Column: Singles don’t have to mingle


Madison Greering

Being single on Valentine’s Day can be an isolating experience but don’t let your love life define your happiness.

It always starts the same way:

A dazzling woman with perfect hair, a sparkling personality and an enviable fashion sense smiles down at you from the screen. Whether she’s sick of her job, grappling with childhood trauma or is simply lonely, her prospects do not look good.

Enter: love interest.

A few emotional breakdowns and a dramatic marriage proposal later, our protagonist has found the love of her life. By the time the credits roll, she’s in a picture perfect relationship with the man of her dreams. All is right in the world.

But life before that? Miserable.

I’ve been watching romantic comedies for a long time, and all of them make the same promise: that the key to happiness is simple. All you need to do is find love, and everything else will fall into place.

Unfortunately, if you can’t do that, then the four horsemen of the apocalypse will find you.

The experience of being single has been ostracized in popular culture for a long time. It’s like the whole world is trying to make you feel out of place if you don’t have a significant other. In February, you can’t even turn a corner without being bombarded by flowers and boxes of chocolate in aggressive shades of pink and red. 

With Valentine’s Day on its way, what’s a single person to do? Is finding romance really the key to happiness? And if it is, what happens when you lose that special someone?

Are some of us better off alone?

Amidst the ongoing devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness has become its own sort of plague. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults… feel ‘serious loneliness,’” at a rate that is significantly due to the ongoing pandemic.

After almost two years of stay-at-home orders, quarantines and social distancing, finding a true connection – I’m not talking about a strong Wi-Fi signal or a match on Tinder – is harder than ever. Simultaneously, that true connection is what most of us crave, after living life online for so long.

What is most striking, however, is the most lonely demographic identified by the aforementioned study is our generation. Perhaps our religious use of social media makes us predisposed to comparing our imperfect lives with the edited highlight reel of someone else’s. 

With each photo of cute, happy couples you scroll through, the thought pounds in your head like a mantra:

I’m lonely. I’m lonely. I’m lonely.

However, the solution to our loneliness is not something we can find in someone else’s arms. You can pay $22.99/month on Bumble, $14.99/month on Tinder, or $29.99/month on Hinge to boost your chances of finding a significant other, but if you feel isolated on your own, dating someone won’t change that.

Being single is not a condition to be cured. Being single is not a mutation to be corrected. Being single should not feel like sitting in a waiting room, wishing time would move faster, while your life passes you by.

“We come into this world alone and we die alone,” Greek philosopher Diogenes once said, and, while this sentiment sounds pessimistic, it’s true. The longest, most meaningful relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Remember you can take ownership of your happiness before you share it with anyone else.

You can be independent without feeling isolated. You can be untethered without feeling undesirable.

And you can be alone without feeling lonely.

For those who are newly single this February, you may not think that’s possible. You may have trouble reassembling the broken pieces of your heart. Pictures that once made you laugh may now make you cry. The idea that you could ever be content without that person in your life may seem unimaginable.

But when the bittersweet memories keep you awake at 3 a.m., I want you to remember that you were a whole person before your relationship, and you are a whole person now.

And if that’s not enough to comfort you, remember that some of the greatest, most commended works of music, art, literature and more were inspired by heartbreak. 

My aunt, a lifelong musician and songwriter, often tells me “I’ve definitely wasted years of my life on dead-end relationships that broke my heart when they ended…But, at the end of it all, at least I can say that I got a good song out of it.”

The construction of the Taj Mahal, artwork by Frida Kahlo and, more recently, the album “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo, were all inspired by heartbreak.

A failed relationship is not a death sentence; it’s a new beginning.

Your life is not going to play out like a scripted romantic comedy. There are going to be lots of bloopers for the gag reel. I promise. 

But it doesn’t have to be miserable. Your plot doesn’t have to revolve around finding the love of your life.

Maybe, this Valentine’s Day, us singles can instead learn to live a life we love.