5 Ways I Learned to Love Being Single (AF)

By previous editor Ko Bragg

I’m so single right now, I’m pretty sure I don’t even have a shadow. In my youth, this made me feel unworthy, but these days I’m more likely to turn down a date to light a candle in my studio loft and cook a meal for one—happily, too, and without wishing I had someone to share my space with.

Growing up, dating was strictly forbidden in my household. I had to have explicit permission to even have boys call the house. My mom worked long hours, so I was able to get around the phone rules, but probably to her delight, I didn’t have boys falling over me growing up. Let’s say my awkward, fat-kid, braces, upper-lip hair phase didn’t do me many favors in the shallow middle school dating pool.

But later as I entered high school and even college, I thought the fact that I had never had a real boyfriend meant there was something wrong with me. I thought it had to be either it was that I still wasn’t cute enough, or maybe I was just fundamentally undateable.

I have two boyfriends that come to mind whom I pressured into relationships that I felt proud of for the simple fact that I felt affirmed as a woman someone wanted. It did not matter if the relationships were good for my health or schedule because at the end of the day, I had a boyfriend.

Two breakups, two master’s degrees, and more than two full years after the demise of my last relationship, the young woman I once was makes me both laugh and cry.

As the people whom I vent to in my life would tell you, I took the long way to arrive at this place of being comfortably single and considering anybody certifiably insane who’s actively letting me remain this way.

So, I want to share five pivotal takeaways (I like to call them souvenirs) that I’ve picked up on different parts of this journey to be both self-affirmed and single.

One: Journal through your breakup, even if you hate journaling like me.

I’m a writer by trade, and for some reason that has never translated over into my personal life. But, when I went through my first really hurtful breakup, I was in such a state of overwhelm, I had to do something to get the emotions out.

What did I write about? Anything that came to mind. Letters to my ex. Letters to myself. Goals for the future. Prayers, even though I’m not even particularly religious. I did this every day at least once, and as the days and weeks went on, I got stronger. I also think I got annoyed with drowning in my emotions and being sad so I started actively finding other things that made me happy—hence why I stopped journaling. But, if it works for you, stick with it!

Two: Cliché or not, there is a difference between being lonely and alone, and the only way to know the difference is to aggressively spend time with you, yourself, and your reflection.

You know how medicine that makes you feel better often has nasty tastes or side effects? That’s how spending time alone after a breakup can feel. You want to heal from the hurt, but the more time you spend alone, the more time you have to deal with your thoughts about the past and what could have been.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a ridiculous overthinker—I seriously get on my own nerves sometimes. After a breakup, I’m 10 times worse. But, I’ve learned to rationalize this as a side effect of putting in the work towards being comfortably independent.

You will feel lonely, that’s just an inescapable fact. But, if you want to find a permanent cure, you have to get to know yourself as a singular entity. The more time you spend time alone in the mirror, on walks, at coffee shops, in the mall, you’ll learn to love yourself because that’s how life works—the more time you spend doing something, the better you get at it.

Three: Return to the dating game at your own pace: abstain and/or thot in peace.

Right after a breakup, I’m dramatic, telling myself I’ll never date again because my soulmate just left me.

Trying to get over things, I logged into dating apps for the first time a couple years ago, and they still give me the creeps—literally and figuratively because I’ve met some bonafide weirdos there.

In Mississippi, that’s translated into seeing a lot of hunters proudly holding their dead prey by the ankles in their display pictures. I tend to take these as signs from the universe that I need to direct my attention elsewhere.

I don’t force anything. You’re supposed to be right where you are in this moment. Maybe that means being single. If you need to abstain from dating, do that. If you need to line up dates, you’re in your right to do that too. Maybe what you need is a healthy balance of dating and casual sex. Who knows? Whatever you decide, it needs to come from a place of sincere understanding of what is good for you and what you can handle, and you’ll be sure of that the more time you spend with yourself.

Four: Trust the process and weed out couple-envy. 

I’m human, so, yeah, I see couples and feel “a way” sometimes, but I’ve learned not to breed envy or play the ‘why her and not me?’ card.

I just got back from seeing Black Panther (Wakanda Forever), and each time I got to the theatre (because obviously, I had to see it more than once), I had to slide by couples to get to my seat. I thought about how nice it would’ve been to see it with someone, to share moments and laugh at inside jokes.

No company is better than bad company. I am happy to have matured out of wanting to be in the presence of others because I was too afraid to be alone—and that goes for both platonic and romantic relationships. Every relationship has its baggage except for the one that you have with yourself. There’s never any drama when you’re hanging out alone, and arriving at that conclusion never makes me envious of couples for long.

Five: Don’t settle for anything (bad food, bad sex, bad vibes, bad breath.)

Listen. The way I swipe left on “Chad the Pig Hunter” and “Dave the Turkey Shooter” is the savagery I’m expecting from anyone who’s made it this far in the article. Life is too short for bad meals, bad lovers, and bad hygiene. Do not settle for the sake of being around folks, unless someone with the listed qualities is your type—go ahead and take people like that off the market, sis.

Promise, I’m at the point where I think I am the best company there is. And when I’m ready to go back to dating, I’ll be confident in what I’m bringing to the table. Self-assurance is the sexiest thing out there.

Get rid of the idea that being single means you failed or are unwanted. You’re the only thing in this life that is sure, so learn to be your own best friend—you’re the only one who’s always going to be by your side.

What are your thoughts about being single? Over it? Learning to love it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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