As the sun lit up the room and turned night into day, I drank in every detail of his face as he lay sleeping beside me. The deep v shape of his cupid’s bow, his strong nose, the two deep lines that had made a home upon his forehead, and the freckles and little moles that danced across his face. This could be my person I thought, almost wished to myself that August morning.
But seven months on, and one love triangle later it turned out he wasn’t ‘the one’. Now I only see his face in my dreams, a cruel joke played on me by my subconscious. I wake up feeling disappointed that he didn’t love me back, sad that yet again I’m totally alone and fearful that meeting ‘the one’ might never happen.
For me, that’s what it’s like to be single in my thirties. Scary. My married friends don’t get it, ‘you’ll meet someone’ they insist. But what if I don’t!? I know women in their 40’s who are unmarried, childless and unhappy and I’m worried that could be me. With only three months till my 33rd birthday I feel the fear even more strongly than before. You see I’ve always been a planner. When it came to my career I did the university course most suited to my end goal (in fact I ‘ran away’ from the university my parents wanted me to go to and ended up going to the one that was in my step-by-step ‘become a beauty editor’ plan). I interned at all the right places, and worked my way up from assistant to editor. However, when it comes to love, I discovered early on that you can plan all you like, but the exercise is futile. Married by 30, first child by 32 – I’ve missed all those deadlines, and after my latest heartbreak it may well be better to let go of those dreams.
Oddly I thought I had. Early last year while working on a career crisis feature for Psychologies Magazine, psychologist and leadership coach Sarah Rozenthuler shared something that really made me think. ‘Goals can become a straitjacket rather than a springboard. If we hold on too rigidly to our future plans, we can miss what life might be calling us to do in the moment.’ Although she was talking about my work, she helped me see that when it came to my love life I should just let go, enjoy life and see where that leads me. So that’s what I decided to do, I forgot about my ‘love goals’ for a while and I ‘ran away’ to the one place that made me happy – New York. I went out alone, met new people, made new friends, learnt new things and did what made me happy for a whole three months. The happier I felt about myself and my life the less I felt like a failure for being single, childless and jobless to boot. That’s when I started to date for fun, without an end goal in mind. Being in another country helped too; because it didn’t feel like real life, the pressure was off. I came home and my attitude towards dating remained the same, (at best a fun night out, at worst a hilarious story to regale my friends with) so I signed back up to a few dating apps to make it easier to meet new people (London is a tough place to meet men). My very first date turned out to be with him and before I knew it my New York state of mind had disappeared. Perhaps it had something to do with being back home – with all the pressures of what I deemed a successful life entailed (good job, nice home, great relationship, cute kids etc) creeping their way back in, or simply that we had such an instant connection. Whatever it was I couldn’t stop myself from seeing a future with him and when those hopes were dashed, all my fears came back to the surface. This saw me stick around far longer than I should have, fight for him when he didn’t want to be fought for and allow him to pick me up and put me down when it suited him. My fear of losing (I use the term loosely, as he was never 100 percent there) him and the reality that I was totally alone took me back to a version of me I truly thought I’d left in the wind.
I was officially unhappy and I knew I had to try and figure out a way to be OK with being alone. We can’t control our lives but we can control how we feel. It’s a constant battle. How can you be happy when the things you want most in life don’t materialise? How do you pretend that you don’t want to meet someone special, and have a family? People say that another person can’t complete you, that you have to be happy in order to be in a healthy relationship, but what if the source of your unhappiness stems from not actually being in a relationship!? I find the whole concept wholly unfair! None the less I’m filling my days with things that I enjoy and I’m starting to get back the motivation for work that I felt I’d lost, and I figure the odd moment of fear is something I just have to deal with and push to the back of my mind. If it’s meant to happen for me it will and if it doesn’t, I hope I am able to master the art of being a happy single. Watch this space.
My #30andsingle series sheds light on what it’s really like to be single in your thirties. Since every experience is different (unlike me, some women relish their single status), I shall be featuring stories from a range of perspectives. So, keep an eye out for future pieces from a number of guest writers. Some stories will resonate more than others but either way I hope you’ll find answers, affirmations and the realisation that you’re not alone.