You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him party….
I have met far too many people who think “as soon as I get married, my life will begin”. This thought scares the crap out of me for a few reasons;
1. I used to think this way.
2. It means people are putting any fun and personal growth on hold until they meet “the one”
3. What an incredibly boring way to live your life.
Now don’t get me wrong. Having the wish to get married is not a bad thing, that is something I want very much. But the idea that your life won’t begin until that time is bizarre. Being single is going to be one of the best times of your life, but only if you choose to make it that way.
I was talking with a friend the other day who was struggling with feeling lonely and excluded. She said to me something along the lines of “But you can’t understand. You know so many people and are always doing something fun. It isn’t that easy for me”. I want to take a few minutes to tell you about myself, some things that I think you will be surprised to know.
I have not always been the loud, overly enthusiastic, requesting guys to take their shirts off, kind of girl you know me as now. The truth is, I have suffered from depression and social anxiety for the majority of my life. Growing up, I was very quiet. I hated school or anything in groups of people. These situations freaked me out so badly, that I dropped out of public school in 8th grade. My mom had to bring in tutors to teach me until she found a small private school I would agree to go to, and when I say small I mean it, my graduating class consisted of 4 people.
Church was always a struggle for me. I never felt like part of the group or that I had many friends. I felt strange and like an outcast. I hated being there (not because of the gospel, but around the people) and rarely went after the age of 12. I spent the majority of my time inside watching tv with very few friends.
My mother pulled some strings and was able to get me into the summer session of BYU when I was 18. This was an interesting experience. I loved my roommates and remain close with them to this day, but I hated school. I think I went to church there once, then spent the rest of the time sleeping. I still felt that feeling of being an outcast and as soon as the semester was over, I headed back to Colorado.
I won’t bore you with the details, but the next few years were a slow process of me figuring out who I was and what talents I had. I took a retail job and realized I could be good at working with people. I realized I am naturally a cheerful person. A huge change came when I started making the decision to come back to church. This was not an overnight change, it took me several years of two steps forward and one step back. One of the main factors in my change was three missionaries that befriended me, Elder Zac Engle, Elder Derek Smith and Elder Greg Steele. It may sound strange, but these were the first guys in my life I had ever truly been friends with. They built my self esteem in ways I could never imagine, simply by liking me for who I was.
So there I was, back active in the church, but still feeling extremely lonely and out of place. Our ward felt clicky and I didn’t know what to do. So one day Crystal Clark was doing my hair and we started talking about how we both felt the same way. We made the decision that night that we were going to do something about it. We set out on a mission to make ourselves happy, and to not let anyone feel as bad as we did.
Here are some of the changes we made that made all the difference;
Find a partner in crime. Going to an activity where you know no one is quite possibly the scariest thing in the world. My Amazing friend Cassi let me be glued to her hip for about a year so I wouldn’t have to go to things alone. I am happy to return this favor to people who need it.
Go to all 3 hours of church. If you show up late, sit in the back and then leave right after sacrament, you cannot complain that no one knows who you are. Stay for all 3 hours, no matter how awkward it may feel.
Talk to everyone you can. I have heard from a lot of people that no one approaches them. Have you ever stopped to think those people are thinking the same thing? If all you have the nerve to do is smile at someone, then do that. Then move up to saying hi. Choose safe people if that’s easier. Go up and introduce yourself to the relief society or elders quorum president, I guarantee they will talk to you. Find someone who is sitting by themselves and ask if you can join them. Ask them questions and genuinely listen to their answers. Make sure to repeat and remember their name. Then the next time you see them, go up and say hi. Stop thinking everyone needs to approach you, you can do it!
Be proactive! Ask for an appointment with the Bishop to get to know him. Let him know you want a calling right away and let him know what you are interested in. Go to the RS or EQ President and ask them for your home teaching/visiting teaching routes. Ask what you can do to help in the ward or if there is anyone you can fellowship.
Don’t be a wallflower. I guarantee, if you go to a dance and stand against the wall looking miserable, or sitting alone in the foyer, you come off as creepy. People remember the creepy ones and will purposely avoid them in the future. Instead, find anyone you know and dance with the group. Don’t worry about looking dumb, people will only remember that you got out there and had a good time.
For one month, go to EVERY single activity. The only reason you should be missing something is if you have to work or are deathly ill. Otherwise, go! That means FHE, institute, sports night and any invitation for a social event you get on FB (and if you are my friend on FB, you know I forward A LOT of invitations). I guarantee, at the end of the month, you will wonder why you ever felt alone.
The next step is starting to host activities of your own. Make sure it doesn’t conflict with anything that is already planned. And the key is to invite EVERYONE. It can take time to get a good turn out, I have had parties where only 2 people showed up. If that happens, make the most with the people that are there. Take the time to get to know them. And the key is, try it again!
So in conclusion…your singles years can be some of the best of your life! Make the most of them while you can. Maybe I am far too aware of this because any day I could get a call saying “hey, you’re old, go to a family ward”. This idea freaks me out too, but until that happens, I am going to have fun with the YSA every moment I can.