The thought finally occurred to me as I was reaching over a stack of cardboard boxes to sort through the “Congratulations!” cards at Target. Love was in the air, indeed — just not in my corner of the atmosphere. One of my college friends had sent me a wedding invitation earlier that week, announcing that she and her fiancé were getting married and wanted to invite me to the festivities. I had other commitments at the time and could not attend the wedding, but I was happy for Kaitlyn and Blake and wanted to send them something. The sparkling circles on the front of the card I’d chosen fired off the question that had nagged at me throughout five years of college: “So where’s the soulmate YOU were supposed to find?”
During my undergraduate years, I poured my heart and soul into my classwork and various extracurricular activities. That was where I found my bliss, and I still don’t regret a moment of it. But there were always those subtle hints (“You know, Matthew’s cute, and he’s just as geeky as you are”), the pitying looks (“So this is your fourth year going solo at the Academic Banquet?”), and the blunt questions. Case in point: The last time I attended church in my hometown, a family friend came up to say hello. After giving me a bear hug, he playfully caught my left hand and stared at it.
“Where’s that ring, girl?” he asked in a voice loud enough for the pastor and the choir to hear. Those who were around looked on and chuckled approvingly as my face flushed with embarrassed heat. Part of me wanted to be offended that he assumed I would have a husband by the time I graduated from college, or that he thought I might have gone to college to get the proverbial MRS degree. But the other part of me was thinking: “Yeah…I was wondering the same thing.”
I’ve watched girls who are younger than me post engagement pictures on Facebook and stand at the altar less than a year later, pledging themselves to one man for a lifetime. This always sparks a storm of conflicting feelings: “You’ve known him for six months! How can you be engaged already?” and “I’m so happy that you’re getting married.” And then comes the terrible thought that always sneaks behind the rest: “If someone fell in love with you, and you’re only nineteen, how come I haven’t found love yet?”
Maybe part of it is what seems to be the private Christian college pressure to find your significant other in class, chapel, or sorority socials. I’ve known girls who worried themselves sick over not having a date for the weekend. In fact, I used to be one of them. Well-meant platitudes such as: “Just be patient, God has someone special picked out for you” and “Just when you’re not expecting it, he’ll show up” only engendered more worry and concern: What am I doing wrong? Am I not Christian enough? Am I too pure? Should I be trying harder? Should I give up, and let him pursue me? Should I put myself out there? Am I going to be single forever???
Sometimes it’s difficult to be content with where you are. I’m still working on my self-esteem, my relationship with God, and my Master’s degree. Sometimes it seems as though I’ll never get it figured out. Sometimes I just want to give up on the idea of love altogether. Honestly, that would probably save me a lot of time and heartache. But if I’ve learned anything, I know that we continue to love, even when it hurts. Without love — romantic, platonic or otherwise — life just lacks one of the elements that make existence worthwhile.
It’s okay to want to feel respected, cherished, and even romanced — whether you’re just starting out on life or on the fast track to grad school. Some people find their life partners at 17, and others don’t find them at all. No matter the circumstances, the desire for relationships shouldn’t be denied or belittled. It’s part of what makes us human. And in any case, it keeps the Hallmark Company in good business.