There are more than enough top 10 lists out there pointing out the benefits of being single. The pros of why being without a mate produces all these side effects that beg to be recognized. You know the ones I’m talking about. Sometimes they come off sympathetic, sometimes patronizing, sometimes like propaganda, and often times far from genuine.

It wasn’t until I read yet another list that I saw one of the common perks in a completely different light. In an article in Elle Canada, I read this reason:

It’s all about you, all the time. That about sums it up. You can do what you want, go where you want, eat what you want, wear what you want, sleep in when you want, get up when you want, shop where you want….

The list goes on and on, but you get the point!

I’m the first in line to say that heightened freedoms rank high on my list of reasons why being single is glorious. But something about reading, “It’s all about you, all the time” made me cringe and feel embarrassed that this was the focus being shoveled onto the plates of single women everywhere.

Instead of sounding like unabashed freedom, this reason sounds like a license for extreme narcissism. I’m not lambasting the liberty to eat an entire carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream or snatch that pair of Prada shoes you’ve been eyeing for months. But we’re missing the plot if we live by this reason and see nothing wrong with it. Instead of an opportunity to tap into self-gluttony, it is an incredible opportunity to experience even greater things in the single season.

Since it’s an inarguable fact that you have a greater swath of time (and usually resources) to work with living the single life, utilize it. Instead of tearing out lists explaining why you’re better off ignoring Valentine’s Day and Barry White ballads, rewrite your focus.

(Disclaimer: None of these things are meant to “fill” your time until you meet your future hubbie. Killing time for a greater end is no way to use such a beautiful season of life.)

Travel

Is there a place you’ve been dreaming of visiting since you were a little girl? What about a house boating or coastal road trip with your girlfriends? Maybe a trip to Costa Rica to learn about the culture, people, and history?

You can buy all the Lonely Planet books in the world, but at some point, the only thing that’s going to get you places is the guts to go for it. So leap! There are so many fascinating places in this world. (Keep in mind: there’s a difference between sipping mojitos poolside in Cabo San Lucas and trekking to a different culture for a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime trip.) Choose one or a few places, and then go alone or with girlfriends — just go!

Get Involved

Have you always wanted to do development work overseas? Do you have a heart for immigrants or youth on the street? What about the environment — being on a clean-up crew or tree planting project? There are heaps of ways you can take what naturally interests you and use it to serve a greater purpose. Whether it’s people, the earth, animals, food, or travel, you can pull at the threads of what you love and find ways to serve with it. So get involved!

Time With The Girls

What do you love: novels, Parisian food, Jamie Oliver TV, old French films, sitting at a café with Brazilian coffee? Take one and find a little group that share the same interest (close girlfriends, your mom and sisters, or a small group of women mentors), and soak it in with them every couple weeks.

You can tailor this time to be so lush: add books, add different meeting spots, add food, add anything you want. What do I love most about being in the single season? I love, love, love the time to pursue whatever fancies me.

New People, New Interests

Have you always wanted to learn Italian? Take an art history class? Try windsurfing or the drums? I know it might sound so cliché, “You’re single! Take a cooking class or pick up archery!” But honestly, it’s an opportune time time in life to run with something you’ve always thought of doing and actually do it. You can pick anything your heart desires – a language, a sport, an art. And when you pursue it, you automatically open yourself up to meeting new people you might never have met otherwise. Who knows what kind of relationships can stem from that – maybe travel buddies, fellow tree planters, French film comrades? You just never know.

I hope this mini-list has a different feel than Elle’s article. It should and I hope it does. It’s not meant to come off sympathetic, patronizing, like propaganda, or far from genuine. I adore the single season so much and these reasons are why. Not because I’m looking at it like I can simply “do what I want, go where I want, eat what I want, wear what I want” but because incredible opportunities, travel experiences, and deep relationships hang like ripe, round apples, yours for the taking.

I’ve been back and forth to South Africa a few times, went to school in a different country, spent time alone in Holland and Uganda, done international development work in the slums and taught AIDS awareness in remote villages, and I’ve met my closest friends by pursuing a love for Africa. That isn’t a rattled off list to merely show something for my time; it’s what I’m truly pursuing in this season, my single season. Shoes and ice cream are all fine and good, but from my experience these are fulfilling and rich ways to spend my days.

There will always be versions of the “benefits of being single” list, especially around February 14, but choose early on that if this is the season you’re in, you’re going to define it. And however you do define it, apply a line straight out of Shakespeare, “The world’s mine oyster.”

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This article was written by: Danielle Kreeft

Photo Credit: Riya Goel