When I go to the site settings in my top level site it says I have no sites. But I sure hope I do or the last month was a big waste of time! What the heck? Maybe I created something besides a site? But when I go to my "site" the word sites is in the URL. That URL also contains the same address as my top level site:
I think you need to understand that when you are creating a site from the SharePoint Home page, you are creating a top site and not a subsite so that's the reason why yo are not seeing the sites created in the site contents page
Well of course it depends what you mean by "top level". OrgName.sharepoint.com is more commonly referred to as the root site collection. It comes by default with your tenant and you should not delete it. Then you can create subsites, or other site collections. When you see a url like OrgName.sharepoint.com/sites/ThisCoolSite/WhateverNext, it means that ThisCoolSite is a site collection.