And I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan, either.
Last Thursday, I found myself in the ER yet again for another kidney stone. It was a bad one—at one point, I was crawling on the floor of the waiting room like an infant, then on my knees and keeled over while moaning and writhing loudly, and finally in the fetal position trying not to cry. Yes, we’re in a global pandemic, and I was on the floor of a public place. Judge me all you want. If you’ve never felt the pain that a kidney stone causes, then you can’t understand my behavior. I will apologize zero amount of times.
When I finally got to a room and had some morphine and other drugs I don’t recall pumping through my veins, I looked around the very empty and quiet space, and for a brief moment, I felt sad. (I definitely don’t remember all of my thoughts or things I said that day once I was drugged up, but I distinctly remember this.) It wasn’t the first time that I had been in a hospital room all by myself because of my kidneys, but something felt different.
I didn’t call anyone. I eventually texted my sister, and apparently I later posted an Instagram story, but part of me didn’t want to reach out to anyone. I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to offer to be there with me. I didn’t want to feel like I was a burden for anyone. (Plus, with the whole COVID thing, I knew that a hospital is probably the last place anyone would want to be.)
While I know that those thoughts are toxic and that I have enough genuine people in my life who would have been there in a heartbeat for me, it’s simply how I felt in that moment. I didn’t let myself sit in that pity party for long, though, because even if it did hurt my heart a little, one of my life creeds took over.
You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.
I may not have a boyfriend or husband or a date for any Saturday night ever, and I may have met guys who have deceived me and told me lies, but that doesn’t mean that my life is like a lonely hospital room. No one person is going to meet all of our needs, anyway.
And even though I know those things—and I don’t want to be a complainer—it’s not always easy being single. I’m a strong independent woman, and I get really pumped up when I hear Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle preaching the lyrics in “Survivor,” but I completely understand what Selena Gomez means when she reminds us that “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” (I’m aware that I talk about being single a lot, but I was once in a writing class in which the teacher told me to write what I know—and I know a heck of a lot about being single, so I write about it.)
I realize that life is going to be difficult sometimes, and our plans don’t always pan out the way we would prefer that they would. Duh. That solo hospital excursion likely isn’t the last one I’ll have. It’s OK—Destiny’s Child, remember? But I don’t want people to think the same things I thought that day. Your people care about you, and they would be upset if you didn’t reach out to them while you were lying in a hospital bed all by yourself. They love you.
There’s something about being pursued that sets our hearts on fire.
And not being pursued seems to wash away that flame far too quickly.
My sweet niece Olivia loves to be chased. When we go play at the park, she’ll suddenly say “come and get me, Nat” before taking off running as fast as she can. She’ll constantly look back to make sure that I’m following her, and then she’ll reach a point where she simply stops running, starts giggling, and waits for me to come pick her up and say “I got you!”
At 3 years old, she’s proving what most of us want in life: to be pursued.
I’m a huge proponent of women’s equality, and I don’t believe in traditional dating standards in which men must always be the ones to ask women out and court them. I think that it’s a two-way street: Women should be expressing their interests in the men they fancy, and men should be doing the same for the women who catch their eyes. After all, women aren’t the only ones who want to feel like they’re wanted. If you don’t believe me, check out Bumble, the dating app in which girls have to make the first moves. There are plenty of men on that app who want to feel wanted.
There are a multitude of ways to pursue people, and it doesn’t occur exclusively in romantic relationships. The way we interact with our friends and family members are forms of pursuit—how often are we calling and texting to check in and see how they’re doing, and how often are we spending time with them to grow those relationships and show the people in our lives that we care?
You can also pursue strangers, even if you may never see them again. It’s OK to show people that they are valued, regardless of whether or not you know them. A couple of weeks ago, I had a horrible fall while I was running, and the left side of my face took a beating from the concrete. I had a black eye, and my cheekbone was super bloody and swollen the first day and still puffy and bruised up for most of the week. It still isn’t fully healed, but it definitely looks better now. When I was out in public the day after it happened, though, I could feel people awkwardly staring but trying not to stare, and I knew why: I looked like I was in an abusive relationship.
While that’s not the case, there was a part of me that wanted someone to check on me just to make sure that I was OK—that I wasn’t letting someone take advantage of me. (As a side note, if anyone ever tried to lay a hand on me, I would kick his a$*.) Sure, that would be a pretty uncomfortable conversation to have with someone you don’t know, but you could go about it in a less intrusive way and simply ask how the person is doing or say something heartfelt rather than staring and then looking away and then staring again but avoiding eye contact at all costs.
