Why It’s Okay to Be Single and Fulfilled at 34
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a hopeless romantic, so you can imagine my surprise when life dealt me the hand where I’d find myself single at 34. It’s not for lack of trying, or at least, lack of doing all the things that you think you should do to meet your person. But deep down, there’s always been this innate resistance to settling, just for the sake of that saccharin dream the young girl in me held so tight.
Sure, I tried to suppress my ideals and landed myself in some majorly unfortunate romantic relationships that brought me a great deal of heartache, disappointment, and even trauma. Surely, I learned from all of those romances but still maintained that one day, I would find the person who made it all worth it and that settling would be off the table forever.
The disappointment and frustration I felt about my own romantic misfortunes are often enhanced by the very clear and present societal standards that are placed upon women. Outside of being told as a young girl that I had to get an education, it was ingrained in me that you subsequently get married and have children. Those are the boxes you tick, there really aren’t any suitable deviations.
So, of course, as time passed and my marital status lingered at single, I began to feel immense pressure from the outside world, and also a deep sense of unworthiness within myself. It seemed like everyone else was able to do what they needed to tick off the boxes, so what was wrong with me?
I endured those very funky years of my late 20’s where every other weekend you’re attending a wedding, which means that if you’re single, you’re attending said weddings solo. You’re the third wheel at dinners out; you’re the one that everyone secretly wonders, “when is she finally going to meet someone?” All those painful social circumstances add up, and for a period of time, I resented my singleness and my aloneness. I really thought that I was the last single girl.
As life does, I experienced a lot of change and course correction from my 20’s to my 30’s and I was relieved (but also shocked) when I made new friends with some amazing women who found themselves in the same dating predicaments as I did. We were all 30-somethings with our lives together–responsible, charismatic, funny, and single. And dating for us felt like an odd mix of a game, a chore, and the thing you did to get the rest of the world off your back for being that single woman.
All our married friends would, in jest, ask us why we aren’t on dates all the time. “Surely it’s easy with the apps these days, right?” Some friends would apologetically lament that they had no suitable single friends. Others would take on our dating lives like it was a game and would relish the opportunity to swipe around on the plethora of dating apps, because how much fun is that to swipe without having to deal with the dates on the other end?
For me, and many of my single friends, the dating world in 2020 feels so much less about finding partnership and more about what I said earlier, a numbers game. How many dates can you go on until you find someone who will suit you? And sadly, that’s never how I felt my romantic life would go, the hopeless romantic in me still carries the torch for a serendipitous meet-cute, and I know that many of my girlfriends hold on to that vision of life bringing love in the most perfect and beautiful timing.
What I’ve learned from what I perceived as a lack of love is that life always gives us what we need. The time that I’ve spent being single has been a beautiful period of cultivating a strong, healthy relationship with myself, which I value immensely. I’m incredibly grateful to witness every day that more and more women in their 30’s (and beyond) are feeling content being on their own. They actually like their own company and are unwilling to settle for someone who doesn’t elevate their lives just for the sake of ticking a box or satisfying a societal norm. And that’s an amazing thing.
What I know to be true is that the desire is there for the partnership, the human connection, the family structure, but the willingness to settle is not. Romantic relationships don’t define us, they just add value to our already very meaningful lives. And I think that’s what so many women my age strive for.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, and if you’re feeling down about not having a Valentine, remember…
…It’s okay to feel frustrated and to be disappointed
…Other people will never know what it’s like to live your life, so tune out their judgments
…When you love yourself fully, you’re never alone
…You don’t need someone else to be completely whole and loved
…Trust that life presents us with the relationships and the people in beautiful timing
And remember to cherish the love that is already so present in your life.
This essay was featured in the February 9th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.