Being a single 20-something in 2013 America is not reinforced positively, at least not positively enough. Even with the numerous amounts of single 20-somethings, the messages from popular culture, the media, and even family and friends is that you ought to be in a relationship. Because without a “plus one” you’re stigmatized as lonely and pitiful and incomplete. And many 20-somethings will get into a relationship so as to prevent the stigma. And those who do not sometimes fall prey to the notion that by definition, their single status renders them unhappy.
First of all, don’t get me wrong — relationships are wonderful. Having someone to share yourself with romantically is a beautiful thing and it can bring a lot of happiness to your life. But that doesn’t mean that the alternative — being single — has to be an unhappy experience. I would go as far as saying that if you want to be in a healthy, happy relationship, you have to be single and happy. In my view of things, people seek happiness too often outside of themselves and they latch onto things and people to try to fill a void; to try to fulfill the happiness that they couldn’t feel on their own.
A mentor of mine once told me, “No one can make you happy. Someone can make you happier. But no one can make you happy.” I think when you’re single, a relationship may seemingly equate to “happy” but if we’re being objective, how true is this really? I don’t know about you but I see a lot of unhappy people in relationships. And yes it’s true that some people are just wrong for each other or incompatible. But do you know what else is true? Misery loves company. And I see people who are unhappy on their own who get into unhappy relationships. And a lot of the time, I think it’s because he or she did not learn how to be single and happy first.
Of course it’s easier said than done — being single and happy. You’ll observe people pairing up, getting engaged, getting married, and having babies. And every time you get on Facebook, you’ll wonder if you missed a secret memo or twenty something “schedule of events” manual that apparently at least half your friends got. You’ll probably get lonely sometimes and sometimes you’ll wonder if there is in fact something wrong with you. But that can be the exception rather than the rule if you give happiness a chance.
How do you give happiness a chance in your single status? Well, you start with getting to know yourself and figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Autonomous self-discovery is one of the great benefits of being single. Because your identity at this stage of your life is probably more fluid than at any other, so you truly get to shape it without having to consider who you are with somebody else. There is a great contentment that comes with shaping who you are with you as the main author. You also get to focus on things like your other important relationships, your career, your extra curricular activities, and what you really want from life without having to contemplate a significant other’s desires too.
Being single at this stage of our lives has been characterized as something that is to be avoided at all costs. But I think if you are single, learn to see it as a blessing because it is for many reasons, but especially because if a relationship is what you want, you’ve done the hard work of making yourself happy already. And if you can’t make yourself happy, how much happiness can you authentically give to someone else? You have to be single and happy because you deserve to be happy anyway, and when the time comes, if and when the time does come to give up your single status, it’ll be for someone who is worth it, for someone who will make you happier.