Hello, friends! If you’ve been a follower of Hay’s for a while, you may have seen me pop-up around here at some point… but nevertheless, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Whitney, one of Haley’s best friends (and often, the one responsible for coaxing her into another adventure… case and point, this trip we’re currently on together in Spain!).
My blog, Blonde Atlas, is a platform full of travel resources from the 30+ countries and 150+ cities I’ve visited over the last few years. Travel is my greatest passion and what I spend the majority of my life’s energy on. In addition to creating comprehensive guides for each destination and sharing general travel knowledge I’ve acquired, I also offer trip consulting to help you effectively plan your own adventures! All that to say, if you enjoy following all of Hay’s travel content, then you and I are going to get along just beautifully 🙂
The two of us have been to SO many places around the world together (complete with matching suitcases!): everywhere from Paris, Budapest, Canada, Salzburg, Germany, Chicago, and of course- being flatmates for a season when we lived in London a couple of years ago. And while I could easily write a novel about any of the aforementioned trips (or the dozens of others I didn’t speak to), travel actually isn’t the matter I want to focus on in this post. Instead, let’s address a different kind adventure she and I have both been navigating: singleness.
Haley and I actually became close friends a few years ago during a time when my whole world had turned upside down. Within a short period of time, I lost my relationship of 7 years, a whole set of friends that came with it, and then to top it all off – I lost my job.
At first glance, singleness wasn’t a status I wanted anything to do with (and the other losses amplified that pain even more). But before I skip straight to a list of platitudes about all the reasons why it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me (which, for the record, it was), I don’t want to minimize or negate the pain that can accompany navigating singleness. If finding a companion to share your life with is something you yearn for (which, for the record, is a beautiful desire and completely valid) life can feel like a crescendo of cruelty the longer that time goes on without one. Yet as quickly as I’ll admit that singleness can feel grueling at times, I must also profess the transformation that has occured in my life because of it.
You should know that prior to entering this season of singleness, I’d been a serial monogamist (we’re talking ELEVEN YEARS of back-to-back relationships). Needless to say, being completely on my own wasn’t a subject I was very well versed in. Realizing this about myself, I made a concerted effort not put a proverbial Band-Aid on a bullet wound, and finally show up fully present to embrace what it means to be single.
I’ve learned far more over the last <almost> four years than I could begin to articulate in a single blog post – perhaps even in a novel! So for the sake of brevity, I’ll simply highlight a few of my pivotal realizations I’ve learned from doing life on my own. It’s my hope that if you too have ever found yourself feeling frustrated by your own singleness, you’ll find freedom in celebrating these beautiful truths that can co-exist in that space and even leave you feeling grateful to be exactly where you are.
NOW IS THE TIME TO FOCUS ON YOU.
How many times have we heard this cliché? But man, is it accurate. When someone first uttered this phrase to me I had to close my eyes to hide that they were rolling with annoyance. But there is so much freedom in this truth. Ever hear someone say they wish they’d moved to a new city? Or learned a new language? Or backpacked through Europe? People are dripping with regret for their lost dreams and quite often the culprit is a laundry list of responsibilities and obligations that stood in their way.
But as a single? The world is your oyster. Move if you want a change. Use your evenings to take a language or cooking class. Save some money, quit your job, and travel Europe for a bit if that’s what you really want. Being on my own taught me that there were literally no valid excuses to not be fully chasing after the life I wanted to build and the person I wanted to become, and so I finally started working on both. I’ve invested in my emotional intelligence by going to therapy regularly. I’ve invested in my health by prioritizing work-outs and being conscious about what I put into my body. I’ve invested in expanding my education by reading frequently and taking classes in topics that interest me. And I’ve invested in my dreams by starting my own business and planning experiences that enrich my life. This is the time when you’re allowed, hell, encouraged even to be selfish… so embrace it. Seize every opportunity to become the best version of yourself that you possibly can be.
