Every now and again, even in the midst of ticking off my “Thirty Things to Do Before 30” list, my single life can feel a bit dry. The endless cycle of paying bills, staying fit, and “finding my passion” can feel like each day is spent taking care of number one and number one only.
What I really want is a sense of fulfillment from my life. Perhaps this seems all very passé to admit, but sometimes it can feel like the only way to achieve this is to find someone to marry, to vow to love another person—with all of the sacrifice that brings—all the days of my life. Part of that is a noble sense of self-sacrifice and building a life around family. But I have to admit that it is alsoreinforced byeverything about popular romanticism, which seems to present the vow of marriage as the culmination of our life’s adventures. The more I live, the more I realize this is simply not true.
Singlehood is not meant to be a waiting room for the altar. Our lives as single people are meant to be lived to the fullest. Anticipating marriage, especially if you have someone in mind, is a perfectly good thing to do. But the trouble is, we can get so fixated on the vows we hope to make to another person that we forget about the vows we should make to ourselves and the fulfillment that can be found as single women here and now.
Whether you are single, dating, or preparing to say “I do,” think about what promises you should make to yourself first. These vows will support you through trial, love, and loss and truly fulfill you all the days of your life. Repeat after me: I promise to. . .
01. KNOW AND LOVE MYSELF.
We all seek to be known and loved for who we are, but how often do we take the time to get to know ourselves and love ourselves unconditionally? This means knowing ourselves completely, the good and the not-so-good. What makes me feel fulfilled; what are my dreams; what sets me on edge; what tendencies do I have that hurt others? This is not an easy promise to keep, but it’s an important one to make. Keeping this promise means a lifetime of growth and self-discovery, and there’s no better time to start than now.
This doesn’t mean we should be content in our character flaws, but it does mean we discover them, work on them, and accept that we are lovable all the while. This might mean reading books, sitting in thought, journaling, opening up to a mentor or adviser, or discovering a sense of spirituality. Try taking on one flaw—or perceived flaw—at a time and make either accepting it or learning to be better your project.
It’s amazing how a healthy love of self stems from simply facing your weaknesses and examining them. For instance, I've realized that sometimes friends feel like I'm not fully present when we're together. This is because I get energy from being involved in a lot of projects, and those things are often ticking in the back of my mind. While being a go-getter can be good, something to work on is realizing that it's hindering my ability to be available for my friends. It’s likely that you will trace whatever “unlovable” flaw you have back to something good and beautiful, and you can start your path to self-understanding there.
02. BUILD A FAMILY.
It’s easy to take for granted the family we are given or to worry that we might never have one when we are single. But you don’t have to wait until you marry to have the fulfillment of family life. Promise to surround yourself with family, and start building it up now. It will certainly be easier now than when you have a husband and children of your own to attend to! This could mean nurturing your relationship with your sister or brother or forming friendships that function as family. Set up a day of the week that you call or email your sibling(s), and arrange regular family dinners with nearby relatives or friends you want to keep close. These relationships are the ones that truly make us happy and support us no matter what stage of life we are living.
03. MAKE A HOME.
When we view a living space as temporary, we often put in less effort to make it feel like home. We don’t want to paint because we will just have to paint over it when we move, and we don’t want to put nails in the wall because we will just have to spackle later. Trouble is, this adds to our sense of single-life-as-waiting-room and makes us feel as though we are just passing through rather than truly living.
Rather than waiting on marriage to nest and put down roots, work on building a space that truly feels like home. You'll be more at ease in your own space, and having a place that's yours rather than just a place you're living in will give your soul some needed respite. So dig in a little. Decorate, furnish, and purchase dishes that will make you proud to set your table. Set up a reading nook in the corner of your room, and get some house plants. Live in and enjoy your present place rather than your fantasy future.
04. NURTURE FRIENDSHIPS.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that marriage will be the only relationship you need to satisfy you. You need your friends now, and you will need them later. Promise to never let the friends you love slip away. Life gets crazy, that’s for certain, so work on your friendships now to be there for you forever.
Look at your schedule; if there is never time for friends, something must change. Set up recurring friend time, like a brunch the first Saturday of every month or a girls’ night out the last Friday of every month. Make it a point to know and remember important details in your friends’ lives, check in on their latest projects, and invite them to participate in yours. No matter how your life plays out, it will always be full when you pour yourself into your friendships.
05. PURSUE PASSIONS.
Taking up hobbies, mastering your art, or checking off items on that bucket list will help you appreciate your life as it is now. But more than that, pursuing your passions will help you to fulfill your first promise, to know and love yourself. Challenge yourself, and investigate the world around you. This isn’t about making your life appear exciting for your Facebook friends—this is about flourishing as a person. Join clubs, attend debate panels, take music lessons, or learn a language. Discovering your strengths and fostering new ones opens your eyes to just how incredible and worthy of love you really are.
06. CULTIVATE DISCIPLINE.
Nobody likes to feel as if life is spinning outside their control, with no way of influencing which direction their days go. Some of the happiest people in the world are those who practice discipline. People who seek order in their lives are not trying to control them, they are merely seizing the opportunities life presents to them. It's much easier to accomplish your goals—or even to make time to date—if you have practiced the discipline to do it.
At first sticking to a routine may seem prohibitive, but over time you will begin to realize that those immovable gestures amount to so much more. Self-discipline is endurance training for life’s inevitable trials. When your world turns upside down, a practice in discipline will keep you afloat and offer you autonomy beyond life’s volatile conditions. Try waking up at the same time every morning (hint: Success here requires a regular bedtime schedule, too) and setting aside time for the things you want to prioritize in your day, like exercise, prayer, reading, or just a well-balanced breakfast. At first these little things may require Herculean effort, but with practice they will become part of the natural order of your day.
07. SEEK SILENCE.
We’re always plugged in, and our phones buzz nonstop, so this is a difficult promise to keep. Yet even the most extroverted extrovert needs quiet time to process and unwind. Promise yourself that you won’t run away from moments of silence when you fall into them naturally. This could be silence in a conversation, a ten-minute wait at your doctor’s office, no good songs playing on the radio, or a date who is running a few minutes late. Rather than picking up your phone and scrolling through Instagram, just be. Promise to also seek out silence. This may mean finding a quiet place to take your lunch break; taking a yearly retreat with the express purpose of meditating, praying, or just thinking in silence; or setting aside twenty minutes of silence before bed to process your day.
08. TAKE CARE OF MY BODY.
This promise isn’t about staying thin or looking smokin’ hot for your next big event. Taking care of your body is about treating it like it is precious—because it is. And it's always better to cultivate good habits sooner rather than later. Don’t jump onto diet trends because everyone is doing them. Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel, and the same goes for exercise, too. Keep your body strong and limber. Stay on top of your regular doctor appointments. Your body will thank you.