Your Single Opportunities
The majority of my early childhood was lived in the 1980's.
My best memories are of me cheerfully riding my bike up and down the block--popping wheelies up driveways and off curbs--or giggling at my big brothers as they rolled on our brown shag area rug laughing at "The Dukes of Hazzard" or watching Nickelodeon on Saturday mornings.
From fashion to friendships, there's almost nothing about this decade that I didn't like. Yet, I have regrets.
If I could do the 80s all over again, I'd break dance harder. I'd wear lacey gloves. I would play more Oregon Trail. I'd just enjoy the hell out of this time.
Isn't that exactly how life is? When you're living smack-dab in the middle of "the good old days" you can't recognize it or appreciate it for what it is.
That's kind of how being single is sometimes. Movie nights in, dateless weekends, and coming home to a quiet place feels like nothing special. In fact, it may occasionally feel depressing; however, ironically, it's the time in your life you may long for most after you get married and have children. And that's when you'll realize the value of what you had, which is what you have now.
It's 10 years from now. You're married. With kids. You're happy. You're exhausted. You're restless. You're grateful.
Even still, you sometimes think back to how, before marriage, your life was your own. You made decisions freely and would come and go as you pleased.
Before kids, you had ample time to pursue hobbies, to work as late as the assignment called for, to travel, to sleep late, and to be mildly reckless.
Now, spare time is a luxury in the face of all the tasks you associate with being a good spouse, parent, child of aging parents, and professional.
On the face of it, it's a beautiful mix of sweet and sour. The inevitable exhaustion that springs out of the joy of caring for and raising a family.
You wanted this life. You're living this life. You chose this life.
In microeconomics, this choice is called Opportunity Cost.
Opportunity Cost is a benefit of something that must be given up to acquire something else.
By my estimation, when you choose marriage and a family, you forego time and autonomy (Oppositely, when you choose singleness, you forego possible financial advantage and the benefits of partnership). Either choice calls for you to give up something--trade something.
Better than me trying to explain it, let Salman Khan of Khan Academy give you a quick and pain-free (I promise!) refresher. Listen from 0:00 - 2:08.
Salman's example presents Scenario E (your household or domain) where there exists a rabbit (you) and berries (time and autonomy). If you want to add a rabbit (your potential mate) to your domain, you will have to give up 40 berries (some degree of time and autonomy).
For marriage, we happily accept this as part of the package so this is not to lament what we're giving away, but to celebrate and take pleasure in what we have while we still have it. This is about fully living in your "good old days."
What are you doing with your time?
What time represents is different for everyone. It could be:
* Cultivating hobbies
* Participating in professional associations
* Network building
* Going to concerts
* Starting a business
* Earning and saving money
* Taking care of your health and appearance
Plus, growing a career, naps, traveling, eating out, reading, adventure-seeking, trying new things, and figuring out what makes you happy.
With respect to special circumstances, childless singles have riches of obligation-free time. How we choose to spend our time doesn't come from a place of obligation to others, but desire. A desire, for example, to dedicate ourselves to personal and professional development or, equally important, but less virtuous, happy hour.
But do you take your single time for granted?
Are you longing for the future to the extent that you can't marvel at your life exactly as it is at this moment in your own history?
Your single opportunities are wrapped up in the productive things you do with your time--including productive things like resting and relaxing. Obligation-free time won't always be so easy to come by, so while it's in abundant supply, make deliberate efforts to revel in it now.
What are you doing with your autonomy?
I remember my first apartment.
For a while, my living room furniture was a wobbly Ikea chair and a pre-owned tv with rabbit ears. That's it. I couldn't have been happier. When the first couple of decades of your life are lived under the rule and watchful eye of an adult, as they usually are, a sparsely furnished apartment is as good as a 5-star resort.
If you are so lucky to have the independence and freedom to do exactly what you want, especially if there is no one depending on you, then you probably have over 100 single opportunities of which you might be unaware.
You don't have to wait on big decisions (like furthering your education or buying a house) to appreciate your autonomy. It can be as simple as your decision to go grocery shopping at 9pm on Sunday night. Who does that? You. Because you can. And who's going to tell you otherwise?
It can be as basic as eating a bowl of cereal for dinner, leaving dishes in the sink overnight, or cancelling cable.
There's no one to judge, complain, or question why.
When we are aware of our privilege of self-governance, dateless weekends cease to be occasions to bemoan single life, but become opportunities to live life as reigning and sovereign emperors of our kingdom. Are you living in your power?
Time and autonomy are only two of the trades we evaluated in the opportunity cost scenario. Nonetheless, these are the things we'll gladly sacrifice for family. And why not? As time and autonomy are gifts, so is raising a family.
For now, as long as we're single, as long as we're living our story, we may as well live as if our single time has an expiration date...because it does.
Your single opportunities are abundant. Love them now.
Photo credit: Jeremy Cai via Unsplash