As the lockdown began to be less strict in my country, and life started getting back to ‘normal’ — regardless of what the word normal may mean those days — I went out for drinks with a friend.
He is one of the few trusted people who knows me well, knows what I aspire to achieve in my life, and he also happens to be married. As I was explaining my plans for the last quarter of the year and shared the alternative strategies I have if things went wrong, my friend sat back, took a look at me, smiled, and said:
I froze in my chair. The phrase that was supposed to be a compliment in my friend’s mind left a bitter taste in my throat.
I felt exposed, and I felt insulted.
Looking at the high slopes & dark holes I’ve been through throughout my life, I can use any word to describe it except “easy.”
Yes, it looks like the life of a single man or woman in their 30s is the lucid dream everyone is seeking. A life of freedom that most people gave away when they decided to get attached forever with your significant other, having kids, and stop pursuing their dreams.
. . .
Single Was Never The Synonym of Irresponsible.
I have no idea when or how being single became the devilish resemblance of everything lazy, irresponsible, and immature. Most of my non-single friends assume that we, the “Singles’ clan,” have no responsibilities what so ever. We are free as a bird with no money obligations, we drink tequila -or coffee in my case- all day, and we can take off at any time because we have no strings attached.
A colleague from a previous job was once lecturing two young ladies on why they should quit their jobs and stay home. Since they are single and have no family to afford, why not let someone else pamper them while they indulge luxury at home as named queens.
I did my best not to engage. It was impossible not to at that point.
As expected from me -for those who know me well-, I initiated my version of the ugly truth:
I rested my case, and at this point, the discussion ended, while many sub-discussions started on how fierce & Bossy I am.
I’m flattered, thank you!
. . .
Not Everyone’s Goal Is The Same, And It’s Fine.
People over the years tended to assume that a single person is supporting no one: we opted out of having kids because we are irresponsible, and we travel like a teenager instead of settling down, starting a family, and building a stable business.
No playbook or manual says we are obligated as human beings to desire and crave the same things in life.
I decided on this style of life of mine. I had to let go of things I held dear before, like family or one place to settle in.
It’s a choice single people have taken, just like the choice you took when you decided to stay in your home country, marry the love of your life, and buy a car or a house.
Those are your choices. So it makes no point for a non-single person to blame or hate a single person for how their lives turned out.
That is a sign of immaturity!
. . .
Married People: Don’ Get Me Wrong.
I am in no place to lecture married couples about what their lives should look like compared to ours. People who committed time, sweat & effort to build a family, nourish it, then bring new souls to this world. You are martyrs. We all understand that and salute you for it.
Saying this, this is -whether you like or not- is your choice.
That’s why the majority of us, single people, don’t get why it’s essential to receive the blame. We always get the “Stop complaining about your life shit, come take a look at mine; you lousy, childish, single ignorant!” stares from parents who are respectfully 24/7 looking for their families and kids.
But here’s a reminder:
. . .
Priorities Differ As We Grow Old.
I had a friend that I really admired. I would cancel projects to be able to meet her. When she got kids, the conversations shifted in a way that really bothered me. It always looked like I owed her something: be it calling her even if she doesn’t call back, meeting on her convenience of time, and never catching up anywhere else but her apartment.
In the beginning, that was understood. My friend is married with extra responsibilities; I had less on my plate. It was okay. The irritation feeling was Benin; until it wasn’t. I found myself continually amending my schedule to fit into hers, which didn’t sound right. At some point, I got tired, and I stopped calling. No surprise to me, I didn’t get any calls from her in return.
Her priorities were different, and I wasn’t among the top of her list. It’s totally understood. What wasn’t understood, is to receive a call from the same friend three years later with an implicit attacking tone of “why haven’t you called me?”. At that point, I smiled with the realization that this is a pattern I saw -yet ignored- from 80% of my married friends.
I said 80% because 20% kept channels open. They managed their lives in a way that allowed single people like myself to fit in. They made an effort to let me fit in.
Is that the right or the wrong thing to do?
As long as your life with its conditions is working for you, then it’s working. The whole point of this conversation is one, and one point only: owe the results of your own decisions.
Don’t blame others for how bad or good your life turned out to be.
Taking your fury on others is the perfect recipe for a lousy life that is full of nothing but self-pity.
. . .
Pursuing More Equals More Resistance.
As single individuals have more time available on their plates, they tend to pursue more goals and draw more challenging deadlines to meet. This means to push yourself more into uncomfortable situations, which results in more resistance, more struggle, and more unclarity.
Does this mean moms or dads are struggling less? NEVER.
As simple and straight forward as you read.
When I compare myself to my married sisters and friends, my significant realization is that their struggles are way different than mine in their nature, intensity, and the number of people affected. Yet, my struggles are much more in-depth and way more profound. And that makes absolute sense; our lives’ circumstances are different, and the goals are not aligned-and all is fine.
What is not acceptable is to have a competition on who struggles the most. It’s not a competition. I will not accept at any day, anyone no matter who, to lecture me about how the struggle I face in my daily life is less or incomparable to theirs.
. . .
“For Good or Worse” Is Not For Everyone.
As single individuals who are still forging our way through the unknown in this mysterious life, we tend to take our journeys solo. We may have someone from time to time, but mostly we don’t.
That’s the advantage of being married: You have a guaranteed shoulder to cry on when in need. I cry on my own shoulder because “I can’t look weak.”
I’m fine with that. Remember, we agreed that those are our choices, you and me. We owe the results of our choices.
. . .
Sometimes, It’s Not Even Our Choice.
Think of that the next time you take a troll on your single friend: what if their single status is not their choice?
What if they just had a bitter breakup, or they didn’t sleep yesterday because they were in desperate need for anyone to be on their side, when hey had a breakdown moment?
Imagine how words like “irresponsible single” would be received in the ears of someone who’s struggling to find a helping hand. You were not helping.
. . .
So, what shall we do?
There’s one thing we can all, single or not, do right now:
Focus on What Matters to You.
Instead of being fixated on how hideous other people’s lives are, spend that energy on finding practical ways to enhance your own. Start taking baby steps towards the dreams put on the shelf for an extended time:
– Start/join a book club.
It is your life, after all. You are the only person capable of making it blossom into a scenic garden or letting it wither due to fear, pressure, and boredom.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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