Being single in your twenties is a golden ticket

2013-12-01 10:00

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“Your twenties are the only time in your life when your life truly belongs to you. I’ve learnt not to take that for granted.”

I posted this tweet a few Sundays ago and the resounding “EXACTLY” from my online compatriots resulted in my writing a blog post to discuss some recently discovered truths about being a single young woman.

I have never discussed my relationship life on my blog, for good reason. Firstly, it’s nobody’s business. Secondly, there is no relationship to discuss. I am 28 and when I was younger, or at least when I ended my previous relationship in 2011, I thought by now I would certainly be in a stable relationship heading towards marriage.

It’s not complete nonsense that life is better when it’s shared with a partner. Humans are social beings. I remember visiting my sangoma earlier this year and having a consultation about general life things. I never ask her about my romantic prospects because I don’t want the anticipation.

During the consultation, we began talking about relationships and she relayed the importance of being with someone you love and advised me to talk to my ancestors and ask them how they are supposed to eat if I don’t eat.

“Phela, they must send you someone so that they can have cows, otherwise they will starve,” she said. I laughed about it and left, but it did plant a seed of doubt as to whether I would ever find someone to truly love.

In the past two years, I have gone from saying:

»?I’m too young and I don’t want to settle down yet;

»?Okay, let’s go to your house and make out;

»?Why hasn’t he called?;

»?So what is this, what are we doing?;

»?I can’t deal with black guys;

»?I’m done with white guys;

»?I’m tired of watching DVDs by myself; and

»?This bottle of wine isn’t going to finish itself ...

To my current state, which is that I have not met anyone I like enough to change my life for.

In that tumultuous period of youthful indulgence, I hooked up with a handful of people, some of them nice, and others rats and snakes, but nothing was ever serious. It was all just for fun, even though deep down it hurt that my phone never rang the next day.

After a year of fooling around, I decided that I wasn’t going to do any more random hook-ups until I meet someone I actually like and can see myself in a relationship with.

For the past 16 months, I have been very good and haven’t broken my rule, bar one crazy night with someone I used to date.

In essence, I’ve been a nun. But to tell the truth, this lengthy period of being single has sucked.

For the past few months, I have been complaining to my friends about how tired I am of being single, how I need a steady boyfriend who will appreciate my body while it’s still tight, someone who will help me make decisions, someone to joke with, someone to be vulnerable and intimate with, someone who will bear witness to my existence, and all the other wonderful reasons why it’s nice to have a good partner in your life.

The word ‘single’ is contentious because it projects being in a relationship as the rule and being single as the exception. And it’s always directed at women. Men are bachelors and we are whiny single ladies waiting for someone to put a ring on it. I believe that perception is at the root of the problem. It’s damaging to the self-esteem if one is constantly looking out of the window where the grass is perceived as greener, finding little fulfilment in one’s solitude.

Loneliness comes and goes, and when it comes it lingers, but I recently decided to embrace it instead of cheating it by going out to party or distracting myself. The moments of wallowing in it have inspired insights into myself, namely the source of my creativity. I have sat for hours spilling myself on to paper, battling to overcome it while simultaneously waiting for the love of someone else to come and interrupt my life.

My loneliness has suddenly become a conduit for me to discover other parts of myself and to practise spending time with that person, finding value in looking inward. And what a golden ticket of an opportunity it has been to discover the joy of being in my twenties as a single, child-free and independent human being.

During adolescence, life is consumed by school, parents, rules and most of us don’t get to know ourselves until we are living independently. When we’re in our twenties, we fall into the dating trap and tend to rush into relationships when we are not emotionally and mentally ready for the kind of commitment they require. Then the next thing you know, you’ve spent the past five years of your life with someone you love deeply, but you have not lived a life of meaningful independence.

I’m learning that my time and space are valuable things that I must enjoy now because I will not always have enough of either to myself.

I still look out the window sometimes at that other grass, but with a new sense of relief, more kindness towards myself and a satisfying sense of looking but not being required to touch.

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