IT’S REALLY OK NOT TO BE DATING.
Friends, family, and even colleagues have asked countless times over the years if I’m dating anyone. The question can feel uncomfortable if the answer is “no.” But try to remember that their intentions are almost always pure. Without pointing fingers or making generalizations, a lot of people think the solution to losing a love is to find another. And while most of us would agree we’d like to again at some point, I’d argue that there is a lot more out there for you to discover before simply finding another relationship. So fight the urge to over-explain or agree to a date simply because people are asking. At the end of the day, they just want you to be happy- but only you know what is required to make that happen. I went over a full year without going on a single date so I could properly grieve, grow and focus on myself before even considering bringing someone else into the picture. Timelines like this aren’t a one size fits all, but for me, that was exactly what I needed to carry me from someone who was so depressed she wasn’t eating, to someone who today, is having so much fun being single and going on dates that I literally have a “Flag Collection” note on my phone (which represents the guys from various countries I’ve been on dates with around the world). At the end of the day, you should only entertain the idea of dating, in any capacity, when you feel genuinely ready and excited about it—not a moment sooner. You’ll be doing both yourself and your future partner a favor.
DISCOVERING WHO YOU ARE IS EXHILARATING.
Relationships are about compromise, and that sacrificial gesture is a beautiful thing. But you know what else is pretty wonderful? Being able to make all of your own decisions and discovering more about what makes you, you. After years of agreeing on restaurants, movies, and things to do, there was something so liberating about making simple decisions all on myself.
I discovered that I’m actually a significantly happier person when I’m hiking or adventuring on the weekends instead of always watching Netflix on the couch. Or that I love a good laugh as much as the next girl, but what really lights my soul on fire is someone who is a great conversationalist. It’s far too easy to unintentionally “lose yourself” when you’re so focused on the person you love- and what a tragic mistake that would be. Singleness is the optimal time to discover all your quirks and nuances and hopes. It’s when you let yourself try new things that lead to realizations like how much you enjoy thriller novels or unwinding to jazz music with a glass of cabernet. Think of it as an Easter egg hunt where you’re constantly discovering treasure after treasure that holds a little surprise you were never aware of before. Get curious, and eat up the delicious goodness that each gift offers.
YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK.
So many things are easier with two people involved: household chores, traveling logistics, car maintenance, the list goes on. So when those tasks you used to divide suddenly fall entirely on you, it can feel overwhelming (there’s nothing like a flat tire weeks after a breakup to cue the tears and make you feel defeated. But if you can get past your emotions and self-pity, you quickly learn to suck it up and just get it done. And suddenly, that self-pity turns to self-confidence. Because you just did that hard thing all by yourself.
I used to feel uneasy even taking a 5 hour road-trip on my own, but today? I’ve travelled for five-month periods time across Europe and even started my own business – all without needing a companion to hold my hand or help me along the way. Long story short, I’ve learned that I’m capable of far more than I ever gave myself credit for in the past… it just took getting outside of my comfort zone to realize it. So whatever challenge lies ahead of you, channel that inner Olivia Pope badass – because you’ve got it handled.
YOU ARE ALREADY ENOUGH.
Whether we say it out loud or not, being in a relationship feels validating. It strokes our ego to have a companion who frequently reminds us that we’re loved, that we’re beautiful, or that we have a place in this world. But the reality is, you already are all of those things. And the more you are willing to sit with yourself and learn who you are (apart from anybody else), you will eventually start to look at yourself in the mirror every morning and know that it’s true without needing anyone else to affirm it.
And besides, don’t you want to be more than just someone else’s companion? What makes you, you is far more fascinating than one single characteristic. I wrote a blog a couple years ago with a similar sentiment (read “More Than Pretty” here) but to get straight to the point… there are so many different roles and traits and attributes that we’re each comprised of. And when we focus too closely on a single one of them, whether that’s being a companion or being beautiful, we run the risk of failing to nurture the other areas that are equally, if not more, important. Don’t forget to focus on your kindness, your bravery, your generosity, or whatever else makes you uniquely you… because you’re so much more than a relationship status.
