Some consider being single to be the waiting room prior to marriage. Others view it as what comes after being a teenager, that time of soul-searching where young people travel the globe or dance on table tops. Being single involves struggle, fear, self-discovery, and if done successfully, it leads to confidence, bravery, and love. Not love in another, love of thyself. I’m not trying to be mushy or philosophical, I’m writing frankly. Being single can be a wonderful, beautiful thing, and only recently have I discovered that. I love being single, and wish someone had told me about the greatness of it when I was down in the dumps, moaning and groaning about not having a man around, hence this blog post.
Before I get into the details, let me define what a single person is. Here in conventional society we simply define “single” as being unmarried. I think it’s much more than that, though. For me to consider you a single person, you must meet all four of the following requirements:
- You are 18 years old or older
- You live on your own or with a roommate (not with your parents)
- You are financially independent
- You do not have a boyfriend/girlfriend
No exceptions. Having a job but living with mom and dad does not make you a single person. Being 21, living away from home, but still depending on someone else for finances does not make you a single person. You have to be independent in order to be “single.”
By the rules set forth above, I was not a single person until I was nearly 22. I moved out of the house when I was 21, just after completing college, and moved to Livermore, California to pursue a job. Sure, I wasn’t seriously dating anyone at the time, but I still depended on my mother and father for food, room, board, and so forth until relocating. Moving out, depending solely on me and what I earned, and being without a boyfriend, qualified me as single.
Moving to a new place where I knew no one was scary. I had a job, and was able to meet people through work, but I was desperately lonely. It was just me and my loyal sheltie, Trinity (World’s Greatest Dog) in my two bedroom apartment. We had a $35 couch, a small TV, and not a whole lot else. My wonderful mother bought me some housewarming gifts: some lamps (my apartment didn’t have overhead lights), pots and pans, and some groceries to get me going. But I didn’t have many other things or people.
One Saturday morning I had a craving for pancakes. When I lived at home, all I needed to do was say “Hey mom, let’s have pancakes!” and like magic, they’d be on a plate, steam rising, butter melting, syrup drizzling. Not so in my new apartment. There wasn’t a “hey mom” magic wand hanging in the coat closet. Not only did I lack pancake mix, I didn’t have a mixing bowl, griddle, or spatula. What turned out to be a craving was a huge realization: I was all alone and totally fresh to the world. That actually isn’t such a bad place to be. After searching the phone book and scouting out a map, I found the nearest Target. New town meant I probably got lost a few times (I cannot remember, but I have a tendency to get a wee bit lost). In Target I picked up some other cooking instruments I’d need: cheese shredder, can opener, Pyrex glass pans, and all my pancake cooking tools. The next morning I had pancakes.
That small, tiny little exercise was a big deal to me. The fact that I still remember the “I don’t have anything to make pancakes” story shows its relevance to my life: I didn’t have what I needed, but I was able to go and get what I needed to make what I wanted.
There’s no Us in “Single”
Working equaled money, and for a first time job fresh from college, I had lots of it. I was able to survive comfortably in an affluent part of the state and afford things I wanted/needed and still had a healthy savings account. My finances were rock solid. Was it my dream job? Hardly. But it paid my bills. Oh, paying bills, let’s talk about that for just a bit.
Bills are what you have to pay when you use stuff. In my apartment I had an electric bill (averaged about $40/month), water bill ($35), cable/internet bill ($40), phone bill (can’t remember this one, I want to say it was around $30, it was a hardline). That was just to use my apartment, which costed me around $1,100 a month to rent. I haven’t even purchased food yet, paid for gasoline and insurance on my car, and I’m not even going to discuss how much of my paycheck the blood-sucking federal and state government took out!
Anyway. After a few weeks of working at my new job and noticing something odd, I asked all of my coworkers the same question: do you know of anyone my age? All of my friends from college were at least an hour and a half away, and the commute in and out of town was notoriously nightmarish*, so hanging out with pals was difficult. I wanted to make new friends and start a life in Livermore, but I hadn’t seen anyone, and I mean anyone in their early twenties, either at work, the grocery store, walking on the streets, filling up at the gas station…they were scarce if there were any at all. Every coworker said the same thing: Huh…No, I don’t know anyone your age.
