"Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape." - Bell Hooks

Since my last relationship, a lot of people have asked me why I have chosen to stay single. More specifically, why am I dodging men who could potentially treat me good? Why am I dodging dates and hanging out with men who have shown me nothing but their undivided attention and interest? The only answer I have for that is that I am not ready. I am not ready to be with anyone romantically, besides myself. This facade that we have that women and men do not need to be single is self-destructive and completely unhealthy. I say that because not too long ago my ex-boyfriend and I attempted to rekindle things, and when things didn't work out, a few days later he found someone else. This is not to "throw shade" but to let you guys know that I felt the need to find someone else because he had someone else now. How sad is that? I somehow felt regret that because I let go of someone who wanted to try to finally, maybe, treat me right, I would be forever single. I felt this need to find someone then and there. The only reason I thought any of that is because we voice this ongoing fear of being single or that there is something wrong with single individuals.

I have had this constant feeling of "you need someone" since my last relationship but I know that isn't what I want. I don't think I have ever given myself time to be truly single. I see friends and family members enjoy their relationships and I get jealous. I wonder why no one wants me as I dodge dates with great guys. Although I say all of this, there is nothing I want less than to be committed to another individual right now. I don't want anything serious and the only thing that scares me about that is society's views on single individuals.

Being single is not scary and honestly, if you take this time out to enjoy yourself you can make the most of it. Not giving into my negative thoughts about needing someone has made me enjoy being single that much more. I am my happiest when I am not tied down to someone or holding that kind of responsibility. My idea of a relationship has been covered up by things that I know to be toxic. I can go out with my friends and wear whatever I want to wear, I can hang out with whoever I want to hang out with, I don't have to answer to anyone or explain myself, and I don't have to hide parts of myself for someone else to love me. And obviously, me saying that shows you how unprepared I am for another relationship.

I have used my time to make new friends as well as get to know myself. I spent so much of my time in a toxic relationship and became so dependent on someone who abused me, I forgot what it is like to enjoy myself. I am enjoying all the parts of myself that were once seen as a problem. I am finding out that I love parts of me that I was once forced to silence. I am loving the way that I get to know people and how open I really am. I am now letting go of things that do not serve me because I now know what I don't want in my life. I know what I want my life to look like. I now know that I have to set standards and boundaries for others to be a part of my life instead of shaping myself to fit their life. I am enjoying being who I am and that is what being single should be like for everyone. Being single should be the time you enjoy yourself and take yourself on dates.

I have found that I like more foods than I previously thought. I stopped going places I do not enjoy or have no fun at while trying new places. I have become more devoted to where I will be in the next few months and how I want things to be for me once I graduate. I like the way I ask too many questions. I love expressing myself in any way that I can, even if that makes someone else feel uncomfortable. Speaking of which, I now no longer make myself feel uncomfortable so that others can feel comfortable. I have been saying "no" more than ever and setting boundaries for people. I am not who I once was and whoever I am becoming, not only do I love her, but me loving her makes her want to do better. I am loving myself the way I want someone else to love me in the future.

I am not saying that being in a relationship takes any of this away from you, but if you are like me and got out of an unhealthy relationship, you need this time. You need this time to love yourself and to be that example of how others should love you. You need this time to set boundaries. But not only those things, you need this time to forgive yourself. If I jump into anything now or would have after my last relationship, I would have postponed my healing process. I would have potentially found someone else who wouldn't treat me right, someone else who would yell at me and call me names and do everything I once allowed. I let those things slide because I didn't love myself, I didn't set boundaries, and I blamed myself for being the reason those things happened to me. But now is different.

Now is the time I spend on myself, doing things that make me happy. Now I can leave for Thailand and join the Peace Corp without worrying about another individual. I can take long trips without feeling I need to come back. The world is mine now and I am more excited than ever for things that are out of my control. Yes, I want someone to hold me at night and to sleep next to someone who cares about me. Yes, I want someone to be there and to love me romantically. I somehow want all the things that I can essentially give myself or receive from people who unconditionally love me but respect my boundaries. And after my last relationship, I cannot let someone love me if I do not love myself. No guy will accept me for who I am when I am unsure of who I am. Sometimes I think I am ready but I know that that is just loneliness speaking. And I will be happy spending the rest of my life single if it means I am happy, and that is okay.