I originally planned to snuggle up on my couch with the book I couldn’t seem to put down (The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson – check it out; it’s wonderful). I carried pillows from my bedroom to the couch and piled blankets on top of my body and wiggled myself into a comfortable position amidst all the cozy warmth. It was New Years Day 2017 and I decided to celebrate with PJ’s and coffee and leisurely nothingness, but the weather demanded a change in plans. The sun beaming through my bay window kept drawing my attention away from Rainn’s quirky, poignant words. The temperature soared to 40 degrees (a veritable heat wave for Michigan in January), the sky vividly blue and devoid of clouds. I began shuffling around my apartment, gathering wool socks and water and my new JetBoil and a few other supplies…wasting such a beautiful day indoors no longer seemed like a viable option. I headed to a nearby recreation area to hike my favorite local loop. Only twelve hours old and 2017 was already shaping up to be pretty spectacular.
I was surprised by the number of cars lined up in the trailhead parking lot; apparently I wasn’t alone in my New Year’s Day outdoor eagerness. I set off in the direction of the lakeshore trail, hastening my pace in an attempt to generate some warmth. Within a matter of minutes, I came upon a young couple. Their conversation carried a hint of formality, which, coupled with their overt sweetness toward one another and unabashed PDA, indicated theirs was a new-ish relationship. In one hand, they each carried a craft brew, chatting as they moved down the trail…unhurried and enchanted with the others’ presence.
I smiled and wished them a Happy New Year and passed on the right as they paused to enjoy an expansive view of the frozen lake. When I came to a bend in the trail, I saw them kissing from the corner of my eye. An unfamiliar twinge rose in my chest; my hand came to rest for just a moment over my heart as I continued on. Something inside me whispered, ever so quietly, I want that.
Brittany’s Top 5 Favorite / Least Favorite ‘still single’ Quotes She’s Heard In the Past Two Years:
“By now, all of the good ones are married or gay…”
“What’s wrong with him?” Me: “What do you mean?” “Well if he’s still single…what’s wrong with him?”
“If you are +25 years and single right now…you need to make peace with the fact that you will be a step parent.” → (actual meme I saw on Facebook)
“Just wait…soon people will start getting divorced.”
“Online dating seems sad. I mean, not for you, but like, in general.”
I used to pity single people…(I still pity single people?) Past-tense or present? Are you allowed to pity a subset of humans if you find yourself a member of said subset? I digress.
Once I actually said some variation of the following sentence: “If I ever had to date again…I’d kill myself. Like, where would you even meet anybody? Dating would be the absolute WORST.” My boyfriend of five or six years at that time agreed. I sat on my very-comfy, long-term relationship high horse and occasionally listened, with smug amusement, to the tales of my few single acquaintances.
I’ve decided the Universe must have thought I was very funny in those days, with my ‘I will NEVER’s’ and my ‘DEFINITELY’s’ and my over-confidence and my plans. She probably giggled and thought, “Ohhh, B…you have no idea…you have no fucking clue what I’ve got in store. Hold on tight, kid. I’m about to whip up something really special.”
For the most part, being single, 27, and female in 2017 isn’t a bad gig, though I can’t help but wonder about my prospects. I shouldn’t speak for everyone in my demographic, but from where I sit, being single in my late-20s certainly feels atypical. Most of my high-school classmates are coupled up; many (if not most) are married or engaged. I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of people in my age group have finished their schooling and landed (at least momentarily) in the geographical area of their choosing. It’s a strange period of time between the chaos of early adulthood and what will inevitably come later (babies (or more babies), mortgages, divorce, etc.) Sometimes I can’t help but feel like a kid in gym class, standing awkwardly in a dwindling crowd of my peers, praying I’m not picked last for the team.
I wasn’t totally wrong years ago when I pompously declared my abhorrence for the idea of dating. It really does sound like the WORST. And where can you meet people? And if you are able to meet someone, what does “dating” as a bonafide adult look like? It’s overwhelming.
And if that’s not terrifying enough, there’s a pervasive conception in our society regarding single people-of-a-certain-age, which is: they’re not “the good ones” because “all the good ones” were scooped up at an appropriate age and if you find yourself still single in your late twenties or (god forbid) your thirties, something about you must be at least semi-defective. Words like “baggage” and “commitment-phobe” and “damaged” are thrown around as probably-accurate adjectives. I myself am guilty of assuming the worst about my fellow single-tons.
So when I felt a flutter of longing during my New Years’ Day hike, I couldn’t help but feel immediately up against it. Up against my worst nightmare. Up against a small pond with seemingly very few fish. Up against my own baggage and insecurities and fears. Up against my preconceptions and doubt. I didn’t want to feel the longing. I didn’t want to admit to myself: I want that. I love my comfortable and specifically-designed bubble of oneness. I am safe here…a world away from the vulnerability associated with human connection. It’s been my womb for months and months…my peaceful apartment, my comfy couch, my books and blankets and tea and bathtub and quiet and calm and serenity. I want to stay safe here, thank you very much, forever and ever amen.
Pulling myself into a taller, stronger posture, I hiked on.
Days later, I still couldn’t seem to shake the concept of “all the good ones.” If it’s true, if all the good ones are taken…it means that I belong to the others, to the not-good ones and I’ll be forced to settle for another not-good one: a baggage-toting, commitment-phobic, damaged, beaten-up somebody. It all sounded incredibly depressing to me, so I decided my heart must have been mistaken. Only an idiot would long for something like that.
But here’s the thing…somewhere along the line, at some point during the past year, I’ve come to know in my bones: I am good. Not because I’ve had to change to become good or work for it or do things differently…but because I had to surrender to the thing I had merely forgotten for so many years, the thing so many of us forget: I am good. We are all good. I was always good.
It was, in fact, the abandoning of myself that propelled my decidedly “not good” behavior. I forgot who I was and I accumulated what the world refers to as baggage, which is actually just a collection of experiences necessary to my particular journey. I spent a long time wishing away my baggage…I think a lot of us do. I think we beat ourselves up for our pasts and continue the cycle of forgetting who we are, leaving ourselves, seeking external validation, causing ourselves and others pain, feeling ashamed, and repeating the whole process again and again and again.
The older I get, and the more I learn about myself, and the further I am separated from the group of folks who were ‘scooped up’ earlier in life…the more deeply I sense a Divine plan. Was I “one of the good ones” at age 16, age 18, age 22, age 25? I suppose so, though I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me I was.
I suspect the adult dating pool is full of people with baggage: past relationships, ended marriages, addictions, abandonment, commitment issues, trust issues, childhood traumas, recent traumas, etc., etc. etc. But I suspect this is also true of the human race in general.
What I find intriguing, even enticing, is imagining someone out there who’s collected their own fascinating set of baggage. Someone who’s forgotten who they are…someone who’s hit the wall…someone who’s been brought to their knees by the brutality and grace of their experience…someone who’s had to re-learn their goodness and meet their shadow and grow up in their own precious and tedious and difficult way. Someone who can articulate these things. How deeply could I love someone like that? How rooted could we become in each others’ goodness? How much better-prepared would we be for the arduous and beautiful journey of life? Infinitely, I’ve decided.
Dating still sounds like the absolute worst. I still have absolutely no idea where to even begin, where to meet someone, or what to do when the time actually comes. I don’t know what it will look like or feel like. For the most part, I’d still prefer to stay wrapped up in the blankets on my couch with my coffee and my cat and my book.
I do, however, take solace in knowing all the good ones are still out there…they always were…they always will be.