Sometimes it’s better to do something awkward than to do nothing at all.
The thing about being pursued is that it makes you feel cared for—truly cared for—by someone in your life. I think that many of our friendships that don’t last end up fading away not because of anything that happens but because of what doesn’t happen.
We stop pursuing each other.
I think back to a number of high school and college friendships that fizzled out that way. That’s a part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with not keeping in touch with every single individual who has ever been a friend or someone significant to you at some point. But the reason is generally because you and that other person stop making an effort to call, text, or get together.
Then there are the relationships that you want to preserve or grow, and it hurts much more when you feel like you’re the only one pursuing the other. When I was living in California, even though I tried to make sure that all of my Texas friendships were maintained, that didn’t happen, and it hurt my heart. Even after moving back, those relationships aren’t what they used to be, and I try not to think about it too often, because it’s become clear that there isn’t necessarily a reciprocated desire with each individual to keep those friendships alive.
And, of course, there are the relationships that you want to become much more than friendships, and it wrings and wrecks your heart when they don’t. I feel like I’ve spent most of my life chasing guys who don’t want to chase me back. It’s like playing a one-sided game of tag, but you’re never the one running with that contagiously joyous but anxious feeling coursing through your veins. Instead, it’s a feeling of hope deferred that causes you to believe things about yourself and about your life that aren’t true. I’m done with those feelings, though. My value isn’t found there.
I encourage you to pursue your people. We don’t know how much time we have on this earth, and I know that I’d rather continue to check in with people than to wake up one day and not even have the option of doing so with someone who truly mattered to me. Whether it’s our friends, family members, or strangers, we don’t always know what’s going on with the people in our lives, and they might be battling things we can’t even imagine. A simple call or text—even the smallest act of pursuit—could be a spark that brightens a person’s week or helps someone make it through one more day.
Life may not be a giant game of tag, but many of us are like Olivia, looking back over our shoulders to see if we’re being pursued in the ways we hope. Sometimes I get so caught up in all of the people I’m not seeing that I overlook the only One I need to see.
But Jesus never stops pursuing me.
No matter how bleak things look or how alone you feel, know that He will never leave you and will never give up on you. He’s the ultimate pursuer. If some of your friendships fade, or the guy who stole your heart isn’t running after you to give you his, or the people at the grocery store don’t ask you about your face, it’s OK. He still cares more than we could ever imagine—and that makes you pretty darn special.
After all, it’s more than kind of a big deal to be pursued by the King.
The holiday season is filled with plenty of busyness, gifting, joyful music, and emotions.
And those emotions can often feel like more than our hearts can handle.
I’ve been single for exactly every holiday that has ever existed, so I know a thing or two about getting through the month of December without a Clark to my Ellen. There’s just something about the Christmas season that helps to remind a single gal that she’s single—maybe it’s the endless songs mentioning mistletoe or the carriage rides with couples and families cuddled up under blankets together or the matching family pajamas on GIANT display at Target or the endless commercials with people in love giving each other Lexuses with big bows on them or the Hallmark movies with perfect endings or the chill in the air that feels colder when you’re alone or the—I could keep going, but I don’t want to.
I know that I’m not the only person who breathes who is single right now, so this isn’t a pity party, but I’ve come up with a short list of ways to get past the holiday blues that might creep up on you when you’re trying to be all holly and jolly and whatnot.
Take that carriage ride on your own, and enjoy every second of it — I actually had full intentions of doing this one year, but when I found out the price of how much it costs, that plan was shot. So, if you’re a cheapo like I am, you can do what I did and, instead, just drive super slowly in your own car with the windows down so that you can get a similar feel. Plus, you can blast your heat at the same time so that you’re really not that cold. And cruising in your car by yourself is super unromantic, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out like you would if you were in a carriage ride alone. (But the solo carriage ride thing is still cool, too.)
Watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York — Unlike the Hallmark movies, there’s exactly zero romance involved in these classics. Plus, not only are they hilarious, but they are also about a young boy who kicks a$* on his own, so maybe they’ll provide you a little inspiration and encouragement at the same time.
Buy a Bath & Body Works Wallflower to make your home smell like Christmas cookies— You can also buy a candle, but I find that the Wallflowers are easier and last longer. Plus, they’re cheaper. Either way, the intoxicating scent is pretty much guaranteed to bring you a little extra peace.
