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Hear Me Out: You should stay single in your twenties

IMAGE VIA SLEEPER

WORDS BY AASTHA AGRAWAL

Allow love to be a sub-plot in your narrative.

The topic of relationships, partners and lovers makes an appearance far too often in the conversations I have, and honestly, I’m sick of it. Having to take into consideration and please another person (or several, whatever floats your boat) sounds like my worst nightmare, especially right now, in my twenties. 

Although I’ve never been the type to plan out my dream wedding, I can’t lie and say that a lot of my teen years weren’t spent nursing extreme crushes. But as I grew older and actually got into relationships, I realised that the reality of them was starkly different to what I had imagined.


Craving more personal essays? There’s an abundance in our Life section.


It distracted me from my work, it was time-consuming, it made it harder to maintain my other relationships and there were just so many disappointments. I’ve realised that I am simply not equipped emotionally (nor do I have enough time on my hands) to always take into consideration what another person wants. It’s the freedom my twenties presents me with that I value the most.

Although it’s not the case for all, as many of my friends are in healthy, happy long-term relationships with their significant other, and traditional roles can be meaningful for many, it’s become obvious from the countless heartbreaks and pep talks I’ve witnessed that many people haven’t done enough introspection to differentiate between what they really want and what they assume they should want. 

My need to remain single, therefore, comes as a result of several things: from being in relationships and recognising that they hinder my self-development and deeply impact my self-worth, and because the feminist in me wants to be career-focused. After all, there are still so many women around the world forced into marriage and denied an education who long for the type of freedom so readily available to us. 

I’ve been told I’m selfish for having these views and that by not wanting to share myself or be responsible for someone else’s emotions I’m eliminating a huge part of my identity. But these are the exact reasons that anger me and make me want to be single. I don’t want my romantic relationships to define me, nor will I allow them to play a part in every decision I make, at least not for the next couple of years.  

Being single has also (incorrectly) become synonymous with being lonely and unhappy, but solitude allows you the space to grow and explore, and often it’s important to ask yourself some difficult questions to really put things into perspective.

Do you know who you are, enough to know what you want?

Being single at a time where you’re recognising that you’re your own person in the world can be hard enough in itself (scheduling your own appointments? Let me just practice what I’m going to say a hundred times over).

But these years are valuable, and being alone helps you become self-reliant and less dependent on other people’s validation. You get to spend time by yourself, working towards creating a life you want to live by ensuring that your mind and body, your only constant home, is a good place to be.

Time is all you have and in your twenties, you need to use it to maintain and/or develop friendships that have lifelong longevity. Plus, rather than settling down and focusing on another person, it’s a time to explore what you truly want and need, while ensuring you don’t idealise a person or the idea of love itself (you don’t want to end up like Tom Hansen from 500 Days of Summer).

Will you get this opportunity again?

As author Meg Jay notes, “Your twenties are the defining decade because they play a huge role in who you’ll become personally and professionally.” This decade should be utilised to enrich your personal and professional networks. 

The early years of your career can be fast-paced, and bring to the surface a tonne of uncertainties and insecurities, as well as opportunities to grow professionally, and this might mean having to relocate.

Personally, I know far too many people who’ve given up chances to grow professionally or have adapted their career plans to better fit their romantic lives. When you’re in a relationship, you can’t just get up and move to another country to work – you have to take into consideration what your partner may want.

As it might not be feasible for your partner to move with you (and long-distance is notoriously difficult) you might end up passing up an opportunity and regretting it down the track, particularly if that relationship fizzles.

Practising your feminism

The Devil Wears Prada is one of the most iconic movies of the 2000s, with its excellent casting and fabulous outfits. But what doesn’t hold up so well is the way the film ultimately frames Nate, the boyfriend of the lead character Andy, as being right to object to the demands of his girlfriend’s career.

Unfortunately, work-life balance is yet another area where women are held to an unattainable standard – we can be ambitious, but not too ambitious. In the film, Andy’s success in her career results in the downfall of her relationship with Nate. 

Miranda Priestly, Andy’s boss and a powerful magazine editor, is also vilified for not fitting neatly into the role of the self-sacrificing domestic woman, being deemed by those around her as ‘selfish’ and ‘demanding’. The film paints her as a lonely, bitter figure whose personal life has gone up in flames due to her unrelenting focus on her career, encapsulating the stereotype of the ‘evil career woman’. 

Within me resides a very angry yet determined feminist, one that wants to stay single almost as an act of rebellion against this ‘feminine identity’. I want to stay single for the millions of women that are denied an education, forced into marriages and refused the right to their own autonomy and careers. 

As a woman who has access to education, career development, and a voice that is heard, it would pain me to not utilise these opportunities to grow professionally and speak out about the issues women face. For me, my twenties will be about my personal development, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Read more about the perks of staying single here.

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