To all the Single 20-somethings out there
I live smack dab in the heart of the Midwest, upgrading from my small hometown in southern Indiana (think less than 2,500 people) to what was known to us as “The Big City” (Indianapolis) post-college, which is where I’ve been ever since. And while I know many of you who live on the coasts think we’re not as progressive as the rest of the country, I swear we’re not far behind except when it comes to one thing:
I am an unmarried 30-year old woman, and you would think I belonged at the Smithsonian with how some people react to that information. I go back to my hometown and the first question I always seemed to get is, “So, are you dating anybody?” And anytime I’d say no, it was met with a flash a pity, a plastered on smile, and words of encouragement that they were sure I’d find someone. Someday.
Yeah, I know that.
I don’t blame those who question. For the most part, they mean well and are just trying to spark conversation. However, after 10+ years of it, it started to make me want to scream. Here I was, a successful woman with a career, a blog, and a couple of epic trips under her belt, and the first question always asked of me was whether or not I had caught a man.
Because here is what I wanted to tell them: with or without a significant other, my life is great. My work is fulfilling, my social life is epic, and I get to decide how much wine to drink at night without judgment from anyone.
Unlike the thoughts of so many Baby Boomers & Gen
X-ers, my main priority during my 20s was never to get married and have kids. Ok, the marriage thing wouldn’t have been bad, but I had so much I wanted to accomplish before that even entered my mind. I wanted to turn my blog into a successful business. I wanted to travel outside the States. I wanted to go out with my friends until 4am and eat cold pizza while watching Bridesmaids the morning after.
But I know some women don’t feel the same. You feel the pressure from society or your biological clock or your own muddy vision of happiness to rush to settle down, and it’s hard to ignore that voice in your head. But ladies, YOU HAVE TIME.
When I was 28, I ended a 4-year relationship, and it sent me into this spiral of worry and doubt. Will I ever find someone? Will I have to settle? Will I still be able to stick to my life timeline?
Word of advice, throw all those thoughts out the window.
Being single in your 20s, whether that’s at 21 or 29, is a wonderful opportunity for you. With the modern marvels in medicine, you still have a full decade to find someone to latch onto and bear children with, which means you can use those years post-graduation to really live it up. I had some of my best years when I was single and could do whatever I want, and I inwardly envy those of you who are in it now or get the opportunity to go through it.
I know, many of you are aren’t convinced, but as someone much older and wise, let me fill you in on the little secrets as to why being single in your 20s is a gift straight from the Big Man Upstairs:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPLIT YOUR TIME
Friday nights? You get to go out with your friends. Sunday afternoons? You get to be poolside instead of at you’re your bf’s family reunion or cousin’s birthday party. Holidays? You have time for a nap after Thanksgiving lunch because you have nowhere else to be.
Some of that freedom gets lost when you become a twosome because, hey, you have to compromise. So enjoy being able to do what you want when you want – it doesn’t last long in Relationship Land.
YOU GET TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
Sometimes the best way to know you don’t like avocados is to taste some guacamole. And that’s especially good knowledge to have before you commit to the damn things.
When you’re single, you have the chance to figure out you, and it’s such a freeing and peaceful thing when you finally do start learning what it is that makes you tick. And when you mix that in with the dating scene, you learn REALLY QUICK who resembles someone you could spend forever with…and who doesn’t.
Maybe you find you love being active and couldn’t be with someone who wasn’t.
Maybe you find that you more highly value someone with a strong sense faith.
Maybe you find you can’t be with someone who is rude to a waiter just because they put a lemon in their water when they specifically asked them not to (a true story).
Either way, being on your own forces you to face the person in the mirror and truly get to know what that person wants and doesn’t want. Use that time to listen to her.
YOU CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED TO YOU
100% honesty: it’s a lot harder to pick up your life and move across the country for your dream job when someone else is in tow.
Being single gives you the flexibility to do you, and if that means you have the chance to take a 2-year work engagement in Singapore, well, honey, you can start packing your suitcase. No questions ask.
Once you are in a committed relationship or have a family, the opportunity to pursue those experiences dwindles, which is why there is no rush to get there. There’s time to settle down and have kids. But now? It’s time to have a little fun and take some risks.
YOU HAVE TIME TO PURSUE YOUR INDIVIDUAL DREAMS
First, let’s set the record straight: Being in a relationship or having children does not negate your ability to chase your dreams; however, it does tend to change what those dreams are.
I know that had I been in a relationship, I never would have traveled to Peru and hiked the Inca Trail last year. Not because a significant other would have kept me from it but because I know my goals would have been different. The same goes for my blog – I consider it my baby right now, and if I had started to have kids at 26, then I probably would never have pursued what has now turned into a major passion project for me.
Having the freedom in your 20s to pursue those big goals is such a gift, which is why, again, there’s no reason to rush into marriage and kids. Many of the things you have the ability to do now you won’t ever have the chance to do again, whether that’s because of health or commitments or the fact that 50 year-old women just don’t look good doing keg stands. Take advantage of the time you have in this decade to travel solo, pursue your dream career (even if it pays crumbs now), or learn how to rock climb. There’s no one holding you back.
YOU GET TO WATCH & EAT WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT
Ladies, if you’ve ever had to sit through a UFC fight while eating Hooters wings (ugh, the worst), you know what I mean.
The little luxuries like being able to watch a romcom while stuffing your face with pasta on a random Tuesday or wearing your pajamas all day because you can are things that you can’t get away with when you live with someone you’re trying to impress. Or at least get away with without judgment. So soak it in for as long as you can – you’ll never appreciate a night filled with books, candles, and a warm bubble bath more than when you have a two year-old who won’t even allow you to go to the bathroom by yourself.
Whether you’re in a relationship or single AF, the main thing to remember is that there are pros and cons to every stage in life. The key to happiness, though? It’s simply to remember to focus on the good parts and feel blessed for the opportunity to be a little selfish for a while. The rest? It can wait.