My life is good.
At 38, I’m blessed to be in a job that is fulfilling, intellectually stimulating, with opportunities for growth and on-going career development. I’m healthy. My parents, brother, nephews and I actually enjoy each other’s company, for the most part. I have more friends upon whom I can truly rely than I actually have time to see.
Yet for the past six years, I’ve felt like I’m the last second grader waiting to be picked for the dodge-ball team. I keep looking around and thinking, “When’s it going to be my turn?”
Growing up I assumed that like everyone else, I’d meet someone, fall in love, get married and have a couple of babies.
I was not too worried about it or focused on it. It was not an articulated goal of mine, just something I assumed would happen. I spent my 20’s in New York working and having fun. I had multiple circles of friends, and I dated. Nothing serious. Fun. I would not trade that time and those experiences for anything. I am not, nor was I ever, jealous of those friends of mine who met their partner in college. It worked for them and I am glad that it did. But it wasn’t for me. I needed and reveled in my independence. In fact, despite my assumptions, I just expected to spend my 20s exactly as I did.
I just didn’t expect to spend my 30s alone too.
Don’t get me wrong; there are benefits to being single. Although I put considerable energy into my relationships—family, friends and a boyfriend when I have one—in reality, my life is still all about me. I allocate my budget without input from anyone. No one leaves the seat up to cause middle of the night butt-dips into the toilet. There are no fights over the remote control. No one says anything if I decide to have red wine with a side of chocolate for dinner. Again.
So yes, there are benefits.
But there are burdens too. It’s lonely. No one takes care of me. And I don’t have the joy of taking care of someone else either. I’m a nurturer and I like to take care of other people. Although I can, and do, take care of myself, I recently learned that like most, I also like to have someone take care of me. An ex-boyfriend said, “but you never seemed like you needed someone to take care of you.”
Exactly. Maybe I don’t need it. I do want it. I think everybody does. So I’m in the market for a partner. Have been for years and years.
When will it be my turn? When will someone pick me?
The horrible feeling of being seven years old and waiting to be picked for a dodge-ball team is a quiet but constant companion. I deserve to have my turn. I deserve to be loved, and appreciated fully. I deserve that. And I’m still waiting for it.
I’m a good person.
Why hasn’t anyone picked me for his team?
I have been standing on the side for more than 20 years.
Does the game or season end?
How can I sustain the energy for the search?
From where should I draw the patience to stay in the game, waiting for my team?
How do I keep hoping?
I don’t have any answers to these questions.
It’s frustrating, both to be waiting still and not to have the answers. Very rarely do I allow myself to wonder, “What if it’s never my turn?” Sometimes I do, because being patient is very hard.
However, I believe that way of thinking would lead me to give up, to close myself off from possibility and would diminish my quality of life overall. In truth, it may be that I never have a turn, but failing to remain open to it risks a self-fulfilling prophesy. I refuse to take that risk.
For now, I focus on the fact that impatience should not prompt me to “settle” for less than the love, appreciation and acceptance that I deserve. I’ve waited this long and I can wait longer. I commit myself to growing with each relationship—staying open to love—when I find it, loving with my whole heart and embracing the heartbreak and learning when that love either ends or is not returned.
Baggage is inevitable with this much life experience and so we all carry more baggage into our relationships. I try to minimize mine, so that what I offer is even better than what I would have 10 years ago or even two.
These feelings are not unique to someone my age; depending on expectations and goals, 27 year old women may be experiencing the same type of feelings, watching so many friends get married and thinking, “When will it be my turn?” Those feelings are valid regardless of how long someone has been waiting or searching, for her person, her “turn.”
But at my age, there is an added component that I must consider and about which I must make decisions: children. I must acknowledge that my fertility window may close soon. Should I go for it alone in order to become a mother? Many women choose to do this and many do it well; I admire them for it. In fact, until age 33, my answer was clearly yes, I would choose motherhood, even if I did not meet the right person.
Then I watched my friends become mothers.
My friends are amazing moms and I watch them work so hard to be amazing moms, to maintain their marriages and to balance their careers with the work inside their homes. What I see is a great deal of sacrifice.
Don’t get me wrong; the sacrifices are voluntarily made out of love but they seem substantial. Despite our opportunities in the workplace, I observe in friend after friend the woman’s career taking a bigger hit than the man’s. These are choices and I do not judge my friends for their choices, whether or not their careers decelerate.
And I recently decided that I am not willing to make those sacrifices; I have become more set in my ways and focused on my career—ambitious—and I am not willing to do it alone. In fact, I am not sure that I would be willing to do it with a partner either.
Bottom line, I’m too self-focused.
I’m okay with that. Some will judge me for that decision, many will not.
The upside to that decision is that it definitely diminishes the feeling of urgency for it to be my turn.
Nevertheless, it can still be really painful to wait, with hope, for my turn. Last year I fell in love. It completely surprised me, as he was different in every way from any man I had ever dated. I thought this man was incredible, and I truly thought, “Yes, it’s my turn now. It was worth the wait.” The man is a very good man, but like any other person, he has flaws. Those flaws did not matter to me, nor did they affect how I felt about him. The love I felt was deeper than I had ever experienced.
The problem: he did not love me back. Heartbreaking. Devastating. Disappointing. It still wasn’t my turn.
Instead of becoming bitter or perseverating on what wasn’t, what should have been, I choose the following response: “Wow. If it was that amazing and it was not even my turn, just think of what my turn will feel like.”
So I wait, with an open heart, a curious mind and a huge amount of hope for when it really is my turn.
It doesn’t actually make it any easier, to think this way. This topic makes me cry, every single time I tell someone about it (or write, apparently). Therefore, I know that it is important to keep waiting.
If you are waiting as well, you have to believe that it will be worth it.
I know it will.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Travis May