It wasn’t too long ago that I was telling the world about my failed engagement, which included watching my loved one hit rock bottom, stashing a wedding dress in my parents’ closet that I’ll never wear and selling the home I loved. Tumultuous, indeed.
We had been dating for five-and-a-half years, and lived together for all but three months of that. As a 25-year-old, it’s hard to look back and remember a time in my adult life that I wasn’t in this serious relationship. I had moved into adulthood alongside another person who influenced the woman I grew to be, whether I realized it or not.
I found this fantastic Oscar Wilde quote, and it really hit a nerve for me:
I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.
Here I am now, single and re-evaluating being just me, not defined by anyone else. How exactly does one make the most of being alone, but avoid being lonely?
1. Embrace the cliches.
Getting dressed up, buying new lipstick, venting about old flames, and generally having a fun night out with your girlfriends isn’t reserved for post-break-up sadness. It can be difficult to get “just the girls” together sometimes, especially as we couple-up and get a little older. Don’t give up. Grab the hot pink nail polish. Find the new cupcake and wine bar in town. Be a “woo girl.” And love the heck out of it.
2. Stay busy. Really busy.
You’ll have a hard time sulking over being alone (and thus, feeling lonely), if you have a jam-packed calendar. I took this theory to a fairly extreme level and decided that I'd go back to school full-time. Yup. That’s a full course load, including two lab classes, along with my current job. But trust me, when you’re go-go-go from 6am until midnight, there’s no time to watch sad movies and sulk with ice cream.
3. Do “couple” things alone.
When you’re newly single, it can be very easy to think you can’t do certain things by yourself. For example, it may seem strange to go out to dinner, see a movie in the theatre, or take a cooking class solo. Challenge yourself to think otherwise—nothing is restricted just because you’re single. Instead of waiting for a girlfriend’s schedule to match up with yours, buy one ticket for that new film you’ve been talking about. And better yet? No one to share the Reese’s Pieces with!
4. Do the things you want to do. Anything.
If I want to stay in on a Friday night and read the book that’s been collecting dust for over a year, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. And because it’s just me as part of this equation, I don’t have to feel like I’m holding anyone back from having a good time. I can stay out with my friends until bar close and not wake anyone up when I get into bed. I can take up knitting. Spontaneously decide to visit a friend in another state for the weekend. Spend my Saturday mornings volunteering. I now only have my opinion to worry about.
5. Document the process.
I’m a huge advocate for journaling. Whether you’re single or not, I believe that brain dumping at the end of the day is super cathartic and helps manage your thoughts and feelings. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to stop and think about the good things that happen. Appreciate them. Savor them. Some days will have bigger good things, while others may be as simple as sitting outside for a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine. Either way, reminiscing about these moments and putting them on paper will help keep any sad or lonely thoughts at bay.
No matter what, give yourself room to figure out what makes you a unique and awesome person. Take all the time you need, and be a little selfish. Because when you do find yourself in a relationship again, you won’t find success if you’re not happy with who you are first.
Enjoy the journey of self-discovery!