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I had to get married to experience being single

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My story is not so different from many other 40-somethings. After an 18-year relationship, I was a newly single mother in my late-ish 30s and living in my own space for the first time in my life. Society told me I should dread it and feel like an old shrew. I should just shrivel up on the spot because my best years were behind me.

The truth is, I LOVED it.

It was liberating and exhilarating and all the things I imagine many 20-somethings feel when they rent their first adult apartment by themselves. It just took me getting married and divorced to get here. I went straight from my parents’ house after college, to living with my boyfriend (who would eventually become my husband). I never had that age-old rite of passage where you get to live alone and do all the single things.

On the first night ever in my post-divorce townhouse, while my daughter was with her dad, I took a break from unpacking the kitchen items we split up and curled up on my closet floor in the fetal position. I reached that real ugly level of crying, purged a bunch of my sadness and then rolled over on my back and took a breath. I had no husband to cook dinner for. No awkward silences or palpable tension. It was just me, a 30-something bachelorette. This is it. It’s my time to shine.

I got to eat what I wanted.

I got to watch what I wanted.

I got to decorate how I wanted.

I took up running. I went to yoga more frequently. I went out with friends on school nights when I didn’t have my daughter. I bought a bunch of new, sexier bras and underwear, FOR ME, not anyone else. After spending years pouring myself into someone else, I truly learned how to love myself. I played loud music and rage cleaned. I went for long walks by myself. I made a standing manicure appointment as a treat. I allowed myself to be sad, or happy, or angry, or whatever emotion I felt bubbling up to the surface. Then I gave myself permission to enjoy this new phase of my life, wholeheartedly.

Everything for the first time in my life was on my terms and it enabled me to really get to know who I am and how I wanted to enter the next chapter of my life. I found my voice and vowed never to let it be stifled again. Instead of knocking me down it gave me strength and showed me that my imperfections and flaws were part of me and that was ok. I didn’t feel the need to change for someone. I didn’t feel the need to be a people pleaser and put my needs on the back burner. It wasn't a roadblock or a dead-end, rather a very crucial step in my own evolution and subsequent reinvention. It was like shedding an old skin and stepping into a new and improved one.

I did not rush to date. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to. Instead, I went out with my girlfriends, genuinely soaking in every delicious moment with them as we all leaned into the finale of our 30s. I enjoyed the solo time with my daughter, forging a bond I hoped would make a big impact and hoping I was teaching her resiliency. I felt more comfortable in my skin than ever before and gained a strong sense of who I was as a woman and mother. When I met the man I would remarry, I was a different person with more clarity, self-awareness and a stronger sense of self.

Being single in the middle-age years has a stigma and frankly it's outdated and needs a makeover. I wish I could tell every woman in the thick of it to look at it through a different lens. Make things happen. Date or stay single. Find a new hobby you've always wanted to try. Travel. Do absolutely nothing and loaf on your couch binging Netflix. You have a newfound freedom. Before you squander it by pining for the past, consider embracing the joy that comes from this part of your evolution instead of fearing it. Use that energy to fuel the next leg of your journey. Your best years are absolutely not behind you. You are just getting started.

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