Watch a Dallas Cowboys game — You’ll be so upset with how they play that you’ll forget all about being single during the holidays.
Remind yourself that being single means that you have one less gift to purchase — Hey, you might as well focus on a financial advantage of this situation.
Take a few minutes to watch this video in its entirety — You’re welcome.
Do all of the things you love to do, and spend time with your people — This is the most important one. You don’t have to be part of a pair to be part of a family. It might be tougher than you prefer, but you don’t have to let your lack of something take away from your joy of what you already have.
The holiday season can be a heart-wrenching time for some people for a variety of reasons, regardless of their relationship statuses. Hug your people a little extra—you don’t always know what’s going on in their hearts, and they may need those hugs more than you’ll ever know.
If you’re feeling more single than ever this year, know that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. You may not feel loved and adored by anyone trying to meet you under the mistletoe, but you are loved and adored by the One who is the reason we celebrate the Christmas holiday in the first place.
And that’s sure as heck a reason to be joyous in a potentially tough time of the year.
Some things claim to be permanent but actually aren’t—yes, even those trusted Sharpies can fail us.
But leave it to a Disney character to remind us of the one thing that will never falter.
A little more than a week ago, the radiator in my car decided to die, and there was a moment I thought I might actually die when smoke started coming out of the front of my car, and I was certain it was about to explode with me in it. The one good thing that came out of this was that I got to drive a BMW SUV for a while for the price of an economy car rental. I definitely like when things work out like that. I’m not really a fancy person, but you give me heated seats and all of these ridiculous and superfluous features (but especially the heated seats), and I’m hooked. I offered my RAV4 to the rental place to trade straight up, but no deal.
Later that evening, my friend Cali and I went to dinner and then decided to drive out to a fun bar/restaurant about 20 or 30 minutes away. I mean, we got to ride in heated seats the whole time and cruise in a car that neither of us can afford (#teachersalary), so why not? We sat down at a table for four, and it wasn’t long before a woman came our way and asked if she could take one of our extra chairs. A short time later, a man came over and asked the same thing for the other extra chair. We hadn’t been there that long—how did they know we didn’t have people coming to join us?
When you’re single, whether they intend to do so or not, people have a way of reminding you that you aren’t actually saving a chair for anyone.
Like probably many people, I love the holiday season. The smells are wonderful, and there’s this unseen but completely felt transition that takes place in society—people are generally more thankful, more giving, more thoughtful, and more available than during other times in the year. Maybe that’s why there’s that song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Go figure.
At the same time, though, it can also be a rather difficult time for some individuals. In a way, it’s a constant reminder for people who are single or alone. I love Target with my whole heart, but the GIANT DISPLAY of family matching pajamas is kind of a slap in the face when you have no one to match with you.
My sister and I went to see Frozen 2 the other night (highly recommend), and once again, that Olaf charmed his way even deeper into my heart. He has such a remarkably beautiful outlook on life. I won’t give away too much of the movie, but the sweet little snowman says something that has a way of ingraining itself in your mind and heart because it’s so genuine and so true: “Hey, Anna—I just thought of one thing that’s permanent: love.”
Olaf gets it.
The pumpkin spice latte and peppermint mochas will fade as the seasons change. The decorations will be taken down. The snow will melt (except for Olaf, obviously). The generosity, sadly, might become less generous. The family togetherness might lessen. The radio stations will go back to playing their standard tunes. The airlines will see a slight decline in mass travel for a while. The overall magical feeling that the holiday season brings will dwindle. So many more things will fade, but love will not.
Because love is permanent.
I know that I’ve never actually been in a relationship, but I do know what love is and what love does. I also know that it’s not reserved solely for romance. It’s not meant for one day or one month or one season or one year or one whatever—it’s forever and always.
When I look at my family, the truth of permanent love makes much more sense to me. We’re imperfect people who have been through quite a bit together, but we’ve never once thought about giving up on each other. When you truly love people, you don’t turn your back on them. You fight their fights with them, you let them cry their tears to you, you celebrate their victories with them, and you help them up and remind them of who they are when they feel like they simply can’t keep going. That’s what love does.
Because love is permanent.
I don’t need to get down about Target not making holiday PJs specifically for singles or about people taking chairs from my table when they make their own assumptions. I’ve got my people. Sure, I may hope for a permanent love with my own Ryan Reynolds-esque guy, but I’m going to let myself sit in the joy of knowing that a quirky little snowman has reminded me of something that I need to not only continue to remind myself every day but also continue to remind those around me by the way I live.
