I am a month away from being 19 years old, and I've never had a boyfriend. Well, I've never had a real boyfriend. I dated around in pre-school just like most kids, snagged a few boys in middle school and called them my boyfriends even though all that meant was awkward notes passed in the classroom, and sitting by each other at lunch so we could trade fruit snacks and animal crackers. The closest I ever got to an actual relationship was my freshman year of high school, and since that romance consisted entirely of text messages, 20 questions, and occasional nervous sweaty hand holding at youth group under the watchful eye of our ever-present parents, I don't actually think it counts. I had crushes, was crushed on, and nearly dated (as in I've only been on one date in my entire life) several times in high school, but never have I had a serious, committed romantic relationship with another person. I've also never been kissed, which is another weird (and slightly embarrassing) thing to admit to the world, but it's true and I have a reason for saying it.

You'd probably think to go all these years without a boyfriend I'd either have to have a terrible personality, or just simply not be attractive. I don't think I'm either of those things, and it's taken me 18 years of being single and coming to terms with it to realize that. For the longest time in high school I felt like a boyfriend was right around the corner. I looked at all the people around me in happy, loving relationships and convinced myself that I would find someone. I wasted months crushing on boys who either never gave me a second look, or just always looked at me as a friend and, yes, it affected me. It made me question my looks, my personality, the clothes I wore, the way I put on makeup (to be honest though it probably was not on point in middle school anyway). It was a major part of my massive self image issues, and then one day it wasn't.

One day, or rather, after years of feeling like I just wasn't good enough for anyone to want me, I realized hating myself for not being able to find a boyfriend was a ridiculous thing to do. Part of that realization was the friends I had, some of whom have been and still are eternally single like myself, and part of it was just accepting that my life wasn't always going to take the path I so desperately wanted it to take. I didn't need a boyfriend to make my life worth living, or to prove that I am attractive and smart. In fact, the only person I needed to prove that to was myself. But through all of this, I discovered that I actually like being single. I am who I am today partly because I've been single my whole life, and for the first time I'm actually pretty happy with who I am.

Being single throughout my whole life allowed me to define myself without having to worry about another person defining me. I've watched too many girls get caught up in a boyfriend and lose themselves in the process, and I never even got close to having that experience. I also got to figure myself out and learn to love myself all on my own, and all without having to worry about figuring someone else out and loving them as well. I can't say I've never experienced heartbreak, but I've also never been truly hurt by a person I was in love with, because I've never been in love.

I've learned that platonic love is just as important (if not more important) and beautiful as romantic love, and I've never had to worry about a boy coming between me and my friends. I know how to be alone and be okay with that, and how to enjoy and appreciate my own company. I'm not hating on people in relationships or saying they can't experience these things. I'm just saying that being single, just like having a boyfriend, taught me a lot about myself and molded me into the person I am.

Saying all this doesn't mean I'm not open to a relationship, or that I turn my nose up at people my age who have had plenty of relationships. I'm just as open to dating as I've ever been (probably more so actually because I was not feeling that vibe my senior year of high school), but I know now that I don't need to rush into a relationship just to be considered "normal."

I know that there's someone out there for me, and I also recognize that someone wasn't in my past but in my future. I still believe in true love, and I probably always will. Unless I'm like 70 and still single, then I'll settle for a few cats and a dog or two instead (which, if we're being honest, is the truest form of love there is). Being single your whole life isn't sad, and it isn't something to look down on. It took me a long time to realize that not ever having a boyfriend didn't mean I wasn't worthy of being loved in that way, and I wish I'd had someone to tell me that I was just as worthy as any other girl.

If you've never had a boyfriend, or never been kissed, know that you're not alone and that you really are beautiful and lovable, you just haven't found the right person to fall in love with you yet. My soulmate wasn't in the hallways of my high school and he may not be on the campus of my college, but that's OK. I love being single. I'm not ashamed of never having a boyfriend, and you shouldn't be either. Love yourself, love your friends and your family, love your dog, and don't be afraid to not be in love with anyone.