Populations have age trends, and at first I thought it was my imagination. Surely I couldn’t be the only young adult in Livermore, it was statistically impossible. So I did one of the things I do best: I Googled it. What I found was frustrating but not surprising: the 18 to 28 year old percentage in Livermore, in 2006, was around 3-4%. That’s three to four, not thirty-four. That means 96% of my fellow Livermorons were older or younger than me.**
If you look up Livermore on a map, you’ll notice how close it is to San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and so forth. Livermore is also the home of LLNL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or simply “the Lab,” where they perform classified stuff with nuclear materials. I have no idea what’s done there, nor does anyone else who doesn’t work at the Lab. LLNL employed 10,000 people. Most everyone else who lived in Livermore worked in San Jose, San Francisco, or another city surrounding. Livermore was and probably still is a bedroom community. Cheaper than the bigger cities, Livermore was where the workers lived. In other words: families lived there, and lots of them.
So there I was, a 22 year old single girl, surrounded by families. Lots and lots of families.
To the unorganized single person’s brain, being the lone single amongst countless couples is hell. It sucked. Okay, I’ll be honest, it still sucks. Back then it was miserable for a whole different reason it’s annoying now. Back then when I was single and surrounded by couples, I wanted to be a couple, too. It was like Valentine’s Day every darn day of the year. Awful! Each day was a reminder that I was alone. All alone with NO ONE! I would go home and cry, lamenting, wondering why I was so alone, why God sent me to this place to be alone. I longed for my other half, desperately wanting to meet him, whoever he was. When would he find me? Babies, I wanted lots of babies, and that stupid white picket fence everyone talks about all the time. Maybe an SUV to drive them to games and play dates. Why was I all alone? All I wanted was to belong.
The law of the couple jungle is this: couples hang out with couples. End of story. I’ve found that the reason they do this is because they talk to each other as a couple. Seriously. If you’re single you see this all the time. A man and a woman will talk as one person to another man and woman. It’s weird. Put more than two couples together and you have a confab. If you’re the only single amongst two or more couples, forget about it, because they’ve forgotten you. Remember that “third wheel” and “odd man out?” stuff? All true. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.
After a few months or even years of being surrounded by couples, one gets bitter. You start to wonder what the heck is wrong with you, at least I did. Why was I alone? What about me was unappealing? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I have someone? The more miserable I was, the more miserable I became. I spun myself into a spiral of self-inflicted misery. I wasn’t interested in the bar scene, didn’t like parties, and didn’t know of anyone my own age anyway, even if I was. How the heck was I supposed to meet someone? Where was I supposed to meet anyone?
Hey You, It’s Me
Lots of married people will tell you that being single is just a part of life, that as soon as you stop looking for “the one” that person will find you. It’ll happen “when you least expect it.” Whatever. As Hagrid would say: “Codswallop in my opinion.” If you’ll allow me to fast forward to the present, I’m 27 and haven’t looked for “the one” in years, and because of that, I’m never expecting it. Guess what? I’m still single. The difference is I’m thrilled about it now.
At some point during all my wallowing and woe-is-me moments, I managed to have fun. A lot of fun. I went fox hunting. As in galloping on horseback, wearing black and red coats, hounds braying, horns blowing, chasing coyotes through the wilderness hunting. For real. Hunters west of the Appalachian mountains hunt coyote, not fox. Coyotes are much faster than foxes, and more plentiful (as well as pesky to ranchers), so that was our game of choice. Please, no animal rights comments. In my two seasons of hunting, I saw lots of coyotes running away from the hounds in laughter. It’s really no contest, as hounds aren’t runners, they’re sniffers. Hunting just a great excuse to be silly on horseback and have a thrill.
Through fox hunting I learned something about myself: I could be risky. Fox hunting is one of the most dangerous sports we humans have concocted. A bunch of people who enjoy riding horses (large, heavy, naturally fearful animals with tiny brains) get together in a herd (where a horse’s instincts kick in gear, making them that much harder to control) and gallop as a group (like the riders of Rohan heading to Minas Tirith) up and down hills (think Man From Snowy River) and over 3 foot jumps, through wild terrain (remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke and Leia are on speeders chasing Storm Troopers? Like that), all for the sake of fun. For the first half of my first hunting season, I was sure I was going to die, or worse, become paralyzed from the chest down. Every morning before I hunted I had digestive issues, and I hardly slept the night before. Surely I was crazy, but I felt compelled to keep at it. As some of my fellow hunters can tell you, I prayed aloud as I rode. I was terrified.
