There is a lot of status tied to being in a relationship. We are always busy waiting for that special someone that we forget to notice the opportunity we have as single people. This is especially true for people in their early twenties. During this phase, it is actually better to be completely free than in a serious relationship planning the rest of your life. You still haven’t had the time to know what you want the rest of your life to be in the first place. 

We all thought we had it all figured out in our early twenties. Just a few years later we discover that we had no idea. You are still in a self-development stage, who knows who and where you’re going to be in a few years—let alone in a decade or a lifetime? Take a breath and embrace your unsettled life as there are a lot of perks you’re missing out on while you scroll down your instagram looking at “happy” couples. 

1- It is time to invest in your career & network

It is not that you cannot have a relation and invest in your career & network at the same time, but it is most likely that one will be compromised at the expense of the other. Relationships take a lot of our energy and time that we can’t keep our partner happy, work every extra hour that would create a solid foundation for our career, and attend to every office gathering and social plan we get invited to. 

More often than not building our network takes the biggest hit when we are in a serious relationship. Work tends to be more sacred, so we find ourselves giving up a team get together here and an old friends’ gathering there to have more quality time with our partner and mutual friends. Besides that, when you’re in a serious relationship there are some unspoken rules on how to socialize with the opposite sex (or so it should be). Your relationship might hinder building connections within your different social groups that you would otherwise build if you didn’t have a a serious partner.

2- You need to figure out who you really are first

I always read that you need to figure out who you are everywhere that it may start to sound cliche. It will only sound cliche if you still didn’t really grasp what it means to know who you are. I already know who I am, you’d think. Fact is that our personality is still being shaped through our early twenties. There are parts of our personality that we are yet to grow out of and other parts that we are yet to discover in ourselves. 

When we are fresh out of college we’d have spent most of our life within the frame of class and classmates and exams year in and year out—how much do we know about ourselves at that point? Think about it this way, we all had childhood friends from school. Back in school we felt that we had a lot in common. We just clicked and we thought this is how it will always be. Fast forward to college and we can already feel that our interests are beginning to diverge. What we like to do for fun and how we see the world is beginning to part ways. This is because back in school we still hadn’t had the chance to discover or grow into the person we are today. 

This applies to your early twenties as well. You will grow into a different person in a few years, no matter how slightly. You are more likely to choose someone more compatible in the long run if you wait a few years to settle on that person. In the meantime, put yourself out there. Expose yourself to as much new experiences as you can come across and hang out with as much different people as you can meet. That way, and by trial and error, you will realize who you are or who you want to be and will proceed to choose your partner accordingly. 

3- It is a good time to experiment with dating

This might sound contradictory to my overall advice but is quite the contrary. I am not saying you need to go into several mini relationships to get this one right; you can if you want to, but it needn’t go this far. You only need to meet different people, go on dates, hang out with friends of friends. Maybe you will end up forming long lasting friendships—something that becomes harder to accomplish in later stages of life. You might even hear stories from your friends about their experiences and learn a thing or two about what you would accept or completely refuse to put up with. The point is, it is very risky to decide what you want in a lifelong partner if you don’t have any points of reference. 

Experiment and observe. Observe people’s actions and your reactions to them. Take note of what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. With some time, you will come closer to the conclusion of what your core priorities are. 

4- Live on your whims for a while 

Whoever was or is in a serious relationship would know that there is no such thing as your own separate schedule. You want to go on vacation? You need to check your partner’s free time. You want to go shopping with the girls (or have some guys time)? You need to check if you have any preplanned activities with your partner. 

Even if you don’t have any overlap, a lot of the time you need to consider your partner’s feelings and thoughts around going to certain places or hanging out with certain people. Your lives are too intertwined to live on your whims, and when is a better time to simply do whatever you want than when you are twenty-one (or -two or-three..)? The only responsibility you have is yourself and you have all the time to make up for your mistakes. Enjoy that while it lasts. 

In summary, your early twenties are the perfect time to be selfish. It is the time to live unapologetically for yourself, mess up and learn from your messes. Eventually you will probably want to settle down. Then, you will have to think for two instead of just yourself, and your mistakes will have bigger repercussions than when you’re young and on your own. Don’t rush the responsibility. 

You have all the time in the world for the coupled responsible life later, but you can’t ever go back to being young and free if you spent your youth tied to someone else.