The goals we attain won’t last forever. Our looks and talents will fade. The struggles we face will eventually end. Money and awards and trophies won’t carry over into eternity. And so many other things we feel and endure and earn are fleeting. But love? That stuff’s permanent.
Just ask the snowman who is made of nothing but love and survives all of the elements.
I consider myself a pretty intelligent gal, but there are certainly times when I don’t necessarily use my intellect to its full capacity.
Cue my everyday life the past few weeks.
I recently bought one of those wallflower things from Bath & Body Works—you plug it into the wall, and then you add this little bottle of scented goodness to the contraption, and it makes places smell fantastic. I probably described that slightly poorly, but it’s 2019, so here are links to the wallflower and to my most recent scent of choice.
I was rather excited for my plan of making my apartment smell like a pumpkin cupcake on the reg, so I plugged it in as soon as I got home and went about my hectic life. When I got home from work the next day, I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t as pungent as I’d hoped, and I looked and noticed that the bottle was completely empty.
Huh? That’s odd. Was there a strange odor in my place that sucked up all of the good-smelling stuff?
Obviously that’s a silly assumption, and my apartment doesn’t smell bad, so it didn’t make sense. Plus, I don’t even know if that’s how science works. It’s not my thing. But I just left it as it was and told myself that I’d buy another refill bottle the following weekend when I actually had a few minutes to go back to Bath & Body Works.
When I returned home from hanging out with my nieces the following Sunday with my beloved fragrance in tow, I repeated the same steps from the previous week of plugging it in. I got to work on a few things on my computer while watching football and then got up to get something from my kitchen. As I did, I glanced at the wallflower and saw that the bottle was empty again.
What in tarnation?!
And then it hit me: The bottle was upside down. The directions had specifically warned against that. Insert the palm-to-face emoji girl. That was me in that moment.
I was slightly frustrated at the fact that I had wasted two perfectly good bottles that would have filled my entire apartment with a scent that would tease you into thinking you were actually about to eat pumpkin cupcakes simply because I hadn’t followed instructions properly.
Isn’t this something I try to instill in my students on a daily basis?
I think one of the reasons I made the mistake—not once but twice—was because I wasn’t truly paying attention. I was too busy focusing on all of the other things I needed to do and also thought that I knew exactly what I was doing in setting up the wallflower. It’s honestly not an extravagant scientific process. You seriously just plug the thing into the wall and screw the small bottle full of heavenly aroma in there.
I also wasn’t paying much attention this past Sunday when I was at my parents’ house. I still get a lot of mail sent to their house (it’s all junk, so thankfully the mailers haven’t found out where I really live), and my dad won’t throw it away for me because he says it’s against the law. I gave you permission, man. But that doesn’t fly with him, so I had a huge stack of stuff to trash. I went through it, ripping all of it up and putting it in a trash bag that my mom had brought over by where I was sitting. (Yes, there was enough of it to warrant its own trash bag.) The Cowboys game was on, though, so I was paying much more attention to the television than what I was actually doing.
After I was finished going through the pile of what ended up being all trash, my dad took it out with the rest of the garbage and set it outside near their alley for pickup. When it was time for me to go over to my brother’s house for my weekly hangout time with my besties (my angel nieces), I couldn’t find my phone. I remembered that I had brought it in their house with me, so I knew that it wasn’t in my car. It wasn’t in my purse. It wasn’t in the chair where I had been sitting watching the game. My mom jokingly asked if I had accidentally thrown it away with all of the mail.
She didn’t think I was serious when I said I probably did, so she called my phone. We heard nothing. I searched around again, and she called it again. Still nothing. We laughed together as we walked to their driveway about to go dig through trash, and I made a comment about how I’ve had to dive into a dumpster once, so this wasn’t new to me. She’s also had to go into a dumpster before to retrieve something, so she said it must run in the family.
That’s something to be proud of, people.
When we got out there and started lifting up the multiple trash bags, she called my phone again. Sure enough, I heard Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” blaring through the stench of plastic and garbage that had been sitting in the Texas heat—much less soothing than a pumpkin cupcake. My dad had put the trash bag with all of the mail in it inside of another trash bag with food and whatnot, and that bag was beneath a bag of everything that was in their cat’s litter box.
This is my life, friends.