Then, after my first completely out of control gallop, in which I screamed so loud and for so long that I swallowed a bug and tried coughing it up for the rest of the day, something in the back of my mind clicked: hey, I survived that. And…maybe it was fun.
Lots of fun. A whole crap load of fun. More fun that anyone can possibly have. I went from being so scared I couldn’t create solid waste, to a fox hunting addict. I needed the gallop. I needed the speed. Dante, my trusty steed, and I bonded like we never had before. We trusted each other. He kept me safe, and I kept him safe. He listened to me, he believed in me. He came to me. He and I were one with the wind. It’s not as hokey as it sounds, it was amazing. Once I figured out that he didn’t want to die anymore than I did, we had a blast. Dante learned how to hunt, he knew what the horn meant, what happened when the hounds brayed, he flew over jumps with ease, he galloped faster than most horses in the field. We were an amazing team.
Fox hunting helped to build my confidence and overcome fear. I learned exactly what I was capable of, and not only was I able to deal with fear, I turned it into a thrill. I got better at riding, I sought out adventure. I learned about me.
That soul-searching gobbledegook people yack on about, it’s all true.
Being alone, without anyone there to help with groceries, bills, no one to chat with about my woes and worries, hopes for the future, brought something even greater: I learned all about me. That I was capable of taking care of myself, that I didn’t need anyone to survive, to be entertained or to even be happy.
One Decision Maker
My job in Livermore was not the be all end all career for me, so when I was laid-off I was at first upset, then a few hours later I was relieved. God had shown me the door out of that place, and I decided it was time for a new adventure and a new life. I’m a financially responsible person, so I had lots of money saved up, so moving up to Washington and getting settled was all taken care of. Because I’d already moved away from home once before, to a place where I knew no one, I was sure I could do it again. This time, though, I wouldn’t have family close by, they’d be 900 miles south of me. But I was okay. Trinity, Dante and I moved up to Washington in a big caravan, my mother and father helping me with the move.
Moving to a new state was a decision I got to make all on my own. I didn’t have to ask my boyfriend or husband what he thought about the plan. I wanted to move and I did. Once here in WA, I decided to start my own business in graphic design. Decision made, I began the process, made money, viola. Didn’t have to ask anyone what they thought or worry about how it would affect his life and our family. What’s good for me is good.
Even the little things are awesome: I decide what discs go into my Neftlix queue, how I want to decorate my home, what I want for dinner, where I want to go to church, how long I want to be out at night, how much money to spend on books, music, dining out, vacation, and on and on and on.
Love the Impractical
I came across an article a year or so ago, from Yahoo!, with a list of things every single person should do before they get married. When I read it over, I was tickled to learn I’d already done every single thing on their list. I do not mean to bootleg that article, but I’m sure I won’t be able to find it, so I’ll try my best to duplicate the list here. If you’re single, do everything on the following list, because you can!
- Travel alone: For my first ever vacation, I took a two day trip to New York City to see J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and John Irving do a reading at Radio City Music Hall. Prior to the reading event, I got to the Hall early (with a brand new friend I’d met earlier that day at a PotterCast event) and saw J.K. Rowling arrive. She signed my copy of Half-Blood Prince and made me one of the happiest and biggest Potter fans in the world. Patti was able to capture the moment on video, which is below. That trip to NY has been one of the best experiences of my life, and it’s all because I decided to go it ALONE.
Jo Rowling signing my book
- Make an impractical purchase: This can be anything, really, and should somehow fit in your budget. Don’t break the bank, be responsible, but buy something fun while you still can. Maybe it’s a handbag, a motorcycle, an electric guitar. For me, it was a two-seater convertible, a car I’d always wanted. When my Honda Civic was totaled in an accident (not my fault) I took the opportunity to get a car I really wanted. The two-seater convertible is not practical, which is why it’s so much freaking fun. And hey, the trunk space is amazing, so I can still get plenty of things to and from.
