Dear Daughter, Please Live Alone Before You Settle Down With A Romantic Partner

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Dear Daughter,

You just got home from a busy day of sixth grade. You busted through the door and announced you were going to put on your pajamas and eat pizza (the same thrilling thought I have everyday at 3 p.m.), then FaceTime with your friends. These days as I watch you all caught up in your swarm of besties, having the time your life with sleepovers, sporting events, and chatting for hours, I can’t help but think how I want you to hold onto this for as long as you can.

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Through high school and into college, keep your old friends close and make room for new friendships too. Go on adventures, travel, stay up late talking about your hopes and dreams, hold each other tight when someone has their heart broken, and encourage each other when the pressure of work, school, and adulthood feels overwhelming.

And most of all, please don’t be in a rush to settle down, to find “the one,” to get married, to start a family. Don’t ever think there is a specific age by which you need to meet certain criteria or when people will think you have expired. Don’t feel pushed into these things before you are completely ready.

I want you to do something before you delve into that life: Live on your own for a spell. I want this to be a gift you give yourself, even if you happen to fall madly in love at a young age.

I know we all do what is right for us as time and funds permit. I am not telling you to do this because I felt I ran off and rushed into marriage, mortgages, and a family too fast, but rather because I did spend time on my own. Time when the only person I had to focus on was me, and it was life-changing. I lived alone for over three years before your father moved in with me (something else I highly recommend, but we can talk about that later), and it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I have no regrets, and I look back on that time fondly.

I really got to know myself and the things I would and wouldn’t welcome in my life. When you live alone, life can feel amazingly peaceful, and it is hard to invite things in that don’t fall in line with that feeling. You learn to quickly tell the difference between what is welcome in your environment and what would be a setback, and you aren’t afraid to speak up and shut down drama or toxic relationships.

I learned how to take care of my car that I made the payments on every month. It is funny how you treat something when you are paying for it with your hard-earned money. I went and opened a checking account in my name, and it was different because I knew I was going to be the only one making the deposits. You figure out very quickly if you can afford cable or those new shoes. When you have yourself to take care of and know you can’t ask a roommate to spot you the rent or pay your half of the utilities, you are not only grateful to have a job, you also work your ass off if there is something you want, but can’t afford yet. There is no one else to lean on but yourself. It’s empowering.

You talk to yourself and get really comfortable being alone with your thoughts. And yes, sometimes this is lonely, but it helps you learn how to be happy and whole all on your own. You learn how to “do you” really well (sometimes that involves dancing around in your underwear eating Cheetos), and I want that for you too.

When you go from sharing a bathroom with three siblings to then sharing one with 40 or so dorm mates in college, having one all to yourself is glorious. You aren’t rushed, no one steals your tampons, you never run out of hot water. You can leave it as clean or as messy as you please.

You become a stronger version of yourself because you are forced to really take control of your situation and get things done. I am not saying you don’t ask for help, lord knows I asked for plenty, but it teaches you to make good decisions, to assess situations, to sort your needs from your wants, and then sometimes that means getting on the phone and asking for help. Never hesitate to call me or your dad.

Other times, you end up figuring it out for yourself because it is 2 a.m., and you are pretty sure anyone who can help you is asleep. And each time you do something really hard on your own, your strength, confidence, and determination grow. You find out just how capable you are, and it will forever ever get rid of the question: Can I do this? You will remember there was a time when you did do difficult things, and you did them by yourself. And yes, yes, you can do this. You can do anything.

So while I will not try to direct your path too much, I really hope you take this advice. You will never regret it, of that I can be sure. Also, I hope that I am invited to come stay with you every once in a while (I would love to dance and eat Cheetos with you, my girl) and live like a bachelorette again, because damn, that was fun.

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