I realised recently that I am one of those people — the ones I call ‘Eat Pray Love types’. For five years, from roughly the age of 18, I had only been single for a few months. Those five years saw me grow and change in so many ways, and I no longer knew who I was if I wasn’t in love. Becoming single just a few weeks before graduating was exhilarating, it meant I could join in with the Gold Rush. But deep down? I was terrified.
After graduation, I went through a very slow, very painful 6 months of gripping tight to any possibility of a relationship while pretending to be happy alone. I slept with people I met online or at parties and then cried when they didn’t want to see me again. I dismissed all of our incompatibilities because I felt I would put up with anything, change everything about myself, just to be loved.
If you’re single and hating it, I have been there. If you’re single and you don’t know how to feel worthwhile or secure without a partner, I have been there. I’ve done the ugly crying, I’ve messaged exes late at night then freaked out and blocked them. I’ve stared up at the ceiling and listened to ‘Liability’ on repeat. I’ve been there.
But ten months later, when a possible partner came into my life, I could not have been more resistant. After all the crying and shaking I had done about being alone, I found myself pushing back at the very thought of starting a relationship with such force I was winded.
I had made it through all that fear and reached a point where I loved being single.
I loved having weekends and evenings free to meet up with people at the drop of a hat. I loved snuggling up to watch reality TV with my best friends every night. I loved buying new underwear and shaving my legs just for myself. I loved all my notifications coming from girls’ Facebook chats, not dating apps. I loved going for lunch alone and settling down with a journal or book. And most of all? I loved going to bed alone. The thing that was always the most upsetting part of the day had become my biggest treat.
Having space to get to know yourself is so important — that is ultimately what ‘Eat Pray Love’ is all about. You can be your very own Liz Gilbert: try the odd café lunch alone (Eat), quiet walk by the Cam (Pray), and spend more time with friends (Love). You can do this kind of self-discovery whilst in a relationship, but singledom is a great catalyst for shaping your own life just how you want it.
Being single is important, particularly at this time in our lives when we are starting careers, finding lifelong friends, and building up our idea of who we are and what we want to be in the world. Embrace the freedom that being single gives you to ask permission from no one — to do things without consultation.
When you start on your next relationship, the idea of not being single could be a frightening thing. You could be wondering where you’ll fit another person into your full and busy life. That is the best problem you could have. Trust me.