The past two weeks or so, whether I'm glancing over Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr, my newsfeeds are full of broken hearts. Mostly awesome ladies I know who are great catches. There's nothing wrong with being single, but sometimes you just don't want to be. Sometimes you're seeing someone who keeps putting you second or you're fresh out of a break up. Sometimes you're out rollerskating and they call everyone off the floor for the couples only skate.
I wrote down 8 things I wish someone had told me when I was looking for my other half. Some of it I learned along the way, some was told to me during my search, and some I can only see now. Now I want to share it with you ladies (and gentlemen too, if there are any gentlemen reading this).
1. Love Yourself: We've all heard this, and it may seem obvious. "You'll never be able to love someone until you love yourself." True enough, but look at it another way: If you don't even like you, chances are you're going to make everyone just as miserable as you make yourself. So cut yourself some slack. When you make mistakes, forgive yourself and learn the lesson. When you're feeling down, do something sweet for yourself. Brighten up your own day whether it's a relaxing bath, a favorite episode of a tv show, or that necklace you've been eyeing. Court yourself with kindness and you may find out you like you after all. Fall in love with yourself and the world will fall in love with you. Walk into a room already looking forward to showing everyone how awesome you are. And you are awesome. It sounds corny, but you're the only you there's going to be and you're the best person to showcase you. Everyone's only got (if you're lucky) about 70 years to see this rare and beautiful creature that will be you, so don't steal any of that time away from the world by moping somewhere alone. Go shine.
2. Develop a Routine--and Like It: What is your idea of a perfect day off? Well, guess what, you can do it. Bicycle rides into town, lunch at the local bistro, strolls through vintage shops, painting beside a sunny window, reading next to a radio, tv in bed, a dash to the gym, ignoring the gym, anything you want. Enjoy your time and make the most of it. Spend your free time doing whatever is most fun for you so that when you do meet someone, you'll know if they're really worth cutting into that schedule. The right person will fall right into place. The wrong person will waste an evening you could have spent listening to your favorite band's new album in the bathtub. Cultivate the life you want in your free time, so your time is a little more valuable than dinner and a movie with your cousin's co-worker (who's probably not the one anyway. And you could have been laughing at 30 Rock with your friends!)
3. Take Care of Yourself: Forget dieting and eating right to look good. Watch what you eat because you're going to feel awful if you just pile crap into your face all the time. Take brisk walks, go jogging, do some jumping jacks because you'll be in a better mood if you're a little active. Pamper your skin, play with make up, curl/straighten your hair. If you go day to day throwing yourself together very soon you're going to be standing in front of a mirror at 3am in bad bathroom lighting thinking, "My God...This is what I look like." No, it's not. It's 3am. You've spent the week living off junk food and now it's been almost 24 hours since you've slept. You just need a moisturizer or maybe some mascara. Honey, Marilyn Monroe didn't wake up looking like Marilyn Monroe. Do it for yourself. Whatever it takes to look in the mirror and feel like a million bucks--do it for you. Eat healthy, robust meals. Get fresh air on a walk. Set a bed time, and stick to it. Spend a Wednesday night getting full blown pretty; hair done, nails did, everything big. This goes back to loving yourself. You're worth a little extra care, whether you're looking to impress anyone or not.
4. Have Projects: Commit yourself to the things you're passionate about. Don't just go to work, hang out with friends, and go to bed. If you love animals, volunteer at a pet shelter. If you love cooking, take a pastry class. If you love art, paint or go to gallery openings. Pursue your interests, develop your skills, flex your personality. Be a full person. The side projects you work on, whether it's a novel, a comic, a garden, or a collection of vintage spoon rings, they're going to enrich you. This goes right along with developing a routine you love. Create the life you want without waiting for some invisible partner to carry it for you. You can invite the right person into this later, and if the wrong person shows up you're not going to let them waste time you could be using to write jokes for your stand up routine.
5. Have Close Friends of "That" Gender: When you have no close friends of the gender you're looking to pair with, they can easily become this weird creature you don't understand. When someone of that gender comes into your life, even if they're a real dud, you may accept this loser for what guys or girls are like. Some of my closest friends are men. I know what is good behavior for a guy and what is bad behavior. It was hard for guys I dated to hide behind 'boys will be boys' when the boys I knew respected and valued women as equals and not enemies. Friends of the gender you're after can give their opinions when you bring one of their kind around. They will look out for you, and tell it to you straight. They can also form a posse if someone treats you badly (and probably will).
6. Love is Real, Hold Out For It: We're a society that pays top dollar for the latest video game. We wait for the best iPad, iPod, iPen, etc. We look for the organic label on apples. And then we pass on true love, thinking it's this outdated, impossible thing. We date a guy we went to school with or met at the bar. They're good looking enough, they're nice enough, they've already put in a year or two. Maybe there's no 'spark' there, maybe a bell didn't go off, no fireworks or butterflies, but hey, they've got a pulse and all your friends are planning their weddings. Pump the brakes, Speedracer. Love is the greatest thing there is on the planet, ask almost every movie, song, book, or poem. Don't settle for "like". The only thing worse than having loved and lost is meeting your soul mate six months after you married Mr. Alright. Have some patience, have some faith, and give yourself some credit.
7. Spend Some Time With Couples in Good Relationships: When you're single it can be rough to endure a happy couple's pet names and inside jokes, but tough it out. Listen to the people who are doing it right. Your friend who just broke up with her boyfriend of six months and your other friend who's seeing a guy who won't dump his live in girlfriend can only give you horrible relationship advice. You're not going to ask a bum for financial tips, so stop listening to your single friends who tell you it's hopeless. When I was single there were 2-3 couples I could look to who were genuinely happy. Their real love easily overshadowed any temporary "like" I found as I waded through the dating pool. Their examples kept me grounded through infatuation and gave me realistic expectations to keep searching for something that felt unreal. My own parents are divorced, so I also sought out the advice of my friend's happily married parents. Most of the things they told me are on this list.
8: Let Life Happen: Think about your three closest friends. Write their names down, and beside each: How did you meet them? What was your first impression of them? Were you great friends right away or did it take time? Did you meet on a night you went out looking for a lifetime friend? Chances are it was random and it just happened naturally. When it comes right down to it, your other half is going to be the person you share candlelight dinners with, sure. However, they're also going to be the person you're stuck in traffic with. You're going to share a lot of waiting rooms anticipating good and bad news. You're going to face sleepless nights sharing the same worries. You're going to eat the same meals, watch the same movies, share a tv, a bed, and a bathroom. They better be the best friend you've ever been lucky enough to find, or your life is going to be dreadful. You're going to know the same people, love the same shows, be shocked at the same scandals, chase the same dreams, and support each other through every awful flu (you know...like the one when you can't stop pooping?) This is the closest you'll ever be to someone. Friends come to us randomly, wonderfully, without warning. Let love come to you the same way.
So live your life--fully--love yourself, care for yourself, know there's love out there, study the evidence for it in your happy friends, and let it come to you. It may already even be there. Ryan and I were friends for about seven years before our first date. He was the guy who made me laugh the hardest, who loved my web comic, and who now keeps me up cracking jokes at night.