It happened when I was watching Gilmore Girls: Season 1, Episode 11. Sweats. Coffee. Couch time. Sunday 2/21/16 at 11:26 am. I realized…I am happy. Right now, I am happy. In this season of life, I am happy.
If you would have asked my younger self to predict her future life, she probably would have painted a pretty picture of a husband, kids, and a dog. I used to imagine making lunches for my future kids when I was eight. There would be lots of finger painted artwork on the fridge. I’d play house, pretending to be a mom. But I also dreamt about traveling, dancing, and living in New York.
And that last dream pulled me forward. I’ll never forget having a big dreams/break-up conversation with my high school boyfriend. He wanted to move to the beach and become a doctor. And he did…and he is. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stop talking about moving to “the city.” And I did. And then I moved to “the other city.” From New York to Los Angeles. I got to meet Cassie, my Irish roommate in Brooklyn who played bass, painted, referred to herself as “boho” and is still the archetype for the coolest human I know. She was 10 years older than me and she completely changed my perception of what a thriving vibrant woman could be. For nine years in Los Angeles, my worldview and belief systems were challenged and molded by the variety of jobs I had, people I met, and places I traveled. Life showered me with gifts of fancy parties, beautiful relationships, heartbreak, awful waitressing jobs, true friendships, not so true friendships, loss, gain, art in living rooms, long-form improv, diverse friends, dancing, and all of the colors along the spectrum of experience.
I’m now in my thirties. I spent the last year and a half taking a good look within and saying, “hey….what’s next?” I drove cross-country with my mom, explored New Orleans and Asheville, NC and chose to start this new chapter in Atlanta, closer to my family. I committed to being in my own company for a while: no boyfriends, no dates…in fact, no male friends for a short while. No contact with male friends? I know…sounds super extreme! It was and it served me at the time. I learned more about who I am now and what I like now and what I’m not willing to tolerate and what fills my heart with overwhelming gratitude. Little high school me, meet the woman you turned into!
Making the choice to truly be alone and take an honest look within meant I disappointed people. This meant not being everyone’s best friend. This meant saying no. A lot. But I’ll tell you something, I freaking loved it. Now it’s a habit, the habit of putting my needs first without apology. Some days are easier than others.
Thank goodness this lesson sunk in, because now that I’m back in the south, people look at me like I have two heads when I say I’m not married with kids. Shonda Rhimes would call these people “judgies.” One man who asked me out also asked me what was wrong with me, noting that I had excellent credentials. “Are you just extremely picky?” It was quite a backhanded “compliment.” On one hand, he thought I should be taken (as in You’re a catch!) and on the other hand, he thought I should be taken. Why isn’t it ok to be single? Why do people assume you are unhappy or that something is wrong with you, especially when you’re a woman? It makes me think of the one song that will always get me to workout when I’m feeling lazy, Beyonce’s “Flawless,” naturally. In the song, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks:
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
Meanwhile, I feel so un-single. I am connected to a loving network of friends, family, and artists. I get to do what I love on a daily basis.
I feel free. Martha Beck says “Here is the crux of the matter, the distilled essence, the only thing you need to remember: When considering whether to say yes or no, you must choose the response that feels like freedom. Period.”
Maybe I’ll meet someone, maybe I’ll “settle down,” maybe I’ll have babies, maybe not. For now, I’m just going to keep following the moments as they offer themselves to me.
Who knows what season is coming around the bend? But if it involves creating a partnership and family, that will also feel free. If not, I’ll take a cue from Cassie and play my version of a bass in Brooklyn.
For now, I’ll be over here doing my thing.
Featured image (at top) by: Lucie de Moyencourt