- Spend more than 24 hours with a married couple or two, or three. This is also from the Yahoo! list. As a single guy or gal, you may have fantasies of how wonderful married life can be, how you snuggle up, go strolling down the sidewalk hand-in-hand, and all that other gushy stuff. When you spend more than a day with a couple, though, you see that it’s not all blooming roses. The more time I spend with married people, the more grateful I am that I’m not married, and the more I enjoy my independence. A married man or woman takes forever to make a simple decision, because it’s not up to just them. You, a single person, can make a decision in 0.5 seconds, because you have no one to ask for permission.
- Go do things. Since moving to Washington, I’ve gone to three professional sporting events, which I’d never done before. I’ve been to two Seattle Sounders matches and one Mariner’s game. The Mariners game was a birthday present for my mom, but I saw the Sounders with fellow singles. Going to a game can be expensive and time consuming, and not something a couple with young children, or even one half of a couple, can do. Is there something you’ve been wanting to do for a while? Plan it out and go DO IT!
- Be impulsive. Here it is again: total independence. You are not responsible for anyone, or to anyone. You belong to you and no one else, so enjoy it and make the most of it. A man or woman who’s in a marriage or couple, cannot be impulsive–a single person can. What you decide to do is up to you, but I recently thought it would be fun to give up most of my things and live on a sailboat. I came up with a plan on how to execute the idea, and carried it out in under two months. In one week of living aboard, I’ve met lots of new, interesting people, had some amazing experiences, and just yesterday I single-handed my boat on a great sail.
The Source of Confidence
Confidence comes from a few places: nurturing a talent into an accomplishment or skill, creating a skill from nothing and becoming good, and struggling and learning you can take care of you. The latter is most appropriate for this post. If you’re going it alone, you’ll hit roadblocks. This isn’t to say that couples don’t encounter hardships, the difference though, is that a couple has each other to rely upon. They have teamwork and must work together to get things done, to overcome their obstacle. They do it together, and that can be a beautiful thing. But if you are alone, that same struggle can seem doubly big. It’s all on you, there’s no one to help you out of the hole. Whether you’ve dug yourself the hole and are making it deeper, or you’re trying to build a way out of the hole, it’s all on you to solve the problem. And once you’ve figured a way out, you can look down and say “Hey, I did that all on my own.” Struggle will make you a stronger person. Climbing out of one hole will give you the skills and smarts to get out of another. You’ll learn that you’re capable and self-reliant: you don’t need anyone to survive. You is enough.
Greatest Love of All
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all, as sung by Whitney Huston in the song by the same name. It’s not cheesy, hokey, or corn-ballish, it’s the truth. Those who scoff at such an idea should be pitied, because they don’t think they’re worth their own love. And if you don’t love you, why should anyone else? Before you really love yourself, you must first believe in who you are, what you can do, what you can achieve. Confidence cannot come from outside sources. If you rely on others for praise and your sense of self-worth, you’ll be lost. You must believe in yourself. You have to try things, push your limits, overcome struggles, to believe that you’re capable and independent. It will make you a stronger, confident person, and you’ll not only enjoy your years as a single person, you’ll pity those who lost out on such an amazing experience. To love the single life, you have to love spending time with just you, an art form few people ever master.
If and when the right person comes along, the single life may be over for me and for you. But we’ll come to the marriage table with something great: confidence, ability, and self-reliance. And if there isn’t someone out there for me, I’ve learned that I’m happy on my own. I know that I’ll have a wonderful life, regardless of the decoration on my left hand. It’s taken me a few years to come to this place, but it’s a great destination. Hopefully this post will help you find it, too.
Do you have a great single story? I want to hear about it! Leave it in the comment section.
*If you live in or around the Central Valley of California, specifically the Tracey, Modesto, Stockton, Manteca areas, whenever you turn on the radio to listen to the traffic reports, you’ll always hear about a back up on 205 or 580, near or around the Altamont Pass, which leads into and out of Livermore. It’s usually a mess.
**This figure is as my memory serves. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. The figure may have been as high as 8% of people from 18-30 years of age, but even that percentage is low…