw our love and energy into a romantic relationship.
But, without taking care of yourself, building a career and investing in good friendships, your life will be bleak and boring regardless.
The number-one element of being happy in a relationship is being happy with yourself, and without taking those steps when you can as a single person, that sense of satisfaction can be hard to come by.
So, don't see singlehood as a phase. It's just the first step on a journey to true success.