Singlehood actually has two phases. You have to live through one to get to the other and discover yourself in the process
I wish someone had told me how fantastic single life could be. The way people talk, it seems like a kind of sad, incomplete state to be in. Look at the vocabulary of it all: ‘get’ married (attain something) or ‘remain’ single -- be left behind to wallow in the dregs of your sorry, pathetic, tedious existence. But experience has taught me that nothing could be further from the truth. Let me tell you something about being single: it’s bloody fantastic.
But before it’s fantastic, it’s horrible. Singlehood actually has two phases. You have to live through one to get to the other and discover yourself in the process.
I call the first the ‘waiting-room period’ which is foisted upon you due to age, circumstance, and a host of lousy suitors who are more interested in your culinary skills than your conversation. Like waiting rooms, this time is boring, frustrating, and takes you nowhere. You wait with baited breath for life to begin and resent the hell out of everyone when it doesn’t.
The second phase begins with you walking out of the waiting room to realise that life is now. And you begin to take responsibility for it. This is Selfhood. You are given the infinitely precious gift of time. You stop scanning the horizon for someone who once was or who will be. Loneliness turns solitude: you begin to take long walks, read and, sometimes, spend time for and with yourself, doing absolutely nothing, which is an art. Contentment begins to take root. Luxury becomes a hot tub in which you dip your feet and keep them there for as long as you want. Your mind is allowed to wander because there isn’t anyone impinging upon your time -- no husband, no in-laws, no children. Even singles who support their parents or siblings still relish this ‘me-time’, which becomes more readily available because they are unattached.
But is singlehood a time of selfishness? Initially, in the waiting-room phase, yes. But here’s the thing, when you spend time on yourself, you start thinking about how you can become better. This improvement can be initially superficial, but it slowly works its way deeper and you discover that you are an infinitely creative person.
My creativity manifested itself in writing. A friend found she had a penchant for numbers and started a business. Yet another through producing some of the most exquisite clothes imaginable. And presto: you start giving of yourself to the world in a manner that sustains you and other people. It’s the most constructive and healthy of symbioses. Being on your own makes all this inevitable -- the boredom of loneliness will turn into abundance if the process of life is allowed to unfold.
You go out into the real world. On your own. Fight your battles all by yourself; armed with an idealism, intelligence and a truckload of stubbornness. You fall down but then make the miraculous discovery that you can pick yourself up and move right along. The fear of failure becomes diluted, for only you yourself are at stake, and you are discovering that you can, in fact, take care of you. And you find courage to fearlessly make your way into the world. You inspire others and yourself in the process.
And it doesn’t hurt that whatever you earn, in terms of respect, money, your repute is yours to appreciate. The adventures that lie in the quest for monetary independence are themselves worth the several leaps of faith that most singles take all the time. The biggest joy that a single life well-lived affords is the financial independence to seek newer avenues and experiences that you’d otherwise have to think about very practically if there were other people at stake.
With all this, you begin to foster very real relationships. You begin to really see people, talk to them and exchange notes on the business of life, love, loss, whatever you will. You are vulnerable and so are they and this forges a bond, cemented by deep conversation and a sense that you’ve found some kindred spirits who are swimming upstream with you. And you’ll see that empathy becomes a default state of being. You feel more. You become kinder and compassionate. You also become a more complete person and this means that any relationships you enter into, romantic or otherwise, have a greater chance of being healthy and meaningful.
Also read: Not tuned for ‘single’ women
To really enjoy the undiluted effects of single life, take a vacation by yourself. Splurge or save as you so wish. Sit alone at a table and see people approach you because you seem so open to life. You are not a partner in a self-contained unit of two, three or four -- you’ll notice that you will encounter more interesting people when you’re by yourself. This makes your playing field so much vaster and the opportunities to make newer connections present themselves again and again. Life just gets bigger and more promising.
Above all, selfhood will liberate you. Maria Patel, a documentary maker and fabulous single who roams the country making stories, couldn’t have put it better: "The freedom of being unattached to the flock makes you feel like a feather; light, happy and free. I don’t want to give up on anything I have today."