Nearing Thirty: The Single Life

I wrote this piece a few months ago (before I turned thirty). I am now thirty. And alive. . . and I finally have found the guts to post it. This is real talk, people!

As my thirtieth birthday looms, I am happy to report a minimal amount of panicking. Two years ago, the realization that I could very well still be single at the age of thirty made my stomach flip a bit. I think that during the past two years I have learned (finally) to treasure this time I have to myself. There are many benefits to being single, and maybe someday I’ll write about them. However, I sometimes feel that I’m often misunderstood, and I’ve been mulling over writing this post for a long time.

For whatever reason, I feel guilty when I talk about being tired or being too busy or being stressed because, invariably, I am saying it to a person who is in the throes of raising multiple toddlers, or a person who spent thirty years raising multiple children, or a person who is raising children while working full time. People probably look at my life from the outside and wonder how I could have reasons to complain, and I understand their assumptions. Yet, I insist that properly gauging the situation is impossible if you have never been there. I’ve been there, without a significant other. For eleven years. Eight of which have been by myself in my own living space. Living a single life is tough.

You are in charge of every detail of your life and must figure out every problem by yourself. Bills, car care, household budget, cooking, grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, ironing, insurance policies, lawn care, investments, retirements, savings accounts, health issues, doctor’s visits, flat tires, locking yourself out of your apartment (we don’t need to discuss how many times this has happened), and even little things like moving large pieces of furniture around in your living room.

If you are brave enough to go out stag, you endure awkward meals by yourself at restaurants, lonely moments at weddings, and sometimes even ominous moments in parking lots after dark.

You also endure well-meaning, but often saddening or sobering comments.

  • I can appreciate that you think I’m a “pretty, young thing” (whatever a “thing” is), but did you have to remind me (in front of all these other married people) that I am, indeed, unmarried?
  • I know you didn’t mean to make me feel like a failure when your mouth dropped open when I replied that I do not have a boyfriend, but, alas, the truth remains: nobody has chosen me yet.
  • I’m sure you do have a nice nephew, son, step-son, or step-cousin, but please don’t try to set me up with him when you literally just met me. Two people’s single status does not automatically call for a blind date. Rather, get to know me, ask me what I’m looking for, and please, set me up! I have so appreciated people’s hearts when they have set me up with someone. I feel loved and cared for in a very deep way. It’s the ones who treat it so lightly, as if it’s so easy, and should just happen right away, that annoy me.

You sometimes go for weeks without any physical touch. I remember very vividly a hug I received one morning at church about eight years ago. I had been living alone for probably four months, learning to teach and spending every waking moment at the school. That hug welcomed me into a community of people while simultaneously erasing a lot of anxiety, tension, and feelings of loneliness that I didn’t even realize were there. I will never forget how that made me feel. Until that moment, I had forgotten how meaningful and necessary physical touch can be. Sometimes even now, holding a baby or shaking a hand can have a profoundly positive effect on my day. I hope I will not take for granted the special moments that are in my future: rocking my kids, hugging my husband, nursing my children. And I am so thankful for my pastor’s wife, Brenda, who gives me hugs every Sunday and says, “Welcome Home” when I haven’t been at church for a few weeks. A body of believers has great potential to reach out to single people. If only they would recognize that we need a little love!

You sometimes feel that you are missing an opportune time in your life, knowing you have a lot of energy and effort to give, but not having a spouse or children to give it to. You wonder if you will be able to handle becoming a first-time mother at 35 or not getting married until you are unable to have children. In social settings, you often find yourself wistfully watching the young families around you. Sometimes you smile at their children. You try to smile at their parents. Sometimes, you are ignored or apologized to for being “bothered.”  ***Families with noisy children: I promise you I am not bothered. I’m sorry some people have shown you such disrespect. At the risk of taking a rabbit trail, I have noticed that some places in our society today seem unwelcoming to children and families. I’m sure families sometimes feel like it’s a single person’s world. Indeed, it is sometimes. However, in my experience (rural, small town Kansas, Christian community, private Christian college alumnus), it is not a single person’s world.***

You get volunteered for things because people assume you have the time to do them. I must say here that I am not involved in any activities I didn’t want to get involved with. I haven’t felt judged in this way myself, but I’ve noticed comments (even from myself!) about how so-and-so has time to do this or that because he or she is single. More commonly, though, it’s that he or she doesn’t have time to do this or that because he or she has a family. I understand this assumption about singles and their “time” the most.

You are nobody else’s most important person. This has to be the most difficult feeling singles struggle with. This applies most to singles who do not have children. It is sometimes very tough to come home to a dark, empty house (especially for a people person like me). It is a bit scary to think that if something horrible happened to you (like you died in your sleep or you were abducted), that it just might take awhile for someone to notice. When you are sick, you have to call someone to ask for help, which is a very difficult thing for to do.

