I have this vivid memory of a time I cannot pinpoint but a plan I remember so well. If I’m being honest, it was likely in high school or maybe even sometime in college, but I’d like to think it was when I was under the age of 10 – innocent, carefree, and having no idea how life really ends up going. This memory is of a plan of how my 20s would be – I’d be married by around 23 and with my first child around 25, second a year or two later, and be done with bearing children by 30 so that I could be a young mom. I also had plans my whole life, until my junior year of college (where I’d have met the father of these children I was planning to have) to be a teacher.
Today, I’m 2 days from turning 30 – single, childless, living in an apartment in the suburbs, and working as a therapist in a juvenile jail.
These two stories – the plan I made and reality – do not line up… not even remotely.
This reality is hard to swallow at times. Mostly the reality of being single and without a family of my own, as I watch friends have child number 3, 4, and 5 and the last of the single friends start to pair off. This became very obvious when I started thinking about inviting people to my birthday dinner – I would be the only one there without another on my check, the only one arriving alone. To MY birthday dinner. I had recently started bargaining with God, “Can I at least be in a serious relationship with someone to share my 30th birthday with? Please?”. Unless I invite someone from Bumble that I just met, I’ll be going solo. Again.
This is not easy, and it’s not what I had in mind. Today at church the pastor spoke on singleness and had every single person stand up and be prayed over (thank goodness I was sitting in the balcony where I don’t normally so I couldn’t look around to see all the single guys also standing up – that is not the point of this, Kara). It was a difficult blessing. Then, I was driving to the store to buy my single-lady list of groceries and an older man and his wife flagged me down in the middle of the road (both of us in cars) to tell me my engine sounded funny and I should get it checked. Then we met again in the Trader Joe’s parking lot where he apologized for stopping me mid-road and asked if I had a boyfriend or husband who could help me with my car. I laughed as I went into the store thinking about the irony of his question after the sermon this morning.
No, I don’t have a husband or a boyfriend but I do have a family and some great friends. I have people I can’t count on, but it’s learning to let people help me that I need to work on.
It is difficult when life doesn’t go as planned. I am so thankful for so many things I get to do because I am single, that I cannot be sure I’d get to if I were married with children. I bought myself flowers at the store, made a point to strike up conversation with the cashier, and smiled at people I passed – because marriage is not the only relationship we should care about. I came home and put on my Sunday best (my lululemon pants I can splurge on because I have no children to buy clothes for), cooked some chili (extra spicy because that’s how I like it and don’t have to worry about how my husband prefers his chili), put on football on the TV (there’s no one to argue with about what to watch), and ate breakfast for lunch.
I worry about getting too selfish during this singleness and not knowing how to do life with another person. But God has begun to show me that I shouldn’t be living selfish but should be pouring into other people and connecting with my family of friends. He’s been teaching me to work on loving people like they’re the single most important in my life. I haven’t even gotten close to this (but to be fair this is a lesson I just started learning a week or two ago) and I have a long way to go. Fortunately, I am single and I can pour into other people more than I could if I had a family to take care of.
And you know what? While my original plan isn’t even remotely reality, there are a lot of things I’ve done that I never planned or dreamed.