I love rings. I’m incredibly proud of the three simple bands that shine on my fingers day after day.
I bought the multicolored one in Alaska after my high school graduation, cruising there with my parents in 2013. I breathlessly bought the blue one, now bent out of shape from a hard-won adventure, on the last night of my summer in New Zealand; the tiny, cheap gems in the band have all chipped or fallen out. During my first visit to Nashville last year, I bought my “Courage, Dear Heart” band, a reminder of a book series I loved as a child and hold even more dear now.
I wear my rings every day and feel naked when I forget them or take them off to clean. They’re always with me, even when they’re not.
And I love them because they’re symbols of something. They represent experiences that have helped shape me. They remind me of commitments I’ve made to myself – to travel and grow and reflect on life with reckless abandon. To go ever farther from home for as long as I draw breath, and always come right back to myself when it’s all done. To write and cherish the stories that have shaped me.
Those commitments are part of me; they matter to me and they have weight and worth.
But they are not my worth. They are not and never could be.
Some of my friends have started being given rings to wear on the fourth finger on their left hands. And we rejoice and celebrate with them and dance at their weddings. We post congratulatory photos and buy them blenders and silverware and applaud that they’ve found their person.
But on some days, a quietly creeping voice whispers to remind me that I don’t have a ring on the same finger as these married folks. That voice — one not speaking from a place of truth or hope or goodness — tells me that I, being perpetually single, am somehow less than or unbeautiful or unworthy for that fact. And the lack of a ring becomes a symbol for a lack of a spouse, which, I wonder, might mean a lack inherent to myself.
But just like my rings are a symbol of my experiences instead of the experiences themselves, my lack of a wedding ring simply stands for a commitment that I haven’t made yet. It doesn’t mean a darn thing about what I am worth or what I deserve or even what my story will be.
An empty fourth finger, in fact, can symbolize persistent possibility, the hope of potential stories that could be told. It symbolizes liberty and independence and freewheeling single days to travel on my own, make every night ladies’ night and learn as much as I possibly can about little old me. It symbolizes wholeness and laughter and authenticity and, yes, wondering if I will ever wear a ring on that finger given to me by someone on one knee, but never letting that wondering distract me from the magic right in front of me right here, right now, today.
A ring will never give you your worth. It can only exist to remind you of something else.
Maybe you, like me, have a ringless finger. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering how long until you have one there.
You might be wondering what that ringless finger means, comparing yourself to every third social media post announcing an engagement and touting a wedding hashtag. Maybe you, like me, are excited for friends but also harbor the melancholy that comes from being reminded that you’re not dating, let alone married yet.
You might be wondering what that ringless finger means about who you are, fundamentally, deep down inside.
And the answer remains nothing.
The empty space you’re saving for a ring to rest symbolizes that your story is still under construction and that, day after day, you keep showing up to life as your best self, hoping and laughing and being so incredibly brave.
And that space just might say more than any ring ever could.