Where I grew up, the most important thing you could be as a woman was married.

There was no talk of independence or self love, but monologues on the importance of familial duties. As a kid, I was constantly nervous about this — I was worried about living with someone other than my family, having to change my name, and having to take care of someone other than myself.

I was so concerned with the long, slow process of waiting for this to all happen, that, at age five, I found a friend, proclaimed that he and I would wed, and assumed that it was all taken care of.

Twenty years later, my former friend is married, and I am not. Another friend is about to tie the knot, as several others are celebrating anniversaries. Countless others in my social circle are either in the process of nuptials, waiting on the proposal, or blissfully romantically engaged. I spend a lot of evenings doing homework or crocheting – alone.

This fact bothered me for the longest time.

Despite my constant assurances that I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man, or that I have cast off the chains of my raisings to believe that women can be anything — married or not, I often feel fundamentally wrong in my solitude.

Owning Your Loneliness: A Quest for Self Love

I’ve never been one to date. This isn’t out of total indifference, but a little bit of both my social anxiety and unwillingness to spend my time with someone I’m just not interested in.

Besides my parents, society is overwhelmingly concerned with my singleness. According to Hollywood, I’d be cast as either the young spinster or the aging bachelorette. According to popular media, I should be pining away on Tinder or some other dating app, desperately searching for my Mr. Right.

At twenty-five, I’ve already heard every cliché, from “Your time will come,” to “You do have a biological clock, you know”. And even those who say “you’re young! Take your time!”, there is an underlying assumption that, eventually, my time will be up and I will need to nab myself a partner before it gets ridiculous.

But, what if I like being alone? What if I find romance attractive, sexy, and fun, but not per-requisite to my happiness?

What if I don’t want children? What if I want to love people — deeply, passionately, openly, and fully, but in many different ways and under many different circumstances? What if a ring on my left hand doesn’t dictate my self-worth?

These are all questions I ask myself as I fill out another RSVP card, without a plus one. And in spite of these questions, and my strong feminist beliefs, I still feel a pang of embarrassment. These questions are mirrored with “Should I be with someone?” “Is there something wrong with me?” as my parents ask me if I’ve met anyone and if they should expect grandchildren.

People assume that I am lonely, and sometimes I suppose I am. But what I really am is alone, and that’s not a bad thing.

Owning Your Loneliness: A Quest for Self Love

The first person I have to learn to love and spend genuine time with is myself. This is a concept I believe many people are uncomfortably with. I see people distracting their feelings about themselves by projecting them onto others. I see them enter into relationships because they need external validation, rather than self-comfort.

I am no pro at self-love for self-validation, though I am trying. I criticize no one for their romantic endeavors, who submit that they cannot live without their second half – for the men and women with their dream wedding Pinterest boards. There is room enough in this world for the couples and the singles; for the duos, the packs, the herds, and lone wolves.

I do question if society’s obsession with matching people up in neat pairs is misguided, and even potentially dangerous. I think equal encouragement should be placed on find your soulmate, and finding your soul.

We exist only for a short while, and though it is beautiful to love and give yourself to another, it is important to love and give to yourself.