MORE SEASONS LIE AHEAD.
In the early days of my singleness, I found myself lamenting to a mentor about how alone I felt. My desires for marriage or perhaps a family suddenly felt so far away. She took my cheeks in her hands and squeezed them sternly. “You have the rest of your life to do that, my dear. But this is your season for adventure.” She then went on to tell me that while she adores her child and her husband, she appreciates them so much more because of the years she spent being single: living in London, exploring the world, and getting to know herself. “This time that you’re cursing under your breath will very likely be the same one you look back on so fondly someday,” she reminded me. “Don’t miss it.”
Today I realize what a gift it is that I’m able to live out of a suitcase and lead the nomadic lifestyle that I do. Someday when I’m married or perhaps if I have children, I’m well aware I won’t be able to live as freely as I do today. Hell, even the ability to go to a yoga class at any hour that I please would be considered groundbreaking to some mothers whose lives are lived following a meticulous time table to properly care for their families. And while I believe there is richness and beauty to be found in all of these varying ways of life, I’ve simply learned no way of life is permeant and we should embrace where we are, trusting there will be gifts that come with the next season too… whenever it decides to arrive.
DON’T SETTLE FOR “GOOD ENOUGH”.
Looking back on the years that I was in a relationship, I was actually living a perfectly good life. But if I’m being honest, I was also drifting into what was easy and mindless instead of actively building and fighting for what I truly desired deep down in my core. In fact, regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not, it’s actually pretty easy to have a good life using that approach… but you’ll never get a great one that way. The problem is that none of us like to be uncomfortable. In fact, we spend most of our lives trying to make sure that we are comfortable (hence yoga pants, Tempurpedic mattresses and even insurance policies). But after walking through the trials that I have over past few years, I can now say in hindsight that the pain that comes with refusing to settle for “good enough”, no matter which area of life, is one of the greatest gifts and the largest opportunities to grow. Not settling means standing up for what you know you deserve, even when it means sacrificing something that provides instant gratification. It means having honest conversations that are hard, but get you closer to where you really want to be. It’s through heartbreak, loneliness, confusion and pain that we transform from good to great. So if we look a bit more closely, we’ll often find that these daunting challenges which seem so terribly uncomfortable are usually much more of a blessing than they are a curse.
While I’m certainly no expert, I can speak from my own personal experience that fully taking advantage of singleness, even the deeply painful parts, has been the best decision of my life. It’s made me more in touch than ever with who I am and what I really want out of life. It’s allowed me to approach dating (when I finally got there) with a lighthearted sense of ease instead of an eager state of desperation. And it’s lead me to see the world while accomplishing more personally fulfilling goals than I ever dreamed were possible for myself.
Do I think I’m a better person than my taken friends because I’m single? Of course not. My hope in articulating all of this certainly isn’t to protest relationships or judge anyone for their timelines. In fact, some of the people I love and admire most are happily married, and I definitely still hope to abdicate my bachelorette throne and graduate to that stage of life someday. I’ve simply observed that being single is far too often worn more as a scarlet letter rather than a badge of honor, and I believe it should be the other way around.
Singleness is a sweet, beautiful place that’s intended to be cherished, appreciated, and fully taken advantage of. It’s our time to become a better person for ourselves, but also for the people we’ll end up with someday. So if you’ve yet to find your life partner, it’s my hope that these words will leave you feeling empowered and excited about exactly where you are.
Remember: now is your time—and you never know how much of it you have left before everything changes…
Thanks so much for reading my post and I hope you found it helpful. It’s been so fun making an appearance over here and I’d love if if we remained friends! To keep in touch, follow me on Instagram and sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of my blog’s homepage. I’m moving to London for a while this week, so I promise to share lots of fun adventures along the way…
Hope to see you around!