For each of the struggles I pointed out above, I am sure I can come up with a positive. Maybe I’ll write about that later. But, I appreciate people’s understanding. Also, I must say that I have had numerous role models in my life who were single later into their lives than I am so far. They have even more reflections to give, and may have traveled a much more difficult road. All this to say, hug the single person in your life. Welcome them into your home and make them a part of your life. Many will not be interested, and some of them, like me, might truly not have the time to spend with you. But, your gestures of hospitality and caring and kindness will mean the world to them.

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Online Dating

Online dating isn’t something I thought I’d ever try, but after three months of trying it out, I’m wondering why I didn’t do this sooner. I’ve always lived in a small town with small populations of males my age, and I have rarely gone “out” to meet people (whatever that means–I guess I’m picturing the stereotypical twenty-something crowd that goes bar-hopping looking for people of the opposite sex to date). That was never me, and it never will be me. So, for the last six years, online dating might have been really good for me, even if I was a little busy with my Master’s and the process of learning how to teach. But, for whatever reason, I only just started to try it.

It’s interesting to think about those reasons. For one, I was mortified at the thought of someone finding out I was clicking away on people’s profiles in search for a date. It seemed desperate, a little creepy, and more like something for people much older than me. Another reason I avoided it is that I convinced myself I didn’t need online dating to help find somebody. It was a little prideful, actually, thinking, “I’m above God making that my story.” There was an blog post from Boundless that really confirmed how wrong this thinking was.  http://www.boundlessline.org/2011/10/engagement-stories-aurora-kenneth.html  Yet another (and probably the biggest) reason for not trying online dating was that I was a little embarrassed to admit I had a “problem” (i.e. not having a boyfriend/fiancee/husband at my age). Speaking of age, the median age for women to get married now is 26. I’m 28. So, it just confirms what we always knew, right? I’m above average. :) Anyway, up until this year, I have been very quiet about my desire to get married and have a family. Maybe I felt like I needed to put up a more independent front. Maybe I felt like people would feel sorry for me if I talked about it.This summer, during a family prayer time when everyone was home, I asked my family to pray that I would find a husband soon. Of course, mom has been praying for this for years, as I have, but it was affirming and healthy for me to tell it to my family. There is nothing wrong with letting people know you want to get married.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, thinking, “Oh, poor girl. She’s desperate to be married.” I’ve grown up around many people older than me who didn’t get married until after 30 (and even 40), so it wasn’t like I didn’t think it wasn’t going to happen eventually. I hadn’t (and still haven’t) hit the panic button. (Ummm…..actually I won’t ever hit the panic button because I have faith that God knows what is best for me at any given moment, and right now that’s being single). I’m so content and blessed in my life as it is right now. Still, I definitely recognize the ways in which life would be so much better married and starting a family. Being alone is boring!

So, why online dating? Basically, I believe God can and will use whatever means (even technological) currently available to move us along in His will. Does that mean I’m going to meet someone online? Not necessarily. Even if I don’t, I already know I will have been blessed by the experience and learned a little about myself in the process. Just in three months, I’ve been both blessed and, it would seem, a bit cursed, as I learn how to go about this process. That’s probably all you need to know about that. ;) More about the details later.

This all plays into the end of the year really well. I am finishing up yet another year after high school of being single. On some days, when I am free to wander around Barnes & Noble at my leisure, pick up and leave at the drop of a hat, or spend inordinate amounts of time reading or working on the latest project as school, the single life is a wonderful gift. On other days, when I come home from a big event to an empty apartment, sit and eat alone at a restaurant (worst thing ever!), or get asked (for the billionth time) why a “young, pretty thing” like me isn’t married, being single is a depressing and difficult experience.

Still, regardless of what happens, I always know that God is right there, and He truly provides me with comfort on the tough days. One of the best was this past Valentine’s Day, an experience I have been a bit too self-conscious to share up until now. I had walked back up to the school to get something, and when I walked out of the building and headed west, I was blessed by this gorgeous sunset. It seemed that God was speaking directly to me, saying, “I Love You.” He knows His children intimately and speaks to them in ways that are perfect just for them. That was the best Valentine’s Day gift ever!

So, I’m soon headed into another year of the single life. I hope it is full of adventure and love!

It’s Go Time

If there ever was a “go time” in my life, it’s right now. I paid my graduation fee yesterday, which means I MUST take the MA exam in March, and I MUST write three papers (before May!). Looking at the weeks ahead with Forensics season starting, a forensics meet to host (my first meet by myself!), and FCA activities, I’ll have no choice but to schedule every single free minute I have as “study time.”  Or “writing time.”

Ugh. If only I’d written more papers as I went! I don’t know any fellow classmates who didn’t struggle getting papers finished. I guess the good thing about it all (and the cure to anyone whose ailment is procrastination) is that the $50 and the pressure will force me to get it finished. Right?

