The 12 Things I Learned My First Year of Being Single

By Chelsea Irvine

Chelsea Irvine
Chelsea Irvine

Store shelves are already blooming with pinks and reds and angelic cursive swooshing quotes about love. Chocolate hearts abound.  Valentine’s Day is upon us.

I’ve never been one to gush about love or long for public displays of affection, but Valentine’s Day is one of those days that reminds the single person that being single means being alone. Last year was my first single Valentine’s Day in eight years; the first time in nearly a decade that I didn’t have someone to pretend I wasn’t hoping would send me flowers. (Every girl wants flowers, no matter how many times they tell you they don’t. #guilty)

As I reflect on my year of singlehood since I was a young 20-something, I’ve come to many conclusions: It was an amazing year; the years will only get better; I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot. For those of you recently single, habitually single or thinking about taking the leap back into the single pool, let me share with you a few lessons I learned in the last year:

  1. Break-ups are hard. Even when they’re “easy”. We weren’t working. We no longer made each other better people. We had a talk, agreed, he moved out while I was at work the next day, and we didn’t talk for six months. Easy, right? Well, I can tell you now that coming home after seven years to a house without a couch, a bed, a dresser and a partner was not the easiest thing I have ever done. But, I took a deep breath, slept uncomfortably on my futon for a few days and made a point to make the single life my new normal. It was tough at first, but knowing we made the right decision and the world was now at my beck and call made each day a little easier and a lot more fun.
  2. Take some time to be by yourself. For the first time since my early 20s I was alone. For the first time in my life, I lived in my own home, on my own. Let me tell you, the first rule I broke was to open that bottle of wine and drink it all by myself. I savored the silence (I didn’t have a TV for months). Not everyone gets a chance to live alone. Cook smelly food (#teamtofu). Let your pet sleep in your bed. Do whatever you want, because it’s your house and nobody else can tell you not to.
  3. Live with someone amazingly fun. Eight months into my single life, I got lucky and my best friend since 7th grade happened to get a new gig in Sac and needed a place to stay.  He’s basically the browner, gayer, better coiffed version of me. It. Has. Been. Epic. While we know it won’t last forever, we are living it up, one glass (ok, ok, one bottle) at a time. We share chores, dog snuggles, stories about suitors and the occasional tears. It’s like the perfect relationship without the pressure to have sex or worrying about getting jealous (except when I score the date with the hottie he’s been eyeing for years #iwin) or being pressured to do things you don’t really want to (except having to listen to the Housewives occasionally).
  4. Just say yes. Bump into a friend and they invite you to join them in Puerto Vallarta in two weeks? Immediately book your flight. A bunch of new friends going to a music festival and you recognize zero bands on the ticket?  Go anyway. It’s those random opportunities where you meet people and have experiences you may never otherwise have. You’re not going to meet anyone sitting on your couch in your pajamas. (Ok, maybe I was asked out one time by a cute delivery man while watching bad midday TV with my dad in my fat boy pants, but that’s for an entirely different blog.) Get out and do things and make it the year of just saying yes.
  5. Just say yes: dating edition. Blind date with a Republican? Go. A cute divorced father of two wants to grab drinks on Saturday and you still don’t understand what, exactly, a diaper genie is? Just do it. Everyone has a story to tell and most stories are worth listening to. The only way to find out is to just say yes. Sure, you could end up on a date with a narcissistic serial dater with mommy issues, or a Republican, but as long as you make sure to stick with the “I’ll meet you there” rule, you never have to see him again.
  6. Enjoy being able to do what you want, when you want. Soon, life will again be filled with significant others and their family events and their work parties and maybe children and their kid birthday parties and PTA meetings and soccer practice. Savor the “you time”. It’s fleeting.
  7. Many of the things you did as a “we” are even more fun as a “just me”. Hello, singles line at Kirkwood! Not only are there no lines, but you get the bonus of a five minute speed chat with whoever is lucky enough to ride the lift with you. Other fun outings: Republic games, concerts, wine tasting, afternoons on sunny patios, boat days… The options are endless.
  8. The pool is not empty. Think Sacramento (or any town) is an arid wasteland when it comes to men? Not a chance. Hit Low Brau on a Sunday afternoon. Not only do you get half off bottles of wine (!!), but the ratio is pretty amazing, especially if you’re into the lumbersexual vibe. Take a Monday night and pretend to care about football at Firestone. Have a lazy brunch at Capitol Dime and people watch the busy Handle District. Enjoy the sunshine and a big beer at Der Biergarten.  Have a post-gym latte at Temple. Be creative and you’ll see.
  9. Plan ahead during holidays. My family is small; my brother has embraced his inner hipster and moved to Portlandia, and my extended family is in So Cal, so it’s only my mom and me locally. I made the mistake of not planning ahead during my first single Christmas last year and ended up alone much of the day, instead of fully engulfed in the in-law family time I had gotten used to for the last seven years. It hurt a little bit. This year, I made plans for Christmas Eve to be with those I care about, and I made sure I wouldn’t be flipping channels looking for bad holiday TV on Christmas Day. Grab a friend and have a cocktail or make a fun dinner. Go for a holiday hike. And as for February 14th, just say no to Valentine’s Day corporate consumerism and make it a day to appreciate those you love instead of focusing on “the one”.
  10. The most important thing in life is NOT finding a partner. I’ve heard too many times my solo friends dwelling on their single status. I get it, sometimes being alone can be lonely. But it won’t always be that way. Focusing on what you don’t have casts a shadow everyone can see. Complaining has never solved any of the world’s problems and this is no different.
  11. Take life, all of it, with a grain of salt. There will be amazing times and there will be heartbreaks. For each bad experience, the universe will compensate five-fold with great memories that last a lifetime. I had what I thought was going to be the most epic New Year’s Eve turn into one of the hardest starts to a year I’ve ever had. Let me give all of you fair warning, pre-emptively drinking an entire bottle of DayQuil to stave off a cold is NOT the way to stay up past 10:00 pm entertaining your hot visiting New Year’s Eve date. #notetoself But after giving myself a day to feel bad about my missed opportunity at NYE perfection, I dusted myself off and chalked it up to remembering to read the doctor’s recommended servings next time. And my hot date and I are still friends, a year later.
  12. Your family and your friends are there for you and will always be there for you. I couldn’t have made the life changes I did without my family and friends. 2014 would not have been the amazing year it was without my family and friends. I am so happy to have the amazing support system I do, and I appreciate them every single day. Especially when they bring over the good wine. (Yes, they know me too well.)

To all the couples out there: I hope you enjoy your lovefest of a holiday. To all my #teamsingles: This is the year! Live. It. Up.


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1 Comment

  1. Melinda says

    Amazingly truthful & inspirational!!

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