Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On being a single LDS girl

I’ve been in a few situations lately that have reminded me that a lot of people my age, or older, who are single- and often LDS, although that’s not requisite- are very frustrated and rather jaded for being single. And while a lot of it can come from their own internal desires being frustrated, it seems like a lot of it is visceral reaction to the attitudes of others and their rather humorous attempts at conversing with said single people about their singleness. Honestly, I find it kind of off-putting. Conversations that focus on moaning and discussing with a kind of cynical superiority (because all those people who got married at 22 have no idea what they’re even talking about when they say “I know how you feel”) leave me squirming for an exit. Because I just don’t feel that way. I know that a huge chunk of that is due to my amazing family and fantastic friends. Maybe due in part to the fact that my own parents were 25 and (a day short of (27) when they got married, which in the 70’s was a later age than now, and both had master’s degrees and had both worked, I never felt any pressure from them. In fact, I feel like they are some of my biggest supporters. When I joined the Tabernacle Choir, I think my dad was almost more excited than I was, and he has always been enthusiastic about my interest in genetics. My siblings likewise are very good at being supportive and not feeling the need to push talk about relationship statuses. And for whatever reason, I get the same positiveness from all the other people in my life, too. So I guess when I hear a friend talk with frustration about their mom getting on their case for still being single at 28, I can’t relate, and I’m glad. So that’s a huge chunk, but the more I ponder over it, the more I realize that my own personal attitude and decisions are also a huge chunk of the fact that I am single and happy. It wouldn’t matter how supportive my parents were if I had made up my mind to be miserable or to just mark time until Mr. Right showed up. I remember actually a very pivotal moment in my decision to live my life to the fullest, regardless of when dating or marriage came up. It was a Monday evening, just over five years ago, and I had been napping in my room after a long day at school. My phone rang, and I was surprised to see my brother Tim’s name on my caller ID. Tim and I get along great, but he doesn’t call just to chat usually. This was no exception- he was calling to let me know that he was engaged. This didn’t come completely out of the blue, but I was still surprised- I didn’t realize that he was that close to proposing. I congratulated him and told him I’d come up to the parents’ house to congratulate him and Tina in person. Then I hung up the phone and stood in my room and felt my world shift. Tim is two years younger than me. I learned a lot about my perception of how things should be in those few minutes. Younger brothers aren’t supposed to get married before older sisters. That’s not how it works. My mental paradigm of a lot of things had to be rearranged. It was hard, but at the same time, I felt the beginnings of a sense of liberation. “All the rules just changed,” I thought. All the rules that I made up for myself in my head about what should happen when somehow got altered because of that brief phone call. And while I did struggle to be cheerful all the time during Tim’s engagement and on the wedding day, that sense of liberation continued. And I discovered that I could do all kinds of wonderful things, because the rules had changed. I went to Kenya and worked in an orphanage. I moved to Salt Lake and took up new hobbies and worked on old ones. I resumed voice lessons and auditioned for the Tabernacle Choir. I went back to Africa and discovered I could make my way from Rwanda to Uganda by bus. I went to China. And those are just the big, noticeable things. So many other things, too. During that time, two more of my younger siblings got married, too. Now I have five married siblings, and three of them are younger than me. Does it bother me? Well, yes, but only on days when something else is already eating at me, and maybe once every other month. Do I want to be married and have kids? Of course! But it’s not worth ruining my life over. When first Mark and then Laura got engaged, I decided that there wasn’t going to be an elephant in the room, and I had frank talks with both of them. I told them I was very happy for them, that I might have a few bad days when I was sad, and that it had nothing to do with them as people or my love for them. And I felt so much better after that! I am a daughter of God, and guess what. He has a different plan and a different path for every one of us. That’s the beauty of it! This may sound counterintuitive to the culture that we build in the LDS church sometimes, but I find so much happiness by focusing on me and what the Lord has give me, rather than focusing on all the married couples around me and what the Lord has given them.