February can be a depressing month for those of us out there without a valentine. Desperation for love has reached hearts-for-valentines-daya new high, as can be seen by the increased frequency of Facebook posts advertising for Valentine’s dates. Whether these are joking or for real, I am here to tell you that it might be to your advantage to stop worrying about finding that special someone out there and to enjoy your time as a free agent.

In my opinion, this is the best time in your life to be single. Think about how much you have changed since coming here to UCSB. Even as a freshman, the change from Fall to Winter Quarter is astounding. You are adapting to a new place, new ideas and new people. It is enough to manage yourself and your happiness; never mind worrying about the happiness of someone else. Many times coming into college, we don’t even know who we are yet. During this period of your life, when you are changing so much, it is to your advantage to be single. When you are with someone, they can’t help but influence the ways that you behave and the decisions you make. Naturally, someone you are with will affect the way you are changing and make you into a different person than you would be by yourself.

Not being tethered to someone allows you to have so much more freedom. You have the ability to do whatever you want. You can decide to travel without the stress of leaving someone behind. Studying abroad is probably one of the coolest opportunities available in college, and being in a relationship can make the decision to go away a whole lot harder. We have the rest of our lives to settle down, so why not go backpack in Southeast Asia for a month or study abroad in New Zealand for a year? Not being attached to someone makes it so much easier to make the decisions to get up and leave because there is nothing holding you back.

This makes life that much more exciting. Being in a relationship is wonderful, but it can also get predictable. Being single allows for the spontaneity of meeting new people and trying new things. It is the time to explore who you are as an individual.

It can become easy to get caught in the rut of being in a relationship. I have watched friends get sucked into relationships and lose touch with all of their other friends. Then when the relationship ends, they are alone and feel as if they immediately need someone to support them again. It is a cycle that isn’t necessarily bad, but doesn’t allow for personal growth and independence. It is important to be able to be happy on your own because if you aren’t happy with yourself, how can you make someone else happy? Most of our relationships, sadly, are not meant for eternal success, so it is important to be able to be confident in your ability to be happy if the relationship ends. It is so important to be able to be alone and know you will be ok without needing another person to make you happy. This self-confidence comes from a developed independence that everyone needs to find.

Whether it was you, a friend or someone in your hall freshman year, we all know a person that came into college with a long-distance boyfriend or girlfriend. They stayed in to Skype them, answered calls and texts while out on the weekends and constantly were gone visiting their significant other. I noticed that those of my friends that had boyfriends and or girlfriends were the ones I didn’t see very much for the first couple of weeks or months of school. They were constantly leaving to visit them, or feeling guilty about doing fun things without them. Carrying on a long-distance relationship doesn’t allow for you to be completely present in your life here. You are in a constant state of missing.

Boyfriends and girlfriends take a lot of time. Time spent here at UCSB is important, especially when you are a freshman, because it is the time when you establish friendships with people that will be with you for the next four years. Relationships take a lot of maintenance and a LOT of time. You need to talk and see each other consistently to keep up the strength of the relationship. I find that being single gives you so much more time. You don’t have to constantly be keeping up with someone else. Maybe this is part of the reason why people are slow to jump into commitment in college — many people just don’t have time for a relationship. I know that between working, hard classes, homework and various other commitments, I barely have time to see people outside of my housemates. Being single allows for you to focus your full attention on your other commitments and to better yourself.

While there are so many amazing and wonderful things about being in a relationship, there are also many great advantages to being on your own. So if you find yourself without a date this Valentine’s Day, take a deep breath, don’t panic and try to enjoy the many benefits of being single (and ready to mingle).