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

You’re on your own and that’s the hard truth!

What the hell am I doing? I woke up nagged by this question today. Two years ago, I quit my job and left the country in search of purpose. On this quest for meaning and enlightenment, I rediscovered myself and gained a great deal of confidence. Yet today I still battle with the voice that tells me I’m not good enough. My coach encouraged me to give it a name, an identity. I called it Stuart, don’t ask me why. It was in one of those tap-into-your-unconscious exercises where you’re challenged to close your eyes, put your mind to rest, and just feel from your gut. I felt the name Stuart. 

Stuart shows up about once a week, typically in the absence of sun, in a shitty mental and emotional pattern that halts my progress, sucks my energy, and dims my light. Since leaving corporate America I started cultivating new dreams. I began envisioning myself as a solopreneur, aspiring to create something meaningful that would allow me to make a living while directly impacting peoples’ lives. This desire is so strong within me that it cannot be ignored. It drives me, it excites me, it simply feels right… Until Stuart tries to tell me I don’t have what it takes. I instantly believe him and lazily abandon myself to the overwhelming disappointment. I wallow in the confusion and resign to self-pity. Me, a solopreneur? Who am I kidding? 

It takes a lot of courage to build something from scratch, and on your own. Courage takes confidence. Confidence can be irritatingly volatile. Even on my best days, when I feel like hot stuff and virtually unstoppable, all it takes is one rejection, one negative comment even from a random stranger, for Stuart to reinforce his case: You see, you should just give up! Stuart then convinces me that the best thing to do is hide at home and avoid social interactions at all costs. My introvert side celebrates. It’s a great excuse to sink into the couch with whatever comfort food I’m craving at the moment and the latest bingeworthy Netflix series. Sadly, while we all need and deserve these moments in our lives, they are not a good solution for addressing self-doubt. Self-doubt is a lonely place to be. 

Here’s what I’ve figured out about loneliness. It accompanies us throughout our lives. And it’s best experienced with low levels of confidence. That said, it doesn’t matter if you have a million IG followers, the best of friends, a perfect partner, or the most supportive family in the world, you will still have to face loneliness. While you can (and should) lean on others and ask for help when needed, the hard truth is that in the end You’re On Your Own. Stuart tried to remind me of this today to deprive me of any lasting shred of fight. I wanted to dispute it. I thought about all the people in my life, those I can call and trust to go out of their way to be there for me, and I thought about the strangers, the infinite number of good souls out there who may be nothing like me yet they’re sharing similar paths, or similar challenges. I have no reason to think that I’m ever alone. Yet the feeling occasionally transpires and I just can’t shake it. So, today I decided to give into it and I quickly realized that I was about to face a great fear. The fear of facing myself. Of having only myself and nobody else to count on. Of myself being enough: good enough, strong enough, whole enough. As Stuart’s voice finally went quiet, I basked in a moment of pride for having had such courage. And the great thing about courage is that it reinforces confidence. Suddenly, I felt empowered. Alone, but not lonely. I recognize I am no master at self-love, but the only chance it has to grow is if I continue holding up a mirror.

Antonella