1. Have a really bad breakup. One that rocks you to your core and makes you feel like you’ll never fall in love again because you are broken into too many pieces to be put back together.
2. Fall in love again, and realize that it’s not the end of the world when you get your heart broken, it just feels like it is. Learn that repairing yourself is something you are capable of doing, and that there isn’t a cheat code that lets you deal with the pain of a breakup quicker.
3. Go to a friend’s or a relative’s wedding and make a list of all the things you like and don’t like, things that you would do differently or wouldn’t spend your money on.
4. Make a pact with your friends to never force each other into ugly/unflattering bridesmaids dresses.
5. Get over the idea that you are defined by whether or not you are tied down, even though small-minded people will be increasingly concerned with your marital status. Their opinions are unimportant, boring, and rooted in insecurity.
6. Try online dating at least once, because you don’t want to be limited only to the people you are in the immediate vicinity of. You never know if the perfect person just happened to be one city over.
7. Do something you’re really proud of at work, something that can only be accomplished when you have no one else to be responsible for or think about. Throw yourself into your career and do the things you’ve always dreamed of entirely by yourself.
8. Form really strong friendships that have nothing to do with a relationship you’re in or a job you have: the kinds of friendships that start to feel like siblings more than two adults who happened to meet at a good time in their lives.
9. Decide what you really like, from music to hobbies to what your ideal Sunday looks like. They don’t have to be set in stone, but it’s good to try a lot and know what you like before your default settings are influenced by someone else’s presence (and tastes) in your life.
10. Get into healthy eating and exercise habits, that have nothing to do with looking a certain way or being at a certain weight. Establish a healthy relationship with your body that is based on wanting to be in balance and feel good.
11. Make an actual list of the things that you can’t compromise on in a relationship — even if the person is very hot/rich/otherwise awesome.
12. Make peace with the breakups you’ve gone through, even if you never actually talk it out with that person for whatever reason. The point is that you shouldn’t be controlled by those thoughts or feelings after they are no longer in your life.
13. Accept why those relationships didn’t work, and what you both could have done differently.
14. Have adventures with your friends, and don’t worry about “meeting someone” along the way. Understand the fact that there is something real and important and satisfying in other kinds of relationships, and not every outing has to be a search for the person who is going to “complete” you.
15. While you’re at it, get rid of the idea of “completion” altogether.
16. Think seriously about the kind of money that usually goes into weddings and honeymoons and couple-related celebrations. Think about whether or not this is something you should actually be putting a lot of money into, or even something you want.
17. Find someone who makes you so sure that you want to be with them forever that all of the questions you used to ask yourself about commitment and long-term just kind of fly out the window when you’re together.
18. Make touchstones in other places in your life outside of your relationship — a job you love, friends you’re really close to, a project you love working on — that gives you more to look forward to and to define you than who you’re with.
19. Accept the fact that getting married is just one part of your life, and it doesn’t replace your personality or the other things you’ve accomplished in your life. It won’t be a fix to your problems, and it might stunt your growth if you allow it to convince you that it’s automatically made you a better or more mature person. Look at it as a nice choice to make, instead of something you are obligated to do unless you want to be an object of pity forever.