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18 Years in No Man’s Land: Changing the Perception of Singlehood

It was three a.m. and I was enjoying some much-needed beauty sleep when I awoke to the sound of lip-smacking and spit-swapping. I quickly sat up and was greeted to a boy’s bum, bare and pale.

Out of impulse, I rolled my eyes and groaned (a little louder than I anticipated). Before my roommate and “mystery man” could acknowledge my reaction, I hid myself under my comforter and buried my head under my pillows. I tried my best to ignore the moans echoing off my dorm room walls and finally fell asleep. While my instant reaction was one of shock and disgust, I realized that my roommate had been with the same boyfriend for two years prior to her current “engagement.” She had been in a real relationship…and I couldn’t relate.

For the past 6,740 days, I’ve been single.

Besides a quick 24-hour rendezvous in fifth grade when the new kid asked me out through AIM, I have been living it up on my own. Since I can remember, I’ve been telling myself that being in a relationship is for the weak, for those who rely on others to determine their happiness. For years, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t need someone else to make me happy, call me beautiful, hold the door for me, pay for my dinner, teach me to use the machines at the gym, help me study for my math exam, or comfort me when things go wrong. For the past 18 years, I’ve been telling myself that staying single is the best way for me to discover who I am and to build my own identity. But now, I’m starting to realize that I may have been wrong all along.

Each time I come home from college, I’m peppered with questions about my stagnant relationship status. I’ve been asked the same questions so many times, my responses have been scripted to perfection. No “you’re too picky” or motherly suggestion will guide me off track. For the past 18 years, I’ve been perfectly content remaining single because I’ve had the opportunity to figure myself out on my own. However, as I look back, there was never anyone, besides my mom and dad obviously, by my side through it all. And when I look back on moments of accomplishment, failure, and desperation, I really wish there was.

Having spent my entire life trapped in “No Man’s Land,” I’ve mastered the art of the chase. I don’t want to waste this developed talent by succumbing to the uncertainty of a relationship. I mean really, don’t most people get bored at a certain point? How could I possibly maintain interest in the same person, mentally and physically, for more than a couple months? The only thing I’ve enjoyed both mentally and physically for more than a few months is chocolate peanut butter ice cream (and even that’s a stretch).

Unlike the majority of young girls, I never went through the cooties phase. I’ve always had crushes and have never been one to turn down an opportunity to meet someone cute. While my interactions with boys at a young age were always innocent in nature, my interactions today are nothing more than a short encounter with disposable feelings. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about good, old-fashioned relationships. No longer do people have the attention span to read a book, let alone this article start to finish. There’s just no way that someone can spend so much time with someone and not get bored!

My mentality has pretty much been the same since I can remember; it’s not me, it’s you (you being every teenage boy on the planet). However, after some careful consideration, I think I’ve had an epiphany.

It’s not you, it’s me. For 18 years,

I’ve blamed my single status on the brutal murder of chivalry at the hands of technology and social media during this generation. I’ve blamed it on emojis, Snapchat, and Tinder. While I may be right generally speaking, I couldn’t be more off-base in regards to my own life. I’ve come to realize that there’s no one for me to blame but myself. I’ve spent the past 18 years coming up with reasons to justify why I am single to help myself cope with the growing fear of never finding someone special. I’ve been single so long, I’ve grown too comfortable and am now unable to see a world where someone could actually love me in the way I’ve grown to love myself. But I finally understand that the reason I’ve been single my whole life isn’t because “all boys nowadays want is sex,” and I have too much respect for myself to just “give it up,” it’s because I’ve been looking at everything long-term. I’ve turned down countless suitors because I haven’t seen a future. I’m not talking marriage or anything, just a little more than casual fun. I’ve been so focused on finding someone that I’ll never get bored of that I’ve failed to live in the moment and experience life without a care for tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.

There’s a quote I have hung up in my bedroom. It reads, “A good writer is the sum of their experiences, go get some.” I thought I knew what this meant: I thought it meant exciting experiences like hiking a mountain to watch a sunrise, skydiving, cliff diving, backpacking Europe, or some other superficial example of experience that can be seen on any Tumblr page or Instagram feed. In reality, these experiences are rare, and I need to spend more time experiencing every day things with every day people.  Experience requires others, friends, family, or lovers. I’m learning that fitting other people into my life is going to be critical to help me develop myself further and experience life and love. It’s learning to understand people outside yourself and to love on a level deeper than I feel for my Bed Bath & Beyond sheets on my twin bed crammed against dorm room wall at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night.

If you’ve made it this far down the page, it’s probably because you either still believe in the idea of love or you’re my dad. So I would like to clarify while I am still vulnerable and solo, this article is not me putting myself on the market. However, it is me trying to clarify that the journey to find myself and know who I am doesn’t require drive by relationships and more “me time.” I’m a strong person, but I’m also very real and very vulnerable. I need to accept a degree of uncertainty moving forward into unchartered waters. I think there is someone out there who can help me discover things about myself that I didn’t even know. I think you call that Mr. Right. I may meet my fair share of Mr. Wrongs on the way, but after all, that’s experience right?

Sara is a freshman broadcast journalism major at the University of Maryland. Her habits include cheating on healthy eating, self-effacement, and being real. She defines herself by heavy doses of grit and wit, qualities she hopes to take full advantage of as the future Ellen DeGeneres-Chelsea Handler combo.
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