Valentine’s Day. Love it or loathe it, in a matter of hours February 14th will be upon us once again, subjecting us all to a barrage of Clinton’s cards and outpourings of public displays of affection- all finished off with #LuckyGirl. But as undoubtedly (and genuinely) lovely as Valentine’s Day can be, what can it mean to those of us who are single? And more specifically, what can it mean for those of us who are single in our 20’s and beyond- a time where we’re conditioned to panic, and think it’s time to ‘settle down.’
Not long over a year ago I broke up with my boyfriend of five years (I swear this does become light-hearted but let’s deal with a little despair for now whilst I seek to make a point.) I’d be lying if I said it was anything other than the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. Break-ups, no matter whose side they come from, are one of those things you can easily brush off as not a big deal- until you go through it yourself. For me then, I struggled to see how I’d ever find someone I could get to that stage with again. But all of that aside, the main thing for me was the fact I was twenty-three. How would I fulfill my ‘plan’ of being engaged at 26, married by 28 and having my first kid by 30. My life, as I knew it, was in tatters. Dramatic, right? I was practically a haggard old maid sitting on the shelf, with my one large forehead wrinkle looking more Ramsey-esque than ever. And I’m only half joking. Because to a degree, that is how I felt. That mentality that I’d never find anyone else again, and that I’d ultimately never hit the life goals I thought I was so desperate to hit.
So, sticking with the theme of Feb 14th, that first Valentine’s Day was a toughie. We’re all to believe it’s the one day of the year where you should lavish your other half with chocolates and cards and flowers and From Me To You teddy bears. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the beauty of the day itself and I’d definitely consider myself a romantic. So having no one for the first time felt pretty wick, and I spent a few months after feeling lost, ‘mourning’ the loss of my life ‘plan.’
But am I just a bitter singleton? Nah. Defs not- and hear me out. I reckon I came to my senses pretty quickly all in all. This notion that we should have hit certain targets by certain ages is the most blo*dy soul destroying pile of rubbish I’ve ever come across. And once we take a second to realise this, then suddenly a cloud lifts and everything seems a lot brighter… which leads me to the ultimate quote. I’ve seen this bad boy floating around on Instagram for quite a while now, and It really resonates with me. The original quote comes from Ryan O’Connell, and his version was a little wilder so I’ve taken out the bits about doing coke (lol) and left the lines that apply to me. Either way, the general jist is the same.
“I think the reason why twenty-somethings are so fixated on age is because we feel a pressure to be a certain way at 23, at 25, at 29. There are all of these invisible deadlines with our careers and with love and life. We feel so much guilt for essentially acting our age and making mistakes. We’re obsessed with this idea of being domesticated and having our sh*t together. It’s kind of sad actually because I don’t think we ever fully get a chance to enjoy our youth. We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing things the wrong way. Youth may be truly wasted on the young.”
Youth may be wasted on the young. Powerful, right? It’s only now, that I’ve learned to take a chill pill. Life isn’t about hitting the mile stones. It’s about going at your own pace, and enjoying it along the way. In terms of relationships, in terms of careers, and in terms of, well, pretty much everything. My focus right now? My job, my friends, my family. Dating? Absolutely. How fun. I’m twenty four, not one hundred and four, and if something happens it happens. And if it doesn’t it doesn’t. So what? So long as I’m still having fun and making memories then I’m okay with that.
The status of being single in your 20’s and indeed into your 30’s and beyond shouldn’t define you. What should define you is whether you’re taking the time to really enjoy yourself and stop stressing about invisible deadlines. As for Valentine’s Day? Use it as an opportunity to show those you love- your friends, family, whoever you’re dating, to show how much you care. Or if you aren’t feeling it? Stick on Netflix and scoff a bar of chocolate all to yourself. Because that’s the kind of targets we should be hitting. We’re only young once after all.