It's time for all of us commenting about how "all our friends are getting engaged!!" to take a look around and realize that we single people way outnumber our coupled friends. Despite how it might feel some days, you are not "the only single person left". Fewer millennials are getting hitched than any other generation before them, and even those of us who are getting married are tending to wait later in life to take the plunge than other generations before us. There are all sorts of theories as to why we're pushing it off (or foregoing it altogether), but I know my reason for not being in a serious relationship is this: I just don't care all that much right now.
I'm sure that my complete apathy about dating is likely to change at some point in the future, because someday I do want the partner, the two and a half kids and robot dog cliché that I've dreamed of since I was a little girl. The thing is, I certainly don't want it anytime soon, and because of that I have been notoriously "meh" about dating for quite awhile now. I'm not determined to be single forever—I'm just also not obsessively focused on trying to find someone to date me. And I've noticed that once you rid your life of that ginormous distraction (because believe me, I know from times that I was concerned about this that caring about dating IS a truly huge distraction), it gives you a chance to open yourself up to exploring things both in and outside of yourself. When you're not hung up on dating, these parts of your life get way better:
Your relationship with social media
I'm not gonna sit here and knock social media addiction because I have ten tabs open on my computer right now and five of them are Twitter. What I will say, however, is that there is a distinct difference in how you project yourself online if you're worried about romantic prospects looking at your social media, especially if there's one particular person you're trying to impress. Who needs all that unnecessary anxiety? Everybody says the best game plan in real life is to "be yourself," and the same thing goes here: You are way happier in the long run with your social media addiction if you spend it being the most genuine, unapologetic, unfiltered version of yourself, which is so much more effortlessly pulled off when you aren't trying to impress possible date candidates.
Your relationships with friends
There is a running joke in my friend group about someone who, for the sake of the article, let's call John Smith. John Smith would be having a perfectly normal conversation with you and then see someone obviously more appealing walk by, at which point he'd ditch you, a phenomenon we came to know as "being Smith-ed". "Smithing" is something that inevitably happens if you're out with your friends and have one eye wandering toward the table of hot strangers, and while there's no problem with that happening every now and then, it's a bummer when you do it to your pals all the time. If you're not even worried about dating in the first place, your friends know that they have your attention when you're together.
There's nothing worse than feeling like a way to kill time in between dates, or flirting with strangers, so when you aren't overly concerned with either of those things, you never risk making your friends feel like anything less than the wonderfully valued, important people they are. They'll feel way more heard and appreciated, meaning you're all a lot more tight with each other. Don't be the Smith-er, guys.
Your ability to dream big about your future
Real life humans can sometimes be disappointing, but you know what never is? The fake humans we make up in our heads. Being single means your fantasies are 100% guiltless and generally free to roam wherever the hell they want. I reckon this is the case in some relationships as well, but I will say that in my single years, I have flown far past the white picket fence that was my imagination while worried about dating other people, and I'm perfectly okay with these weird new brain thoughts of mine.
Your ability to feel happiness for others
There are too many studies on how social media breeds bitterness and jealousy to count, but the root of all those feelings is, of course, the idea that something is missing in your own life. When you stop thinking of a relationship as something that is "missing" and instead think of it as something that isn't a priority right now, you are able to scroll down your newsfeed and feel actual joy for your friends who want to share their own good love life-related news with you.
Your ability to effectively set — and reach —goals for yourself
Being a person in my 20s, I can attest to the fact that, especially at this age, there is so much going on in my life that it would literally impossible to try to address it all at once. So I just don't. To be fair, I assume this is all true no matter what age you are. And nothing was easier to let go of than constantly worrying about my relationship status. It was not only the first non-urgent life concern I let go of, but I didn't even notice when I stopped caring. Studies show that multitasking is actually ineffective in the long run, and I feel like the same thing goes for trying to get your life in order: One thing at a time, y'all. If you're able to focus your energy and drive somewhere other than being in a relationship, you're able to set meaningful goals in your career, or your personal life, or with your family that you might have been distracted from otherwise.
Your sense of who you are and what you want
I think focusing on dating is easy because the goal and the trajectory are fairly simple, at least in theory: Find someone you like. Figure out if you're compatible. Make out. Worry incessantly. Date them, or don't date them, and repeat, until one sticks. It's all way more complex in action, but it's at least a straightforward task that is easy to wrap one's head around.
Unfortunately, the rest of your life is not, and will never be, that simple. Your career path will be completely unpredictable and might have nothing to do with your major; Your friend groups will shift; The way you feel about yourself will probably change on an hourly basis. It is hard to sit yourself down and ask, What do I actually want? and give an honest answer, because unlike with dating, in the rest of your life, more often than not, you just plain don't know what you want yet. And that's fine and normal (and terrible and exhausting and thrilling). But when you clear out dating and all the distraction that comes with it, and truly give yourself some time to develop a sense for what you want on your own, you can't help but learn that you won't be swayed on those goals when you eventually do end up in a relationship. By the time that happens, you, your goals, and your priorities will be a package deal.
Images: benseidelman/Flickr, Giphy