If you are a 20-something with 10 different dating apps on your phone and a string of broken relationships packed in a bag on your way to the next one, listen up: I was single for 80 percent of my 20s and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I had an abundance of amazing friends, acquaintances and hobbies, but I was the girl who never had a boyfriend.
I’ll spare you the long-winded details, as this post is not meant to be a personal pity party, but it all started in college. I was in a serious relationship from ages 19-22.
I got my heart broken in the most gut-wrenching way possible, which resulted in me picking up and moving across the country with two of my best friends.
At 23, my revolutionary migration led me to my current stomping grounds of Los Angeles.
Don’t get me wrong; when I first moved to LA from the Midwest, I felt like Cartman from South Park at the hottie buffet table. Yes, I did get a little starry-eyed from the impressive range of male species in the great land of the Lost Angels.
It was fifty shades of yay and I was all about it.
During my first several months, I went on quite the date-a-thon, which ranged from the bearded hipster in Venice to the golden-haired surfer from Malibu. Let’s just say I was single and more than ready to mingle.
Now, before the letters H-O start to form in your brain, let me be clear for the sake of my reputation and my poor Asian parents, who, no doubt, will get a slew of Facebook messages from their extended family about their floozy of a daughter if I don’t.
I was not intimate with any of these guys (shout out to Jesus Christ for those stellar values), nor did I get into an exclusive relationship with any of them. I was just having a ton of Cyndi-Lauper-style fun in my new city.
However, in the back of my mind, I knew my intention was to jump back into another serious relationship because that’s how girls at 23 are programmed to think.
After several months of casual dates, I started to grow weary of the whole process. I was meeting all sorts of guys, but failed to make any real connections, and couldn’t figure out why.
I mean, I had made sure to be extra artsy with the hipster guy, totally chill with the surfer guy and stocked up on good reading materials before my date with the PhD guy. So, what was the problem?
It didn’t take me long to realize that while I was so busy trying to be someone I thought others desired, I stopped caring that I hardly knew myself.
As cliché as this sounds, I ultimately decided I needed to “find myself” before I got into another relationship.
Now, this is where I launch into #TheStruggle portion of my story, and oh, what a struggle it was. It was not easy to always be the girl without a date at every birthday party or wedding.
My friends constantly swapped stories about where their latest boyfriends took them, or how they talked on the phone for hours, and all I could contribute was how thought-provoking the latest Jodi Picoult novel was.
I was called everything from a feminist to emotionally unavailable, to afraid of commitment, to — my personal favorite — a lesbian because apparently, the only reason a woman in her 20s wouldn't want to be in a relationship is because she doesn’t like men.
But, to all of my fellow 20-something single-aspirers: Do not be discouraged.
My single years have been the most emotionally rich and spiritually uplifting moments of my life. Sure, I didn’t have that other half to depend on when I was feeling lonely, and I didn’t have someone to tell me I was still beautiful when I put on a few pounds.
But, learning to love and respect myself enough to be okay with that was so satisfying.
I had to be my own cheerleader, and it was freaking empowering. I even got into fitness and nutrition during that period, not because I wanted to catch the next cutie who crossed my path, but because I learned to love my body with all its flaws, and wanted to treat it as my temple.
I also became passionate about reading and writing during these years because while my friends were still sleeping in at their boyfriends' houses on Saturday afternoons, I was already at the beach, pouring into my journal.
I was forced to deal with myself and all of my issues without funneling them into someone else via a relationship. I was present in every moment and felt every raw emotion without having another person upon whom to unload.
I learned what made me tick, what made me happy and how I deserved to be treated because I was already treating myself that way.
While other girls got validation from their relationships, I got mine from volunteering at church or adding extra weight to my morning bench press.
While my friends dismissed their emotional baggage to PMS or daddy issues, I worked on figuring out why I was self-centered, why I randomly got jealous and why I got ferocious Nutella cravings after bad days (the jury is still out on that one, FYI).
Being alone gave me the time and emotional availability to dissect those issues at their roots before they grew into massive character flaws. In no way, shape or form am I saying girls in relationships are emotionally unstable or have poor character.
But, being single forced me to look within rather than channel all my emotional energy into infusing myself with another person.
The process is long and hard, and there are still many nights of Nutella binges and "The Notebook" on repeat. There are doubts, questions and tears. There are even times when you stare at yourself in the mirror and wonder whether you're worthy of love at all.
But, trust me when I say, the rainbow at the end of this storm is sweeter than 10 jars of Nutella combined (if you can’t tell by now, I like Nutella).
I am 29 now and (gasp) still single, but guess what?
After all those years of dealing with myself, I am finally ready to deal with someone else. Do I still have issues? Of course I do.
But, now, I know what those issues are, why I have them and how I can deal with them in a healthy way instead of allowing them to affect how I treat someone else.
Relationships are hard enough; going into one without knowing who you are at the core of your being can be disastrous.
Did I waste some time on a few uneventful men? Sure I did. Do my parents still wonder if I might be a lesbian? Pretty sure it is an ongoing concern for them. But, do I love myself and not regret one moment of my singleness? OH, YES.
While this is not a call for all healthy 20-something couples to end their relationships and go soul searching, it is a token of hope to that single guy or girl who thinks he or she can’t go on without being in a relationship.
Try being alone for a bit and get to know yourself. I promise, you’re going to love you.