Let's fast-forward to a couple years ago, I was a bubbly teacher with a great job in a great school district. By many respects, I had it all going for me: Great job. Had a car I had paid off. No student loan debt. Never owned a credit card...so no credit card debt. Described by many as witty with a charm. ;) Plus a love for fashion and individual style. A craft for cooking and baking in a house that I HAD BOUGHT BY MYSELF. Add to that a love for people and my God, and I had W I F E M A T E R I A L Sharpie markered all over me. Yet, I had been single for quite a while. Sure, I had gone on some dates: some good, some bad. I had a few kisses here and there. In the mix, I had even had a premature proposal by a fella I had only been dating a couple months (yes, his mother's ring and all. so sad). But I didn't have a gazillion guys rushing to my door trying to knock it down to get me, at least those who fit my standards. By society standards, I was a total catch. I felt like I had all the skills to make the team, but I hadn't I made it. WHY? I mean, I had all the basics down. Had I messed up somewhere and wasn't aware?
If any of you reading are single and part of a church in the south, I am sure you have heard some version of the following:
"You are such an awesome woman. I can't IMAGINE why no one has snatched you up. YOU ARE A CATCH! Someone somewhere doesn't even know how lucky they are yet because HE IS OUT THERE, GIRL! You just have to bee. lieve. he is."
Vomit, right? Vomit in my mouth...all over the floor. EVERYWHERE. VOMIT VOMIT VOMIT. Sadly, this happens all the time to good, respectable single women. And for that, I am so sorry, girls.
Here is why this is vomit to me:
I got some version of that speech loads of times, and it always seemed to happen at school and at church. I would even sometimes get it from students. (*Side note: my first year of teaching I had an 8th grade girl tell me I needed to get on finding a man because I didn't want to be the oldest mom in my group of friends, did I? Yes. This girl almost forwent marriage and went for my unborn children. I was 23). And the deliverer of said speech always had this pitiful look on his or her face as their head was cocked to the right side, and it was like their voice just got more hopeful as it rose to the finish of some mumbo jumbo about how I JUST HAD TO BELIEVE. I always had to bite my lip, smile, thank them for that and walk off. Instead I just wanted to say curse words and ask that they leave me alone with their unsolicited advice. But, my mother always taught me to be a lady (Thanks, Mom). What I think some married people don't get is how it comes across to unmarried women. I have no doubt that those people had some of the best intentions; however, it got me to thinking about marriage as a club that was so exclusive that not getting an invite meant that there was something wrong with me, and everyone who was "in" had fit some sort of requirement. Luckily, I snapped out of that really quick but struggled for a while with the "what ifs."
I love that we live in a world where no one's journey is alike. For me, I didn't have the atypical college experience of meeting my husband and getting married a couple weeks after I received my diploma. While I have known of my husband since the first grade, eight years of our adult lives we didn't even know of or where each other were. We "re-met" when we were 26, and we were married at 27. By many standards in the South, I could've very well been an old maid (to all my northern friends reading, I can already hear your chuckles as these words leave my fingertips, and I love you for it). I grew up with parents who met when they were 12, started dating at 16, got married at 17, then had me at 20, and were crazy in love for their entire life together. While that was their story, it wasn't mine.
My point is this, single ladies. I get where you are coming from. Single men don't receive the pitiful looks you get; it seems to always be reserved for the women. I get that you have people pressuring you to find a mister and that they have a great nephew who is purrfect for you. I get that you probably cringe, as I did, when you got asked that dreaded question at church or large family gatherings, "so...are you seeing anyone special?"...usually followed by pitiful glances and loads of compliments I suppose to make you feel better about being single. I get those times when you feel like you have hit a low because you are eating ice cream for breakfast with a fork because all of your spoons are dirty and you haven't been to store in a couple weeks. I get those lonely nights of wondering if there really is someone out there for you after watching a rom-com by yourself. I get how it sometimes stings when people tell you how lucky you are that you are single because relationships are hard and you have all that free time to yourself. I get that our society for some reason has put your life on a timeline when you didn't ask it to. I get it, and I am ON YOUR SIDE. I don't look down at you. I don't think you are worth less than any other girl around. My prayer for you is that you will find deep in yourself a pride of who you are and who you are growing into. I am not going to feed you more clichés that you've been thrown. I will say this, deep down we all want some part of the American dream, even the strong independent types like myself. And there were times when I had a few Charlotte from Sex and the City moments:
"I've been dating since I was fifteen. I'm exhausted. Where is he?!"
Part of me likes to think she was so exhausted from other people constantly asking her about her love life and trying to dictate her next move. :)
So girls, I don't want to feed you unsolicited BS advice, so I am not going to. But hear me when I say this: KEEP DOING YOU. You have worth. You have meaning. You are lovely. Don't allow yourself to be broken to something that "needs fixing" because in my limited experience, throwing in just any man just so you can" be like everyone else" is not going to solve anything. Know that if you feel like you are doing everything right, but you still aren't "making the cut," it really doesn't mean that there is some major thing with yourself you have to fix. Be confident in who you are because life can be surprising and throw you a curveball when you aren't looking, and in my experience it happened to be one of those way-too-close-for-comfort curveballs that make you hop back a spell and utter a simple, "whoa."
Where is all of this coming from, you may ask? Especially from a notoriously infrequent blogger such as myself. Well, today marks the one year anniversary of my Heath getting on one knee, inviting me on a journey of life with him by my side. It was earnest. It was lovely. It is a moment that I will forever cherish because it is so sacred because there was no one there but us. My mentor in high school got married in her late 20's, and I always sat by and admired her for being fiercely independent and not settling for crumbs (and many other reasons as well). One afternoon when we were sitting at a coffee shop for discipleship, she told me something that made me view marriage completely different: "Jordan, when I get married. I want it to be someone who isn't running ahead of me, holding my hand and pulling me. I want it to be me running toward my goals and looking beside me and there being someone there who is running the same race. Someone who is cheering me on. Someone who giving me water when I need it. And someone who I can, in turn, encourage. I want someone who I simply cannot imagine my ministry and my life not sharing."
Today, I count my blessings for a year of life with Heath. Next month marks our one month wedding anniversary, and I feel like I am busting at the seams with love. Heath, thank you for this amazing year of home with you. I can say that all of those lonely nights of doubt and fear that I was always going to be "the single friend" were worth it all and then some to be your bride. Thank you for always encouraging me to be my own person and allowing me to express myself so freely. Thank you for adoring me with all of my flaws, all of the things that I find unattractive. Thanks for making me feel like the center of your world, even when we are apart so often.You have been a true Barnabas in my life, my very best friend. I look forward to our continuing journey, my darling. Thanks for choosing me.
^minutes after he popped the question