There’s no doubt that being in a relationship is great. If you need proof, all you need do is look at the popularity of online dating or the amount of weddings that take place in a year or the fact that each week I still have something to write about. Love is an immensely special thing to share with another person, which is why so many of us aren’t truly happy unless we have someone to share it with.
But as fulfilling as a relationship can be, it doesn’t define who you are as a person. What makes you a true individual is a collection of unique experiences, memories and interests. These are things we choose to share with another person, but they always belong to us. And as much as a relationship can nourish our soul and buoy us, we shouldn't spend all of our time being coupled up. Balance between personal independence and time spent as a couple is healthy for any relationship. A little break from “we” can help us remember who we are by ourselves, outside of the couple, and help us gain critical balance and insight.
So, now that we've celebrated America's Independence Day, let's focus on our own independence! I now present to you a few ideas of things to do with, well, you. It doesn’t matter if you’re single, happily married, or something in between. Everyone, no matter your relationship status, should take some time to enjoy just being you - not spouse, not boyfriend, not girlfriend, not friend, not employee, not mom, not dad, not sibling, not coach - just you. Hopefully each of these suggestions will prove to be a (cost effective!) way for you to relax, unwind and let your mind think about what it wants to. They’re also all perfect for these warm summer months.
Take yourself out to lunch. This may seem underwhelming, but you need not plan an elaborate outing for yourself. Simple pleasures are often the most effective, anyway. Take yourself to a special lunch spot or café and order your favorite meal. Don’t worry about calories, either! Order wine, have some dessert and coffee, and simply enjoy the experience of savoring each sip and bite.
Take yourself to a museum/concert/show. This, of course, depends on where your interests lie. If it were me, I’d grab an iced coffee and spend the afternoon wandering around an ancient art exhibit. We all have interests that we don’t often get to fully appreciate, so appreciate yours by going to wherever that interest lives: a museum, a concert, a theater, a bookstore, a flea market, a garden, whatever! Time is always of the essence to us, which is why these interests usually get pushed to the back of our brain. We’re too busy dedicating ourselves to work, our relationships and our responsibilities to pay homage to something the purpose of which is purely enjoyment. Take a time out to do just that.
Get a book and sit outside. Not all of you may be big readers, but humor me for a bit. It doesn't matter whether you pick up a copy of War and Peace or the latest issue of People Magazine. Grab something you have some interest in and sit on your porch, by a pool, at an outdoor café, or in your backyard and spend an hour reading. Bring your shades and a tall glass of sangria or a cold beer and allow yourself to bask in the summer sun and get lost in the story.
Go for a walk/run/bike ride. Or whatever other kind of physical activity you enjoy. Personally, one of my favorite childhood memories is riding my bike on warm summer nights, wind in my hair and totally carefree. At some point we tend to lose touch with that carefree part of ourselves. Do something to get it back if only for a little while. Go for an evening stroll, catch lightning bugs, go for a hike or lay down a blanket and do yoga in a quiet spot. Allow your mind to quiet and your body to just feel.
Take yourself on a mini road trip. When I say mini, I really mean it. I’m sure that in less than an hour in any given direction from where you are, there is something you have yet to see or experience. Personally, I live quite close to Washington, D.C. and have barely scratched the surface of what can be experienced in that city. Take yourself on a mini adventure to somewhere you haven’t been to, haven’t seen in a long time, or want to see more of. Wander around, go into shops, learn an interesting fact or the whole history of the place. Buy a souvenir or something quirky to remember the trip by. Who says you can’t make a few memories by yourself?
Being a part of something bigger than ourselves is what all human beings want. It’s why we crave love and relationships, why friendships mean so much to us, and why we play so many different roles in our lives. But don’t forget that the real you is what’s at the heart of those bigger pieces, and it deserves to be nurtured and celebrated, too. So go forth and celebrate your independence! No fireworks necessary.