I was mostly single throughout high school. Sure, I had crushes on guys (some were even life-changing), but I was content with innocent hand-holding and giving come-hither eyes from a distance. Technically, I never had a boyfriend during that time — and chalked my perpetual single status up to the minimal choices at my school and poor life timing. I just didn’t think it was my time to find that person.
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College, on the other hand, seemed like the perfect time to meet him, especially because I was going to my dream school: New York University.
The city and college represented a new life of adventure, freedom, and independence to me. Not only was I on my way to becoming the #girlboss I always wanted to be, but I was also going to meet incredible new friends and, maybe — hopefully! — my future husband. Or, at least, my first real serious boyfriend.
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But when I finally settled in at NYU, met new friends, and found somewhat of a groove (as much as someone can in the frantic pace of New York City), I came to realize why I was single throughout high school — I liked it.
I like being independent. I like being able to try out new hobbies and activities, which is one of the best things about going to college. With so many new things to explore at school, as well as in Manhattan, I grew to love spending time with myself more and more.
Whether it was getting lost on the subway or spending a quiet afternoon in Washington Square Park reading a book, all my “me time” made me realize I don’t need someone to help me enjoy or navigate my life. I can rely on myself. And when you can rely on yourself as a woman, there’s no other feeling as empowering.
Of course, I wasn’t always totally alone. Being single meant that I was able to connect with a really awesome group of women in a truly meaningful way, because we had time to do so. Without significant others, we had more opportunity to create lasting memories with each other, from Friday nights noshing on jars of peanut butter while watching rom-coms, to exploring Italian cities while studying abroad.
Relationships of all types require time and energy, which can be scattered between friendships and romantic partnerships. But without a serious relationship in sight, I was able to commit to my girls in a solid way, and we are still friends to this day.
With fewer emotional distractions, I could also be more present in my emotional state, and pay attention to my hopes, fears, and happiness. Without the unpredictability of another person, I was able to chart a steady course for my life over the next four years and beyond, which helped me to feel more confident and feel at ease.
I mean, there were guys. Not a lot. A few. Okay, more like a couple. But every dating experience leads you closer to what you want in an ideal partner, and dating can also be fun. It was nice to be able to flirt and embrace my femininity and sexuality without any of the stress that new relationships often bring (“Why isn’t he texting me back?” “Is he seeing someone else?”). Plus, I always had the bed entirely to myself. A huuuuge bonus.
Most of all, being single in college allowed me to fall in love with myself. And, as with every relationship, there are ups and downs. There will be things that you love about yourself, things that you don’t, and things that you want to change.
Looking back, I don’t think I was emotionally equipped to balance someone else’s needs or wants without sacrificing my own, which can be especially hard as a younger person. It’s still a challenge for me. But when you are able to love yourself, including all of your flaws, then you are more ready to love someone else. And the sooner you learn that, the better. Trust.