I thought to be right it had to be easy…

I wanted it for so long. That one constant in a life of variables. A sense of stability to hold you anchored through the roughest, often unpredictable, storms. I dreamt of being found, despite my tendency to hide, and treasured like a rare jewel, adored, and protected. Much like when I was growing up, surrounded by men who taught me I was worthy of great unconditional love. I learned to have high expectations and was shown what to look for. I dismissed everyone along the way who didn’t have elements of my father or brothers. I waited for the one who would see me as they do. I waited for the one who would peel all the layers through to the darkest depths and love all of me, complicated and flawed. I waited for the one who would hold me tight and never let me go. I thought he would sweep in on a white horse and effortlessly whisk me away. I thought to be right it had to be easy. 

We had a wildly intense rocky start. He dove head in as I cautiously dipped my feet. He stood strong through the first waves, while I hurriedly sprinted out of the water. Before meeting him, I had been working hard to build my confidence. I finally felt I had control of my life, so I resisted relinquishing it. I hesitated in exposing myself to vulnerability, insecurity, and fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of betrayal. Fear of another heartbreak. 

He, however, never showed fear. He never retreated when I pushed back. He persisted, confident in his pursuit and sure of his feelings. He patiently uncovered the layers, and to my surprise, continued to find beauty even in my most unattractive traits. He looks at me as if nothing else in the world matters. 

Though we share similar values and cultural background, we quickly learned that our different upbringing and life experiences gave us a vastly different way to view the world and relate to others. So, often, our perceptions divide us. We interpret each other’s words, tones, and actions to mean something other than what intended. And we feel hurt, offended, frustratingly misunderstood. He stubbornly defends his ideas, his truth. But he just as stubbornly works to understand mine. He has the confidence to swallow his pride and the humility to recognize his own limitations, then move beyond them, in my direction.

He loves me in the way I always dreamt of being loved. He believes in the love we were taught to want as children but learned to refute as adults. No matter the size of his wounds, he hasn’t given up on that love. He fights for it, facing any adversity head on, prepared to sustain the deepest cuts, but never defeated by them. 

He gives with all of himself. Even when he’s hurt. He forgives. And keeps on giving. He takes on burdens so that others don’t have to. And he doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t allow himself to get tired. In a world where we’re constantly being encouraged to put ourselves first, he does the opposite. Because he wants to diligently fulfill his role as father, son, friend, lover, supporting and protecting, caring, and nurturing. 

My longest relationship before him lasted 1.5 years. His, 15. Accustomed to my independence, I continued making decisions as one even when I became a party of two. There is great pride in flying solo. It’s incredibly empowering to recognize that you don’t need anyone else, and quite terrifying to learn to count on someone else. But as he showed me, it is well worth the risk.

I was taught to aim high. And I did. But the quest for more fueled a persistent fear of missing out. The idea of having to make any compromises sounded too much like settling, a concept I proudly refuted for 37 years as I waited for just the right person. Yet when he stood in front of me, I almost didn’t recognize it… beautiful, rare, complicated, imperfect love. 

Antonella

The truth about being single at 37

And why it wasn’t by choice!

I thought I’d be married by now. Being single past a certain age, for a woman, is often subject to scrutiny and judgement. There is no sugar coating it. And yes, times are changing as women are redefining their role in society to extend beyond antiquated stereotypes and limiting expectations, while demanding respect in their freedom to be who they want. But, let me be honest with you. I do not feel empowered by my status. I will not claim that I am single because I want it this way, because I value freedom and independence over partnership and compromise. It is not a deliberate conscious decision I made to remain unmarried until the age of 37. It is the factor of a series of choices and circumstances that knowingly or unknowingly have determined this path for me. 


I love love. I grew up in a beautiful family of 5 and dreamt I’d have the same one day: a life partner, 3 children, a simple life of mundane moments centered around family and grounded in tradition. I have always had high expectations for love. Blame Disney. Blame media. Blame my own parents. I have stood by my conviction that love, true love, should be an impossible-to-deny, overwhelming gut feeling that magnetically pulls you to the right person. I was prepared to wait for it, certain that I would know how to recognize it. And also certain that it would come before 30…

For many people it seems to work out that way. And when the number of wedding announcements and baby showers starts inundating your news feed, the proof of what’s “normal” becomes irrefutable. So you start questioning your actions, your choices, your own self-worth. Being single becomes something you have to explain, or justify, to preserve some pride. Finding peace and acceptance in what you can’t fully control (i.e., meeting the love of your life) is a great introduction to a journey of self-discovery and continuous development. 


As young adults we’re faced with the overwhelming responsibility to define our identity, which until a certain age was imposed, unquestioned, by our full-time roles as daughters, sisters, students. For those of us privileged enough to have been raised in a country like the United States, we are offered the chance to be who we want and reach great heights. Inspired by this goal, we start crafting our ambitious career paths and chasing fulfilment in them. Some find it. Others, like me, are left wandering, looking for something more, without really knowing what that is. For a while, I thought love was the answer. 


When I found love, I was on the brink of a career/existential crisis. His entry into my life gave me permission to shift my focus onto the one thing I had long been waiting for. My new role as his girlfriend became my whole identity and it filled me up completely. Until he shredded my heart in pieces and I no longer knew how to exist as my own person rather than part of a whole. I had to learn to face my weaknesses instead of hiding them behind the strength of another. I had to harness my own strength and learn how to love myself as I discovered the depth of my resilience. I was single once again, feeling a certain void in my life, but finally brave enough to look inward for the missing pieces. 


At 35 I started living freely. I ditched pressures and expectations, I fought shame and insecurity, and reconnected with my true self. I found the confidence I never had and a voice I had repressed for too long. I have never stopped wishing for that special someone, but I did stop feeling incomplete without him. In time, I opened my heart up again, overflowing with gratitude and love.

And love came flowing right back.

Antonella