Dear Chris (age 20),
You’re still going to be single at 40, so just relax. And don’t sweat it. Live your life and enjoy what comes. (Also…40 is not as old as it sounds.)
(Today is my half birthday, which makes me officially 6 months away from the big
4-0…so this post seemed appropriate.)
My brother got married and started having kids when he was 19. And I always wanted to follow suit. One of my greatest hopes for my life has been to have my own family, and I wanted my kids to be able to (kind of) grow up with his. I had a lot of expectations that God was going to provide in that area the way I thought he should.
I grew up in the Midwest and went to a Christian college where the hope for everyone was “ring by spring”…before age 22. On one of the first days of school my roommate informed me that she was there to get her MRS degree…I didn’t even know what that meant when she said it. But I graduated college with no man in sight; not a boyfriend to be found.
And then at age 24, I graduated from grad school with no man in sight and not a boyfriend to be found.
The majority of people I know married between 25 and 30 (including 2 of my brother’s children…so now if I have kids, they’ll grow up with my brother’s grandkids, of which there are already 3). I’ve been through several waves of weddings…one right after college, one around 25, one around 29 and then another when I was in my mid-30s and all of my friends were 5 years younger.
I used to have a list of all my female friends who were still single because it felt better to be one in a crowd instead of one alone. That list is pretty short now.
I’ve spent a lot of time being sad about being “left behind.”
A lot of my friends started having kiddos later, so that didn’t really become a pressure I put on myself until these last couple of years when my subconscious became very conscious that the end for childbearing was drawing nigh. Thankfully, I’ve not been a gal who felt a desperate need to push a baby out my vagina (a friend’s phrase, not mine), so the biological baby clock has never really played that much into my dating decisions. But I have been a gal with a desperate need (at times) to find a mate. I started wishing for a boyfriend on my birthday candles when I was 12…and I have yet to date someone I can put in that category.
I’m not sure if my having a conversation with my 20 year old self about this topic would be encouraging or devastating but I wonder if it would have taken some pressure off my expectations that life had to look a certain way…and my disappointment when it didn’t.
So, 20 year old me…put your listening ears on…
When you are 39½, you will have gone on lots of dates with lots of guys…some who have been nice and some who have been complete assholes…but you will not yet have fallen in love. (I know. Weird, right? This doesn’t mean you’re going to be a cat lady. You don’t really like cats that much. And, trust me, you will have a LOT of good stories.) You’ll still hope for relationship but will have realized that there is a possibility that you might not ever fall in love…because you are not actually promised that in this life.
Sometimes this realization will be incredibly painful. So painful that you might find yourself clutching the sides of an empty crib (you will have had foster babies by now, which is why there’s an empty crib in this story) and sobbing on the floor in the middle of the night.
When it hurts that badly…and it will hurt that badly a lot over the years…you’ll cry your eyes dry, but you will still be able to stand up off the floor and get on with your life.
Just because you won’t have found someone does not mean you are too fat, too ugly, too smart, too dumb or too tall. It won’t be because you have red hair or because you are broken or because you are unlovable. It will just be the way it is for no reason that you can put your finger on, so don’t make up stories that will just make you feel like crap anyway. Besides, none of your friends will be able to figure out why either.
If you put yourself out there to find love, your heart will get broken…but you should try anyway because brokenness is the only way to grow and to learn the qualities of a good man. (Also, see above regarding a LOT of good stories…there are a tremendous number of weirdos in the dating pool.)
I know you can’t imagine it now, but when you’re almost 40, you’re going to realize how long life is and how much more time you have for adventure and for love. You’ll look back on the 20 years that came before and see how wonderful they’ve been and realize that, though your family doesn’t look like you expected it to, it’s enormous and is filled with people all over the world.