Elizabeth Day thinks your 20s are a brilliant time to embrace being alone, and we have to agree.
Heartbreak can sometimes feel like running through treacle, although obviously, not nearly as sweet.
Laboured and exhausting, when in the depths of break-up anguish, the remnants of a relationship can cling to us so fiercely that we think we’ll never be free of it. Every step forward feels sticky and slow.
It’s a difficult process at any age, but in the lead up to the dreaded 30, some can get even more spooked by a “failed” relationship because of the supposed enormity of that number.
But Elizabeth Day, talented and successful author, podcast founder and speaker at this year’s Stylist Live Luxe, thinks that actually our 20s are the best time to be alone.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk at Cliveden House’s Women in Power event, Day says: “I spent my 20s in a series of long term, monogamous relationships. From the age of 19 to 36 I was part of a couple, the last relationship becoming my marriage.
“I don’t regret anything, but I think looking back I wish that I had taken those relationships less seriously.”
Day has spoken extensively about how she was forced to change her mindset and her life after a relationship in 2017 came to a swift, brutal end, causing her to reassess the way she felt about failure.
Instead of being scared of things not going to plan and refusing to address her failures, Day realised how much failure teaches us and what an important part of growth it is. Break ups in particular, she found, can teach us so much and there’s no better time to learn about ourselves than in our 20s.
“I feel like in every single one of my relationships I was so dutiful and always trying to be the perfect ‘wifely girlfriend’. I was the one who went to work and then did all the shopping and made a lovely meal for me and my boyfriend. And I don’t know why I bothered. I didn’t need to do that. They didn’t ask me to do that.
“I was almost worried what would happen if I was single, so I was making a series of relationships work longer than I needed to,” Day reminisces of her own experiences.
Day recognises that there’s a huge stigma, especially for women, around the age of 30. This seems to pile on the pressure even harder, making women feel that they need to be in a committed relationship by the time they enter their third decade, a notion which is out of date and patriarchal. All you need to be in your 30s, is you.
“I think when you’re in your 20s you feel like there’s this giant cut off point when you’re 30, because you feel like you have to be ‘young’ to achieve loads of things. I wish I could tell myself that it’s OK to have some downtime. It doesn’t have to be a constant tick boxing exercise where you get onto the next achievement and then you can have some time out,” the author assures us.
“The best thing about turning 30 is you don’t have to worry about turning 30 anymore.”
Of course, if you’re happy in a relationship then that’s brilliant. But if you are struggling with a break-up, remember Day’s words and that in her opinion, your 20s are the perfect time to spend time alone and enjoy dating.
Love soaking up wisdom from inspiring women? Day is just one speaker in a whole series of incredible, accomplished women who will be speaking at Cliveden House as part of the Women in Power series to celebrate 100 years since Nancy Aster (former owner of the house) took her seat in parliament as the first woman to do so. The next event is on 8 November and will see Clare Balding talk about how she got to where she is today.
If you can’t wait until then to visit this beautiful country house, check out the Cliveden Literary Festival on 28-29 September, which features speakers like Lucy Worsley, Emily Maitlis and Candice Carty-Williams.
Images: Jenny Smith Photography