Another Year Single

Catherine shares 5 ways she’s grown in being single

PHOTO: Tara Freese.

PHOTO: Tara Freese.

A year ago, I wrote about the benefits of investing in yourself as a single girl. A year later, I’m still single! We talk about being superbly single, but we’ve stressed the status to include all independent women. Today I want to delve deeper in actually being single, unattached, not in a relationship. As I’ve mentioned before, I have never had a serious boyfriend. So if you’re looking for an expert at being single, I am that.

When I share my status out loud, or I make a joke like “How is this girl still single?” or “Wouldn’t it be funny if I’m the next cousin to get married?” even if I’m the only cousin who isn’t dating anyone, it may seem like self-deprecation to save face before someone reminds me that I’ll “meet the right person when it’s time”… but truly I’m proud of my eternal singlehood. Of course, like anyone else, I have my moments of freaking out about turning 40 and not being married. But for the most part, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made for myself.

I’ve reflected on and written about many revelations I encountered the past year in regard to living in the moment and finding the message in every obstacle. Starting The Single Diaries has pushed me to live superbly single, consciously and unconsciously. It’s been a year of growth: I recognized unhappiness in my life and came face to face with it. I spent time trying to remedy discontentment with more side projects, more social outings, more play when what I really needed was complete quiet.

Among those remedies to try to increase the fun and counter the stress was online dating in the form of fun and easy apps. What I learned from my short stint of serial dating was what we all know but don’t acknowledge: For those of us who desire monogamy and marriage, dating is a way to audition or interview to find the “right” partner. It’s also a way for us to understand what we want and merely who we are as individuals.

Sure, there are lessons I have yet to learn from being in a committed relationship, but I think there are just as many in learning how to be alone. Here are the ones that have been most important to my personal growth.

 

I can deal with rejection.

Believe me; I’ve had my fair share. I’m all about channeling Beyoncé and seeing myself as flawless, but when you notice a pattern (in my case, never being in a serious relationship) you would be wise to wonder. It wasn’t until last year that I asked my friends if they thought something was wrong with me. Luckily, they told me there wasn’t except maybe, of course, my taste in boys. It didn’t change the fact that I am 27 and single so in my recent stint of complete quiet (also known as funemployment), I dedicated a lot of time to meditation and reflection and, prompted by a horoscope that “to be loved I had to reveal myself, flaws and all,” I faced the fear of my flawed self.

One flaw that applies here: I struggle with letting go of the past. Hence, my love chapters are never surely over and, perhaps, is the reason my real love story cannot begin. Dealing with rejection and moving forward doesn’t always mean letting go. It just means that I know how not to let it consume me. Maybe my way of immediately dealing with rejection is to believe that he will come back around and appreciate how flawless I am (Do do doop oh / Do do doop do doop da dum). It may be overly optimistic, it may again be my inability to see flaws, but it’s saved a lot of self-doubt until I eventually recognize that he sincerely wasn’t the one for me.

 

I do not give a damn about my relationship status.

I will admit I’ve read a couple self-help dating books. They teach you how to play the game, how to think like a man. They tell you not to be needy, not to overanalyze, yet the very act of reading these books is an act of overanalyzing. Their not-so-hidden meaning is this: don’t play hard to get, be hard to get. The secret is that you won’t become that solely by following a set of rules. The rules are a way for you to seemingly gain control of your dating life. The truth is, the only way for you to have control over that is to fully not give a damn.

Do not give a damn about your relationship status, because it doesn’t and shouldn’t affect who you are. Do not give a damn about if that guy likes you back because if he’s not the one, he’s not the one. You start to understand that it actually doesn’t matter if he likes you back. If you aren’t (healthily) crazy in love with each other, it probably won’t last anyway. Ignore the questions about why you’re still single. Ignore the “you’ll meet the right person when it’s time.” Someone’s reaction to your relationship status reflects his or her discomfort; it doesn’t have to reflect yours.

 

Flexibility is key.

Despite my decades of single-hood, I still believe in finding the one. I don’t know if he will be whom I expect. I don’t know if we will have the life I envisioned for myself when my life vision revolved around being married and having kids. But that is A-okay. It wasn’t until this summer that I came to the realization that my life could still be great without the conventions I expected.

When I was 14 and writing my autobiography for a school project, I predicted myself going to college in Los Angeles and working at a magazine but didn’t foresee myself being 27 and single. Disappointment is a big part of dating (and life in general), but when you’ve had enough experience in the ups and downs you learn to roll with the punches… otherwise, you won’t survive emotionally. We want control over how our stories turn out, but when we focus on what we have instead of what we thought we wanted it’s easier to see that what we have is better.

 

Patience is a powerful muscle when you exercise it.

Patience is difficult to achieve in a world of instant gratification. We see it in owning smart phones, in the ability to access information any moment of the day, in ordering items and having them delivered in 24 hours, in dating apps like Tinder in which every MATCH is a victory. The problem with instant gratification is you may constantly think that there’s someone better waiting around the corner… or, worse, that no one eligible is left on the planet.

Still, I won’t give up hope, because all of us who want monogamy are simply looking for our match. When I was job searching in January, I found several companies I thought would be the perfect match before I took a step back and realized I would only work for one of them next (unless I became freelance, of course). We often want more than we need. So instead of constantly being on the prowl (not to be confused with being open to connections), we should continue bettering ourselves, practicing patience, and allowing time for life to unfold.

 

I discovered my priorities.

In the past 10 years as friends have entered relationships and broken up with boyfriends, I’ve accepted that most people prioritize their significant other (Libras are exempt from this because they’re so fair when it comes to their loved ones). Well, now that I’m sick of being left in the lurch whenever a friend is back in a relationship, I prioritize my significant other: myself. And looking back, without having to worry about obligations to a boyfriend’s feelings, I inadvertently have been doing this all along. I make my decisions for myself, and I don’t worry too much about disappointing anyone when I’m choosing to do what is right for me.

Now that this is my pattern, what I’m used to, and what makes me happy, I’m sure it will take some adjusting to consider someone else when I’m in a relationship. Because of that, whomever I decide to finally give this committed relationship a real college try with has to be well worth my time and energy. I will expect him to feel the same about me.

 

The longer I stay single, the more difficult it is to give up my freedom. My challenge for myself is not to stay single for any set amount of months. It’s to continue exploring who I am and what my purpose is and prioritizing my personal growth until and after my right guy comes around. Boyfriends come and go, but you are you for as long as you decide.

 

Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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