To wrap up my series on Californian Lessons, I am gonna throw in the towel and talk about a very touchy, sensitive subject…singleness. Is it a dirty word? Mmm…kind of in Abbotsford, it is. It is a death sentence? No. N. O. Sometimes I forget that though. I forget that when I am in Petsmart and 12 year olds are making out in the aisle. I forget that when I go the movies alone. I forget that when I attend 12 weddings a year on average. But actually, one of the most valuable lessons I learned in California is that I am really, truly, honestly okay on my own.
Hannah and Will are a lovely couple. I call them Chandler and Monica and they call me Joey. I have a bedroom at their house and everything. They are family to me. Hannah was only 20 when they got married, a young but perfectly solid age to enter into marriage. I look at that, and I think about where I was at when I was 20, and I marvel at the unique and different paths we have travelled, and how we can come together all these years later and still connect, still be close, still relate despite our incredibly different walks.
I was 16 when I decided I was “ready” to get married. No joke. I had my wedding planned, my kids’ names chosen, my house in the suburbs planned out real good. I was totally convinced that Mr. Right was in Grade 11 just like me, around the corner, and ready too. I love how 16 year olds feel as though they have no more growing to do. This isn’t a spiteful remark on my part; only a fascinating observation and memory. We thought we had it all figured out, didn’t we?
I remember thinking it was going to come easily, love and all that jazz. And sometimes it did. I dated my fair share of nice guys, some certainly nicer than others! I had fun and met some cool people and learned some incredibly important lessons about standards and boundaries, values and compromises. I don’t regret any of it. One thing that always scares me though is the prospect of being alone forever. I think it scares my family, too. By the time my gramma was 25 like me, my mom was already 5 years old. And I was turning 1 the year my mom turned 26. So I think to them, I am a lost cause. Okay, not really, and I am sure when my mother reads this I will be getting a phone call, but the truth is, sometimes I think I want a relationship less for my own sake and more so because I feel like I am letting them down. I see the way my gramma drools in the windows of Please Mum, just dying to buy little baby clothes. My mom asks me about what I want my wedding to be like from time to time. The have-you-met-anyone-special-lately speech is always on the horizon. And I don’t mind, honestly I don’t, because they love me and are so excited for my future. But more than anything else, they just want to know that their girl has a companion, a best friend to go through life with.
I want that, too. I am not gonna lie.
But you know what? The girls in my life have kind of split down the middle. Half of them got married, and half of them didn’t and cried about it. By no means do I want to look down on my friend’s who have broken hearts in the midst of their singleness, but crying about this is the last thing I want to do. Sure, I have my moments of heartache. I am smiling remembering that shot of Emma Pilsbury sobbing in her car in the pouring rain, choking out the lyrics to ‘All By Myself’. (Glee fans, I know you are smiling, too!). Sometimes I think about all the single days I have left and I just feel content and want to enjoy, I mean really enjoy, them. I love my independence, I love my ability to make decisions on the fly without thinking of how they will affect someone else. I love my routine and my strength and my freedom. Not that being a wife = iron shackles, but you just know things will never be the same again. So I am enjoying this thoroughly.
Before I continue on with how this all relates to California, I want to share something with you that is really special to me. My counselors told me that I was holding too tightly onto my idealistic plan for my future, my neat and tidy little “husband and baby” package. They told me I had to start letting it go in order to live my life wholly and completely and contently. I fully agreed with them, but it was last year that they told me this, and I wasn’t ready to stop puking, let alone ready to stop wishing and hoping for that guy and my little kids. But by the time we reached the end of 2009, I was finally beginning to let go and see that they were right; I did have to let it go. I spent New Years Eve with Hannah and Will, which some people thought was going to be really awkward but it wasn’t. Remember? The whole family thing? However, the next day, late afternoon, I went home to my empty house after spending 2 days with them and something snapped in me. I had known for days that this was going to happen, felt the cry coming on days before the waterworks began. So I walked into my house, turned on a lamp, sat on my couch, and cried. No, crying in an understatement. I wept, I bawled, I sobbed. Hard, loud, and long. I feared the neighbours would hear me, see me, try to stop me, so I shut the blinds. I cried my little heart out. For almost an hour. Straight. It was glorious. I hadn’t been that exhausted, that emotionally drained in years and it left me refreshed. Sometimes you just need a really good cry. After that little episode I got kind of pissed off. Funny how emotions play on each other, hey? I was pissed at God and at myself and at every stupid, happy, smiling couple that ever walked the face of the earth. So I marched into the laundry room, hastily dumped some little ballet flats out of a shoe box, and began to storm around my house gathering anything that could possibly relate to my future wedding, husband, and children. I threw in baby clothes that I found on sale, burned a CD off my computer containing songs I had been thinking would be nice at my wedding. The master “List” of everything I hoped this guy would be was printed, folded, and chucked in the box. Letters were put in the box. Wedding bubbles I had saved, index cards with fabulous ideas, and basically a piece of my heart. Finally I mustered up every last ounce of aggression in me and shoved that box onto the top shelf of my closet, whipped the door shut, and then stood there blankly. I didn’t know what to do, think, feel, or say. So I smiled. It might not have been the most genuine smile in the world, but it was a smile. And friends, it isn’t just a myth that when you let go of something you were holding onto that tightly, you begin to heal. It’s only been 3.5 months but I feel the change in my heart, and I am learning to enjoy my own company and learning to be my own best friend, cheesy as that it.
Coming back once again to LA, I learned that being in a relationship is a lot of work. Obviously I knew that prior to the trip, but as beautiful as the relationship between Hannah and Will is, I realized I am not in a place right now where I want that in my life. I like being on my own. I like having my own bed. Selfish as that sounds, it’s true. Come to think of it, selfish is just the word I have been searching for. I think I am just too selfish to be a couple right now. Hannah and Will share everything, which would be a really hard adjustment for me. My siblings and I are spread out in age enough that I never really had to share anything with them, and the sibling closest to my age is a boy which means we didn’t have enough in common to fight over material things. I never had to share my room or toys or clothes. I also think I would feel kind of suffocated if I had to check in with someone all the time. I am kind of free spirited and go with the flow, so being accountable to someone would be a major change.
I am looking forward to being in a relationship, absolutely, if that is the plan for my life. But for now, I am enjoying the ‘S’ word. I am in school and working a lot and spending tons of time with family and friends. I have so much to be thankful for, so much to look forward to, and now, a whole summer of camping and road tripping and playing ahead. Life is good, hey.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things
you only hoped for.
“We tend to forget that happiness does not come as a result of getting
something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating
what we do have.