When we reach a certain age, a certain point in our lives, the people around us seem to reach certain milestones deeply embedded within each of us from a young age. It was sung to us, taught to us, drilled into us. It was the expectation set by our parents, our peers, and our community and society. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby carriage. It is not only expected of you, but it is something you should be expecting of yourself. There are celebrations when you get engaged, married, have a baby, buy a home, and fulfill the social norms. There is no party, no celebration if you choose another path, another life.
When I scroll through my social media feeds, I notice them filled with announcements of engagements, weddings, new homes, new pregnancies, high powered and high paying careers and growing families. The new couples I speak with have their nights filled with joint home cooked meals, popcorn and movies with early bedtimes, and other non-conducive-to-a-solo-female activities. The couples with more time in, perhaps married and already with kids, have scheduled baths and showers, homework, and prep for the next day routines. Weekends are bustling with visits to the park, trips to the community pool, family cookouts, play dates and date nights. Vacations involve road trips; Sandals resorts for the lovebirds, particularly fond of PDA, or kids running carefree in sprinklers and having their first time to the beach or camp. I am swarmed with images of couples in loving gazes, cheesy, staged photos, sparkling diamonds on nicely manicured hands, wedding receptions, baby reveals and bumps, and toddler and class pictures.
Worst of all, I am bombarded with the same questions, such as “Are you married?” “Are you dating?” “Are you having more kids?” “Why not?” “What do you do for a living?” and my favorite, “How do you afford to travel so much and why do you?” It feels as though the goal is to make me feel shamed rather than accomplished. The tone is rarely one of genuine curiosity or sincere conversation. The questions feel more like allegations. They seem filled with disdain, disapproval, and even pity. However, they are often also soaked in envy and bewilderment. How does this woman make life look so good, so fun, so complete with no husband, no boyfriend, no high-powered career, and the responsibility of raising a child on her own? How and why does she continue to do it on her own? What is wrong with her?
I began to contemplate the state of my life over the past few years and even jumped on the bandwagon for a time. There is something wrong with me; I am not living how I should be, doing what I should be, and feeling like I should be. I felt stuck and far behind. I felt alone and confused. I was unable to keep up with these simple societal “norms”. Why was I unable to stay afloat in the massive pool of achievement? What defect did I have that no one else had? In other words, why was I alone, with one child, and not raking in the dough?
Only recently have I come to terms with my inevitable, but not necessarily negative, truth. I am where I am in life for one reason only. Choice. I am not here because I am less than anyone else, not because I am unworthy, not because I am unappealing, not because I fall short when bringing attributes to the table. No. Due to a series of choices made by me, and only me, I am here. I remind myself that the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with myself. I remind myself that regret is a heavy burden to bear and the pain that comes with it is far from cheap. I remind myself that doing what makes me happy, regardless of what others think, is not only an important part of life, it is the only truth I know and the only part of my existence that I am sure of.
The truth is, if I wanted to be married, I would be. If I wanted more kids, I would have them. If I wanted a six-figure, stress-inducing, demanding career, it would exist. And I would be surviving. I would be deemed normal.
However, I do not want to survive. I want to live. I do not want to slow down; I want to speed up. I do not want to settle down; I want to soar higher. I do not want the comfortable, safe version of life. I want the intense, passion-filled, adventurous version. I live on my own terms, and while, in ways, it has cost me dearly, I know no other way to live. I want to continue to grow, wander, and push the limits. I want too much to stop now, and that should be celebrated. Not just by me, but by everyone else as well. Being independent, being bold, being fearless, and refusing to settle or succumb to external pressure should be a reason to throw a party, a reason to send a card or gift, a reason to take a minute and congratulate me.
Right now, I have a smart, beautiful, successful daughter I could not be more proud of, a career that makes an impact on others, that I am satisfied with, challenged by and feel awesome about, a loving family, a fun yet scattered handful of friends, and memories and experiences that many only dream of. I believe I will find love and companionship when the time is right for me. Currently, I am still busy living my life, achieving my goals, chasing my passions, being consumed by wanderlust. My race looks different than most. I am racing on my own, in my own lane, with my own clock. It is not how I planned it, but life rarely is. And while it may be isolating, lonely, or tough sometimes, it is still a life worth living.
I need not be ashamed because I took a road less traveled, less accepted. I need to applaud my ability to do it on my own. I need to pat myself on the back for refusing to settle in any aspect of my life, and I need to continue to do things that make me happy.
The most important relationship that I have is with the one person I can never escape from. And I have tried. The one person I wake up with in the morning and lay my head down with at night. The woman staring back at me in the mirror.
Now when I am asked those questions, I do not dread them. I do not let them affect me; I do not care what anyone else has to say on the matters of my heart, wallet, family or travel habits. I am not here to explain myself, I am here to be myself. I am not here to please others, I am here to please me. I am not here to make others understand, I am here to protect my peace. I am not married because I have not found the love of my life yet. I do not plan on having more kids, but one never knows. I have a prosperous career that I adore, and I travel so much to feed my soul. I travel so much because I have to. It is a need that lives deep down in my gut, in a place I cannot reach. So I make it work. Those are my newly formed answers to the absurd questions aimed to make me squirm and second guess, aimed to interfere with my positive vibes, self-worth, and evolution. I make it work, I make it happen, and I love it.
I am happy when I am having adventure, and am alive when I am taking risks, living on the edge, stepping out of the box. I am not scared of the way I live, I am scared of not living. I am not scared that there will be no cord to catch me, I am scared of not jumping. I know this may scare you, but I do not apologize for it. I know you may not approve, but I do not answer to you. And I know it sounds glorious, and yes, it absolutely is.