As a young adult, I had to battle the stigma associated with being single. Society seemed, and probably still does, to demand that you fit the mold of being married and raising a family. Otherwise, you’re led to think there’s something wrong with you or you’re getting left behind. That begs the question, why do we want to fit in a mold anyway? Whose job is it in society to tell everyone what the status quo is and what’s normal and acceptable or not? Why do we listen or even care what other people think our lives should look like? There are more than 330 million people in the US alone. Do you mean to tell me every single one of us should be living the cookie cutter life of a suburban family, complete with a white picket fence and shuttling the littles to soccer games?
I spent most of my life single, and I’m here to tell you, I’m very proud of that and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Of course, now that I’m 44 and 3 years married, it’s easy for me to look back and say how enlightening and empowering it was to be single, but would I have thought that 10 years ago? Twenty years ago? Probably not. I didn’t have full perspective of how powerful that time in my life was until I got out of it. (Isn’t that how it always is? You never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore.)
What I learned in my “season of being single,” as I’ll call it, is a beautiful thing. It’s something so many people think they already do and truly don’t, or people spend their entire lives looking for and never find.
Self-love is the thing we all need to be talking about. This is what we all really want, right? We spend our lives seeking validation from everything and everyone else… except ourselves. Why else would we try so hard to fit the mold? Or feel inadequate for not fitting a mold? What we should be doing is making our own mold that fits our true selves, actively discovering what we want our mold to look like and working to be the best version of that mold. It took me 40 years to figure out my own mold, and that was only after I spent years being unhappy because I didn’t fit the mold that was expected of me. I was 25, not married and no kids. Then I was 30, not married and no kids. Then 35…
I think it was when I turned 30, and spent my entire birthday crying because I wasn’t at all where I thought I’d be, that it hit me…why exactly was I sad? Am I lonely, yes, I think I am. Shouldn’t I be? I don’t even have a boyfriend. Am I sad I don’t have kids? No. I’m not ready for kids. Am I sad I haven’t bought a house? Yes, isn’t that what shows I’m successful in life? Or am I just feeling left behind because I see all my peers getting married, buying houses, making babies, and I’m nowhere close to having any of these things.
But then I dug deeper. Why in that moment in my life was I defining myself by what everyone else was doing? Isn’t that what we all do? In an age of social media, how can we not? We see a small glimpse into people’s lives, (what they decide to share anyway), and it tempts us to compare our lives to what we think theirs is. But I grew up in an age with no social media, and I still felt inadequate. That’s exactly what happens when we look outside for validation.
My “season of being single” taught me a lot of things. It forced me to learn how to love myself. When you’re alone all the time, you get inside your own head a lot. For some, that can be excruciating. There’s a lot going on inside our own heads. Deep inside, that’s where all our baggage sits. Who wants to sit alone and stare at all their baggage? I certainly didn’t. But for most of my life, I had no choice. Some people get engrossed in work so they don’t have to sit with their baggage. Others drink or do drugs. Still others busy themselves with superficial, temporary relationships that offer no depth, because going deep means to go to where your baggage is sitting. For me, I didn’t love my job enough to get engrossed. I drank socially, but it didn’t consume me. The thought of having another superficial conversation or relationship exhausted me so much I threw up walls so I didn’t have to socialize with anyone. So, then that left me with myself. Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t know it at the time, but this allowed me to become so tuned-in to myself that I slowly started learning what I liked. What I didn’t like. What I cared about. What made me feel right in the world. And most importantly, how God fit into all of that. I started praying to God, not because that’s what I was raised to do before dinner or before I went to bed, but because I genuinely wanted God to be a part of my life. When you continue to do something on a regular basis, over an extended period of time, it’ll start to have lingering effects. It wasn’t necessarily my goal; I didn’t really have a goal at the time. I was just trying to live day by day. But looking back at it now, I was developing a true relationship with God. I was also developing a true relationship with myself. I started recognizing the things that had value in my life and the things that had no value. I began to weed out these things of no value, because I found myself at a point in my life where I truly valued myself. The more time I spent with God and myself, the more I didn’t want to waste my time on things that had no value.
Perhaps it was also my sense of maturity growing as I got older, but by my mid-30s, obtaining a boyfriend was the furthest thing from my mind. At this point, I had shed enough tears, screamed into enough pillows, lain awake for enough nights, and endured enough lonely days. After I fought kicking and screaming for enough years, I learned to completely rely on God and His plan for my life. I lost my obsession for trying to make things happen in my will. I fully embraced God’s will and I became confident in the fact that when He was ready, God would bring that person into my life. I wasn’t going to have to figure it out all on my own. How liberating that became for me! I could finally relax. I didn’t feel pressure to force anything to happen, I trusted God had it under control. I was strong. I was independent. If I needed to do something, I didn’t wait for someone else to come along to do it for me. I watched a how-to video, got the tools I needed, and I figured it out. The more I did for myself, the more I loved and respected myself. I learned to not seek anything external to contribute value to me. It all came from within, because as my relationship with God deepened, so did my trust in Him.
And wouldn’t you know, the person God had for me was right under my nose all along. He was a friend of a friend, with whom I’d periodically spend time with in casual group settings. Little did I know God was working in his life, too. He was preparing us both for the person he had prepared for us… each other. For years, this person wasn’t even on my radar, and vice versa. It just wasn’t time yet. Sure enough, one day out of the blue, during one of our group social outings, he looked different to me. I noticed a spark. A butterfly in my stomach. A deeper conversation than we’d ever taken the time to have. It’s funny how we start to see things differently when it’s divinely orchestrated. I saw him, and he saw me in a completely different light. Needless to say, the rest is history, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say, timing was everything. If it happened any earlier, it wouldn’t have worked. Neither one of us would’ve been fully prepared to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.
I say all of this to say, learn to love yourself, trust God, and trust the process. Don’t compare your life to others. God’s plan for your life is for you only. He knows what he’s doing, and believe me, what He has planned for your life is well worth the wait. Let go, and let God.
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