What could I know about dating, right? I’m 22. I’m the first to admit dating confuses me, as it does many. I’m pretty sure online dating wouldn’t exist if everyone knew how to pair off on their own.

Can you imagine? Just being able to do this organically in an efficient matter? In this imaginary world, little girls just point to boys on the playground and they’ve mated for life — like penguins.

No instead, we’re left with unlabeled “things” — in a world where no one can quite pinpoint exactly what a “thing” is but everyone knows they are definitely a thing. Didn’t quite follow that last part? Exactly.

So, we patiently wait until we’ve gone on “enough” dates with a single human to approach the awkward, “What are we…?” conversation. And then in due time when it inevitably dissipates, we’re back at square one, swiping through a seemingly endless stream of mirror selfies and poorly crafted bios.

Which brings me to everything I have learned over 22 years: dating is hard.

I could leave it at that.

But through the entire series of Sex and the City, Andrea Silenzi’s Why Oh Why podcast, Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, my own personal experience, Taylor Swift songs, and countless viewings of movies like 500 Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally, here is what I have come up with:

1. On a first date, if they’re asking a bunch of questions, it’s actually a bad thing! It means that the conversation isn’t naturally flowing (Why Oh Why).

2. If you’re meeting through a dating app, it’s actually better to meet early on, rather than chatting for a long time. That way you can see what your dynamic is like in person (Aziz).

3. There always seems to be that *one* person that creeps back into our lives (i.e. Mr. Big in SATC). But that doesn’t mean that they are “the one.”

4. Being truly open to something means being vulnerable — and willing to sit out on the curb in the rain with your heart in your hand.

5. Breaks… more like BreakS. (FRIENDS — Ross and Rachel. Enough said.)

6. Going on exciting dates can help you like a person more than a standard dinner/coffee date — you associate the adrenaline rush with your feelings for a person. (Read Modern Romance for more on this phenomenon — it’s actually pretty interesting).

7.  Often times one person likes the other person more — and it sucks on both sides (500 Days of Summer — and personal experience).

8. You shouldn’t stay with someone you’re not crazy about just because they check some boxes or sound good on paper.

9. You also deserve better than being with someone who falls anywhere short of being absolutely crazy about you, too (Half of My Heart — John Mayer).

9.5. But watch out for the people who are just straight up crazy.

10. Your ex is an “ex” for a reason.

11. Most people have to kiss more than their fair share of frogs (or in my case, go on a string of bad coffee dates) before meeting Prince Charming.
12. Sometimes, we need to take breaks from the dating scene to take care of ourselves first.
13. If you start to like hanging out with someone else more than your significant other, it’s probably time to move on.
14. No matter how well a first date goes, saying “I love you” is NEVER appropriate. (How I Met Your Mother).
15. Facebook stalking your ex is not helping you move on (weirdly enough — a college class called the Dynamics of Online Relationships — and no, it was not just about online dating).
16. Maybe there is no “one,” maybe there’s just “the one right now” (a monologue I did in college).
17. Getting together with someone who still has feelings for their ex will always end badly (#tb to the time I learned this about a guy I was seeing from his Twitter. #unfollowed #classycollegeboys).
18. Sometimes it’s best to have low expectations — but that doesn’t mean lowering your standards.
19. Having more options isn’t necessarily a good thing. With the invention of online dating comes that seemingly endless stream of profiles to swipe through — leaving people more easily unsatisfied, because they’re always wondering if there is something better out there (Aziz’s Modern Romance). 
20. Dating is hard — until you find the right person who makes it easy (Why oh Why).

21. Sometimes you just have to Shake It Off and sing Our Song Fearlessly with someone in your Wildest Dreams when you’re 22 because You Belong With Me… and because let’s be real: sometimes Taylor Swift songs are annoyingly relatable.

22. 22 is too young to settle.

There’s this country song called, Settlin’, and one of the first lines is “don’t even know why I try when I know how it ends… lookin’ like another we could be friends.” The song is all about not settling, and I can’t get it out of my head lately.

At 22, I’m not ready to settle for mediocre.

As Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.”