It’s go time!!

Hope is the thing with feathers. . .

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson’s poem describes my life right now. I’m hopeful for the future (even though I’m working on wretched grad school papers from the past that are preventing me from focusing on the future). A new job. New people. A new apartment to decorate (not that I did much with the first set of living quarters, but here’s hoping!).

Just last weekend, I had a down day. One of those days when you feel like nothing is going right, you don’t want to do anything, and you certainly don’t want to do nothing. But, I’m glad those times only last a little while because I have so many reasons to be hopeful. God is good. Even when we are not. He is always there, even when we haven’t cared to spend time with him at all. God has plans for me, and that is what makes me hopeful.

“Sweetest in the gale is heard” the bird of hope. That means that hope is most cherished and longed for when one is going through a tough time. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns song, “I’ll praise you in this storm.” When things are going bad–that is the time when we ought to praise Him most. Take delight in His word. Trust in His grace.

Rock It

I don’t know where the expression came from, but throughout the Forensics season, I’ve been telling my kids to “rock it” on their performances. : ) Kind of strange. Yet effective. We actually huddled up before the League Tourney started back in March and said, “Rock It!” We placed 2nd, losing only the the eventual state runner-up. We did the same thing this past weekend at state, and then finished 8th in the state, just one point away from 7th, which would have beat our placing from last year. Our team had a 2nd place Oration, 3rd place and 5th place IDA, 7th place Oration, 9th place IDA, 9th place Duet. With only ten entries (16 is a full team), our kids placed in the top of the tournament! It was a good day. And, it really helps when you get to work with really good kids.

I have an interview five hours away on Thursday morning. I’ve decided to go home on Wednesday night so the drive is only 2 1/2 hours in the morning. It should go well. I must impress them. I really want this job. I guess I’ll have to “rock it!” :)

Whose Idea Was This?

I really don’t understand where it started. Some guy from Smithsonian travel called me one day at school, I guess. I had sent in a card with my information on it, showing a bit of interest in traveling with my students. Of course, I filled that card out on a whim, and I had no inkling how it would all build up and come together like this. But, here I am on my first official day of Spring Break, preparing to fly to DC with 14 students in tow. There are many loose ends to tie up before we go. And, I need to start thinking about packing! I guess Forensics and parent/teacher conferences have been taking up all my time.

We started out with the idea of traveling with an agency. The guy who called me sounded really cute on the phone. Hence, Andrea and I dubbed him “the hot Smithsonian guy.” And, then Smithsonian guy transferred me to another agent, and once we saw how much cheaper we could make the trip if we did it ourselves, we turned down Smithsonian.

That began a long road of fundraising, organizing, planning, researching on the Internet, and keeping track of our money. It has been quite the challenge. I’m extremely excited to see the pay off! I also marvel at how people used to plan trips. Maybe they relied on travel agents more in the past. Andrea and I have done everything by the Internet and phone. I’m becoming an even bigger fan of google maps. You can mark out your route for the day by car, walking, or public transit! It’s fantastic.

So, why am I doing this? I know I love my students and want to give them a chance to get out of the county. I guess I love a challenge. I guess I don’t think through the decisions I make very thoroughly at times. :)

To top it all, I have an interview on Monday morning at the school where I have applied. And, I don’t have any navy pants for my navy suit jacket. Wonderful. I’m going to frantically search for some in Wichita on Sunday evening. Had I thought of this sooner, I could have bought some online. We all know that’s the only place I can find pants long enough. But, like I said, I guess I’ve been a bit consumed with everything else that has been going on. So, I choose to be optimistic about my last minute shopping trip to Wichita. I will find extra long pants at Gap, Express, or Banana Republic. All will be well . . .

Okay, okay. I’ll take my black jacket and pants along with me this weekend. :)

Time for a Change

It’s official. I’m moving in May! I resigned from my teaching job last week

I’m going to rent my grandparents’ house for a year as they transition into an apartment (where Grandma can more easily care for Grandpa, who has Parkinson’s) and as my Uncle Bill prepares to move his family back to Sterling for good. I’m excited to be able to help out my family, but I’m also excited for a new adventure, and for being closer to home. I haven’t enjoyed being all alone four hours away from home for almost four years.

Now, the search is on. I have found only one English opening near Sterling. It’s about 20 miles away, and the school is small just like South Central. I’m a bit leery of picking up too many preps again, but if this is the only job that is open, I’m going to have to take what I can get. If a job doesn’t open up or I don’t get the ones I apply for, I think I will sub every day. I’m not sure how all the details are going to work out if I don’t have a constant paycheck, but I suppose I can always learn to waitress or work at a store, if needed.

I am trusting in God to provide me with whatever it is I need next year. Meanwhile, I’ll be home this summer! Can’t wait to hang out with my family and work on the farm and have a nice long break from the daily work of teaching.