It was back in college, on Valentine’s Day, to be exact. A group of 10 or so girls (my close friends) gathered around a delicious Mexican feast at a favorite local spot, drinking away our oh so single woes. Actually, we weren’t even all that sad about our singledom back then, it was merely a fact that hung over this particular Thursday night with a sort of cynical foreboding. It was almost like we were worried on behalf of our future selves, worried that maybe the highly anticipated real world dating scene was just as cruel as the one in which we currently found ourselves.
We were all loving college, there was no doubt about that, but it was equally as undeniable that as our other friends coupled off, this core group of us remained alone. Somehow out of the overwhelming fog of margaritas and queso, an idea rang through. Table for 1, we would call it. A book for us, for the perpetual singles amongst our friends. It would document our dating struggles-our short lived successes, our too absurd to be true stories, even our painful goodbyes and heartbreaks. It would come to imbue the night with a sort of playful meaning for years to come, up until graduation.
Well, as you may have guessed, we never actually wrote the book. But the concept behind it is so very relevant to my life at this moment (as well as to many of my friends’ lives), that I’m in awe of that group of barely 21 year olds, who knew so little of the “real world”, yet who so insightfully happened upon what’s become the mantra of my mid 20’s thus far. You see, everyone talks about how your 20’s are for finding yourself. They tell you that you’ll stumble. That you’ll determine your career path through process of elimination (the implication being lots of bad jobs along the way), and that eventually, you’ll find your person.
But what you can’t know until you’ve actually experienced loss, disappointment, or heartbreak during these formative years, is that it is in those moments of despair that you discover who you truly are.
I personally can’t imagine where I’d be today on my own path of self-growth had my boyfriend not left me. Now I see it as a wakeup call, because I had completely lost myself in that relationship.
The girl who sat with her friends all those years ago, who could simultaneously own her independence and yet make fun of her perpetual singleness, she was gone. My identity was completely tied up with this guy, and when it was over, I was left to pick up the pieces. And I’ve seen too many of my friends make the same mistake. I’ve lost touch with friends who I thought would be in my life forever because I don’t even know who they are anymore apart from their boyfriends, and what’s worse, I don’t think they do either.
Now trust me, this isn’t meant as a knock against couples, because there are absolutely some who manage to balance their other friendships and retain an appropriate amount of independence. What I’m saying though, is that being single makes you strong in a way that being in a relationship just can’t. There’s something extremely empowering about owning your independence, never settling for anything less than the relationship you know you deserve, and embracing the other love in your life in the meantime, all with an enduring sense of humor.
Is being single harder sometimes? Absolutely. But personally, I’d much rather be alone than lose myself in a mediocre relationship.
I know who I am and what I want out of life, and that is not something I could say while in my last relationship. So, it’s really okay that the slogan Table for 1 just about sums up my dating life right now. In fact, I’ve finally learned to just embrace it, and you should too if you’re in the same boat. I mean, the stories alone make it worth it-just ask my friends.