We finally got to the bag that had my phone in it, and I dug it out. I know people are going to ask me this, so the answer is yes, I did wash my hands. It’s like when people asked me if I showered after jumping into the dumpster. I know I don’t wash my hair very often, but I’m not a complete savage. And, once again, just like with the wallflower situation, when it came to getting rid of all of that mail, I was in such a rush and thought I knew exactly what I was doing and what the best plan was when I should have been paying more attention and remaining in the moment.
Oh. Hey, life.
There are many times when I think my plan is the best plan, and I end up being wrong. Those situations make it necessary for me to reference one of my favorite Key and Peele lines: “Whereas I was not incorrect, they did not mean what I thought they meant.” I was just talking with a friend the other day about how it’s always funny to look back at what we thought would be best for us at certain times in our lives, only later to realize that it truly was much better to leave every plan in God’s hands and let Him take care of the way everything works out.
I’m 34 years old and more single than Steve Urkel. That definitely wasn’t part of my plan years ago. I mean, I should have been in love and loved back for years at this point. But I also wouldn’t be the person I am today if that had happened. For some reason or another, I’ve been meant to be single for this long. Sure, I hope to have my lobster come into my life soon, but I also have to trust that, if that’s even meant to happen, it will happen when it’s supposed to and not simply when I think it should.
After all, I don’t want other areas of my life to end up like an upside down pumpkin cupcake wallflower that doesn’t serve the purpose that it should of making the world a much more pleasant place or a phone ringing the iconic “Love Story” from the bottom of a nasty trash bag.
And that’s the most positive way that I can say it.
High school and college are so much different than adulthood. One of the main reasons is the forced interactions with people. Sure, you’re sometimes required to mix and mingle when you’re an adult, but it’s different.
When you’re still in school, you’re in classes and organizations and activities with other people, and it’s natural to make friends and sometimes even form romantic relationships with those individuals. Quite a few of my friends met their lobsters in high school and college, and that’s really good for them, especially since they don’t know the pains of the dating scene as it is today.
Because it is the worst.
I recently met a guy on a dating app who seemed pretty legit. We went out more than a few times and had great conversations. I had never gone out with a dating app guy more than once, so I figured that was a good sign, as well. This fella also texted me pretty regularly throughout the week and appeared to be interested in me. He asked me to go to a baseball game with him, and I did, and it seemed like we both had a good time. He even took a selfie of us at the game, so one might assume that things were going well.
I’ve been ghosted before, and it’s sadly a pretty common thing on these apps. I’m not completely sure why I believe that people are going to be honest with their feelings and say things like “hey, I’m just not interested in you, but I wish you the best.” Sure, ghosting is a heck of a lot easier, but easier isn’t always the way to go—especially when you’re dealing with people.
That guy and I clearly weren’t meant to be, and that’s fine. He’s not my lobster. Speaking of that, I bought a shirt at Target the other day that says “you’re my lobster,”and maybe one day I’ll actually be able to wear it in front of my forever love. But even if I’m single forever, it’s still a great shirt.
And speaking of being single forever, I’m finished with the dating apps. I gave them the old college try (more than once), and each time has reminded me that they’re just not for me. I’m happy that they work for some people, but I’m not one of them. I’m going back to believing that I’m going to meet my guy while I’m walking or running through a park, and he’s playing frisbee or football with some friends and accidentally hits me with the frisbee or football, and I fall, and he runs over to check on me, and then sparks fly.
No, I don’t watch too many romcoms.
I played bingo the other night, and I definitely didn’t win. I actually didn’t even come close. During each game, I had nine squares that I was trying to keep up with, which required a great deal of focus—after all, there was money on the line, and I’m also a highly competitive person. At one point, though, I took a moment to look around the room at all of the people emphatically dotting numbers called on their boards and listening intently as Theresa called the next letter-number combo. There didn’t appear to be many meaningful conversations going on in that crowded room. In that moment, it hit me that sometimes we truly do focus so much on the things we want or think we need that we don’t pay enough attention to the wonderful things that are already there.
I don’t need dating apps. I don’t need a boyfriend or a husband or a lobster. And I don’t need some ideal love story that Meg Ryan’s former characters would applaud. Sure, those things would be nice, but being able to shout out “bingo” and walk away with some cash would have been nice, too. And maybe they’ll still happen for me someday. Regardless, I’m going to make sure that I appreciate what I’ve been given instead of focusing on what I don’t have.
