21 years single: Here are the lessons I’ve learnt

For as long as I can remember I’ve been the single friend and when I really think about it, it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve become content with that. Part of me longs to comfort the younger version of myself that felt lost at sea for so long, traversing through a cloud of loneliness whilst being surrounded by a barrage of blossoming relationships which made it increasingly difficult to find solace in my own company. But in the same breath, I’m equally as grateful for this period of solitude as it provided me with valuable lessons that have been instrumental in how I view and nurture the relationship with myself and others. So here are the lessons that I’ve learnt.

  • Don’t rush. The time is yours, so use it!

Appreciating exactly where you are in life can often be a much more difficult task than it should be, when we’re young we can’t wait until we’re older, well that is until we actually get there, and then by the time we’ve waved goodbye to our adolescence we’re hit with the realisation of what the adult world actually looks like. We yearn for the care free childhood that passed by in the blink of an eye as we usually only appreciate the times that we had once when we look back. I’ve found myself falling into a similar pattern when it comes to relationships. Watching on from the outside as your friends navigate the prickly world of teenage heartbreak, high school gossip of who’s with who and the tumultuous ups and downs of that one friend that’s always in an on-off again relationship, a part of you begins to wonder what it would feel like to be in the centre of it all. Now, the majority of me did not feel like this, but when everyone around you is in a relationship it’s easy to get absorbed into your own little bubble that feels as though your proximity to being in a relationship is a defining characteristic in your life.

As I’ve grown older, it’s become more and more evident that this time that you have to yourself whilst you’re single is golden. It dawned on that I wasting time that I could be using to do whatever I wanted, my first step towards embracing this new revelation was to book a solo holiday. I went to Iceland alone and that trip opened my eyes to all of the discoveries that were waiting for me. Taking control of your own time and using it to fulfil any desires that you have is an extremely freeing feeling and it also broadens your horizon as it helps you to realise that doing things on your own isn’t as daunting as you once thought it was. The relationship that you may daydream about and wish for in your future will arrive eventually but there’s no point wasting the time that you currently have when you could be exploring the world, or pursuing your dream job, or just anything that you really have a passion for but have never tried. Your single years are a time to truly live for yourself without any comprise, to jump off the edge and take the risks that you have always been afraid of. Sure, it may not work out but it’ll be a new experience nonetheless that is exclusively for you, this time can create some of the best moments of your life if you allow it to.

  • Loneliness is ok

As much as you enjoy your time being single, you are still human and so the feeling of loneliness at one point or another is inevitable, but it will eventually pass. Our social identities can often be tied to our relationship status which can weaponise the fear on loneliness if you are single. Sometimes these periods of loneliness are completely unexplainable, they have no rhyme or reason and are just simply part of being human. Other times they can be directly related to the feeling of not being in a relationship, resulting in an unhealthy belief that being in a relationship is the only form of validation that can pull you out of the rut you’re in. The feeling of being alone is not exclusive to those who are single, this feeling can impact anyone and it’s ok to unpack this emotion and accept whatever thoughts may be causing it, as long as you don’t let it define you.

You can use this time of feeling lonely to your benefit, I’ve found that it’s been extremely useful to take a closer look at my own relationship with myself and work out what is causing such a big void and how can it be fixed. A romantic relationship is not the only form of love that you can receive and sometimes you may just need to spend some time cultivating stronger platonic and familial relationships to feel the care that you may be missing. Through learning about your own personal relationship you can get comfortable with your boundaries and build up a more self-assured person that is in full control.

  • Know when to draw the line

I know I’m not the only one who has experienced a friend becoming totally obsessed with their partner at the start of a new relationship and they begin to neglect the friendship that you two have built up. It can be frustrating and hurtful to be put on the back burner in place of someone else that has just walked into their life but I think there should be a degree of understanding and compromise that will need to be applied. However, you need to know when to draw the line. It’s understandable that the dynamics of a friendship may shift when someone gets into a new relationship but it should not be completely discarded at your expense. If a friend suddenly falls of the face of the earth and only resurfaces once the relationship ends this should be a warning sign, if it starts to feel as though you are no longer valued in someone’s life when they enter into new relationships, it’s probably the perfect time to cut that friendship loose. A friendship takes work from both sides and if this is no longer being reciprocated, it will eventually die out.

Ultimately, being the single friend teaches you how to be alone and be content, it’s a time for personal growth that your future self will thank you for.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been the single friend and when I really think about it, it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve become content with that. Part of me longs to comfort the younger version of myself that felt lost at sea for so long, traversing through a…

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