My former roommates refer to the December of my freshman year as the “Dark Ages of 2016.” My then-boyfriend and I had just broken up. I spent hours crying every day, and it was a struggle to leave my room. I didn’t eat much. I slept a lot. I listened to sad music on Spotify. The only time I left my room was to shower. It wasn’t a happy time.
Such times have continued throughout college, if not directly afterward. While I’ve never repeated the “Dark Ages of 2016” per se, I’ve experienced breakups in the two years since. Some have gone smoothly and some have gone poorly, but all in all, they’ve been pretty painful.
From making time to spend with your significant other in your busy schedule to running into them at every turn, relationships are hard. And at Princeton, it can sometimes be even harder — schedules are busy and campus is small. Regularly making time for someone in between class, rehearsal, work, and coursework is daunting, and running into your ex every time you walk into Frist can be even worse. But for many, the desire to be in a relationship is — very legitimately! — strong. That said, nine months out of my last relationship, I couldn’t be happier — and I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Admittedly, the first two months of being single sucked for a whole host of reasons, many of which weren’t directly related to my ex or that relationship. But I did feel worthless and alone, even if I had an army of friends to support me. I resented being single because I felt like I was missing something — in this case, a significant other.
But I haven’t really missed out on much. Almost unbelievably, being single has afforded me a whole host of benefits. I’ve had the freedom to spend my summers abroad — and alone. I don’t feel tied down. I have more free time in my schedule to spend with friends. But most importantly, being single has given me the opportunity to work on myself.
The past nine months have given me the freedom I’ve really needed in order to grow and enjoy college. That’s not to say that I go out every weekend or that I’m going on dates all the time. But it is to say that being single is far more enjoyable than I thought it would be and has taught me more than I thought it could. I’ve spent about the same amount of time on my coursework — which is a lot — but I’ve also spent more quality time with my friends, tried out new activities, and enjoyed plenty of free time to myself.
There are plenty of benefits to being single — and contrary to the memes we see on the Internet, it isn’t all bad. You have the time to find new extracurriculars and make or deepen friendships. More importantly, however, you have the freedom to do so without worrying about making time for a significant other.
Being in a relationship certainly isn’t bad. On the contrary, a healthy relationship in college (or at any time!) can be unbelievably meaningful and fulfilling. But it’s also not the be-all and end-all. Just because you are single doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy college or learn about yourself. I’ve realized that being single often means that you can do so more.
I haven’t closed myself off to the idea of a relationship while in college, but so far, I’ve immensely enjoyed the growth I’ve experienced while being on my own. Relationships are work, and I’m not sure I want to invest that time and energy into one right now. In the meantime, I’m happy spending time with my family, friends, and self — and not recreating the “Dark Ages of 2016.”