From applying to Stanford’s Student Housing as a “single” student to specifying a status here and there as an answer to friends’ questions, I’ve thought about what being single signifies. From my experience, there are many colloquial subsets of the single label. You might be “single and not looking,” “single but actively looking,” “just got out of a relationship but talking it over single” or perhaps “almost in an exclusive relationship single.” With nuances of the single life that can go on from this shortlist, I’ve questioned what “single” actually means. In short, I think it might benefit to push back on the spiraling distribution of the term and redefine it according to what it should mean: personalized attention to one relationship, the relationship you have with yourself. And overall, we need to think of this as a good thing. (At least, until the idyllic Prince or Princess Charming unexpectedly arrives at the door.)
A good friend once told me, “Make yourself whole first and then think about a relationship.” I think this advice comes from the belief that a relationship can leave someone unbalanced if the timing is wrong. I think she has a good point. Rather than trying to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, get yourself right first. This is not to diminish the merits of a great relationship but to consider the benefits of not looking to get one, especially when it seems, for any reason, that we can’t. It’s a game of perspective, a game we might have all played at one point or another.
Logistically, the benefit of remaining accountable to yourself is freeing: no back and forth texting, calling, or the waiting or expecting for it to happen in between. The accountability for constant communication just isn’t there. Consider the silence an opening. The lack of obligation for time with someone else — not that it wasn’t a pleasant obligation — leaves a calendar open to do more things for you. This isn’t a selfish itinerary as much as it is an undivided one. For those of us who are trying to reach our best at something, the climb up is slightly lighter. You have the time to help yourself and others in a way that you couldn’t before. It’s time that we really gain. If time is something that universally limits everyone, treat this as a precious commodity: yours is truly special.
While we are in the process of improving ourselves, instead of navigating the gray waters of too many subdivisions of being single, truly be single without searching for an attachment in a personal relationship. For one time, perhaps it’s okay to think in all or nothing terms — in regards to love and “unsingling” yourself. I’m typically told that love happens when you least expect it. But instead of waiting or hoping for someone on the outside to come in and change your life, actively channel the energy inward. And don’t wait or hope or think about it, at least for now, when the search doesn’t always guarantee a return: time on yourself will certainly yield emotional and personal dividends. Sure, it’s a trite suggestion, but there must be a considerable reason why the advice continues — because it might actually work.
Contact Courtney Clayton at cclayton ‘at’ stanford.edu.