Somewhere during my teenage existence, I decided 23 was the perfect age to get married. I’m Mormon, which means people tend to marry young and start families sooner than the rest of society. I never wanted to be one of those girls waiting around to get married, but finding a mate has always been an important part of my life plan. I assumed by the time I graduated from college I would find a great guy to marry and we’d start our lives together. It was happening all around me, so why shouldn’t it happen for me, too?
I’ve dated but nothing has ever blossomed into a full-blown, real relationship. I came close once, but the timing, among other things, was never right. I recently found out that this ex “almost” boyfriend of mine has happily settled down with someone. I’d always held out hope that we’d eventually end up together, but now I know that’s never going to happen. Lately, despite my typical reliance on hope to get me through, I’ve been unable to shake the nagging fear that I might end up alone.
As I settle into adulthood and inch closer to the big 3-0, my friends continue to pair off. Last summer, my three closest college girlfriends, including my best friend, said, “I do”. My little brother also tied the knot. Over a year ago, my younger sister got married. Nearly everyone in both my social and professional circles is either married or in a serious relationship. It’s no exaggeration that I’m often the only “single” person at the table.
My friends and siblings’ concerns now include things like wedding planning, getting to know their in-laws, and saving to buy a house. Whenever couple-only topics like these come up, I automatically retreat inward, unable to contribute anything meaningful or relevant to the conversation. It’s not like I’m going to chime in and say something like “so last night my cat and I…” It feels like there’s no one in my inner circle who can relate to my reality. I feel left behind and sometimes wonder if something’s wrong with me. Why am I the only one that’s alone? Somebody has to bring up the rear. I guess there’s no reason it shouldn’t be me.
Being single definitely comes with its perks. There’s no one to complain when I don’t do the dishes or stay up too late binge watching Nashville or Grey’s Anatomy. I manage my own schedule and don’t have to factor in someone else’s needs or feelings when I make decisions. When decorating my apartment I don’t have to combine feminine and masculine elements—I can use as much pink as I want.
It’s not so much that I’m consumed by loneliness, but rather I’m acutely aware that the majority of my time is spent alone. I do my best to schedule dinner dates and outings with friends but my everyday life consists of moving from one solitary state to the next. By choice, I live alone in a studio apartment. I have my own office at work and my job requires more screen time than face-to-face interaction. I’m an introvert and value my alone time. Too many social gatherings back-to-back and I become paralyzed by anxiety. But even introverts crave companionship.
I’ve never equated my self worth with my relationship status. We’re fortunate to live in a time when being single does not automatically strip a woman of her power or doom her to spinsterhood. Over the years I’ve learned to enjoy–even embrace–my single status. But when I imagine my future, I picture it with someone beside me. I think everyone–if we were truly honest with ourselves–would admit that we’re not meant to live this life alone. There are different types of life partnerships. Not everyone wants children and there are many alternative ways for women to become mothers, but I desperately want to be a wife and a mother.
Experience and maturity have provided me with insight and perspective that I didn’t have at 19 or 23. I’m no longer jealous of other people’s romantic success or constantly anxious about finding “the one”. I find myself surrounded by couples, and I can truthfully say I’m genuinely happy for them.
Despite my sincere happiness for others, I’m still frustrated by my present circumstances. I don’t want to be alone but right now that’s my reality. Even though I’m uncertain about my future, I’ve learned to put my trust in hope rather than fear. My life is not the way I pictured it. I’ve had heartaches, successes, and adventures I would have never imagined. And even though I’m afraid of ending up alone, I know the fear won’t last forever. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel—I’m sure—it’s just further away and a different hue than I always expected.