Sometimes our hopes that turn into expectations don’t quite live up to the hype we give them.
And that’s actually not always a bad thing.
I spent the holiday weekend in Northern California for a wedding and was able to explore San Francisco for a bit before I went up to Wine Country. While I lived in Orange County for more than a year and a half, I never made it up to the Bay Area during that time. I had always heard about how fascinating it is, so I was excited to experience it.
My sweet friend Tara had given me a few ideas of things to do, one of which was to visit Coit Tower, where you’re able to see the entire city in a 360-view from up top. I made the trek up there and was enjoying seeing all of the different people on the streets as my made my way to my destination. One thing I kept thinking was that people who live there must have really great quads—those hills are no joke.
When I finally made it to Coit Tower, I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be a line or a fee. Clearly I was living in some type of fantasy land—the line wrapped around three different corners, and I learned it was going to cost me $9 to step into the elevator. I decided to go ahead and pay and wait because I was really curious to see how amazing the views were. I kept thinking about this quote from the Hannah Montana movie: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.”
I had been standing in line for a while and was probably still about 15 or 20 minutes away from being able to go on the elevator when an employee began walking down the line asking for a single rider. FINALLY, ANOTHER PERK OF BEING SINGLE! I quickly let him know I was riding solo, so he took me to the front of the line to squeeze on the elevator with a group of three people and a few other couples. The man controlling the elevator began telling us a little about Coit Tower and expectations for when we got to the top. If I ever need a hype man, he’ll be one of my top candidates. He made everything sound amazing.
When the elevator opened, I began climbing the last set of stairs to get to the top. My heart filled with anticipation that I can’t really explain—I think that there had been so much build up that I was expecting something more magnificent than I could even imagine. I took the last step to the top, and I tried not to let the disappointment take over.
This is it?
It was only $9 and time you’ll never get back, Nat. It’s fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.
Sure, the views were beautiful, but the whole experience wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be. I walked around the tiny loop, snapped some pics, stared out into the water we were overlooking, and then moseyed back down the stairs to the elevator.
As I began the trek back to my car, I gave myself a pep talk to try to make sure that I didn’t spend my whole walk disappointed with what had just happened. I know that I have high expectations for many things in life, and it’s certainly a letdown when one of them doesn’t pan out as I originally hoped, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the work to get there.
I thought about how much I had enjoyed the walk there—the sights, the people, the brief conversations I had with strangers, the artwork along the walls and sidewalks, the hills (it’s a love-hate thing), the weather, the ability to walk in the beautiful sunshine without sweating like a haus, the stories behind each unique door I passed. All of it.
No, not everything is going to be as we expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean that the journeys we take to get to those desires we have are wasted. I didn’t waste time in that line—I invested in conversations with other people and gave my mind and body some time to escape from all of the pressures and worries I’ve been dealing with lately (I have a lot on my plate right now). I didn’t waste money to ride an elevator and see a city from above—I invested in other people’s careers and in a city that provides a number of amenities for a countless amount of people every single day (I actually have no idea where the money goes, but that’s what I’m choosing to believe).
Even though I’ve been as single as a dollar bill for basically my entire life, I have high expectations for what I’m looking for in my lobster. And I truly believe that it won’t end up being like my Coit Tower experience. At the same time, I want to make sure that I’m appreciating this journey along the way. I don’t want to waste my singleness by wishing that I weren’t single. I mean, I got to cut in line in front of a bunch of people because they’re all in relationships or traveling with other people, and I’m not. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
We all walk different paths and are able to go through different experiences in life. They don’t happen by accident, and we are where we are on purpose and with purpose—I fully believe that. So why not try to enjoy the moments we’re given without constantly focusing on what’s ahead? It’s great to have hopes and expectations and to imagine what those fulfilled hopes will be like, but it’s even better to be fully present and to let yourself enjoy every breath that you’re given.
Sure, “life’s a climb, but the view is great,” but it’s that climb and all that you endure through it that help you become the person you were always meant to be.
As I continue to get older and grow more and more single (is that possible??), I’m beginning to learn more about what it means to love and be loved, regardless of my relationship status.
Because my singleness does not define me.
I’m in my final week in the O.C., which is exciting and sad and weird all in one. I’m beyond happy to move back to Dallas and be reunited with my family and people who have stuck with me through years of joy and pain and all of life’s celebrations and trials. At the same time, though, it’s bittersweet to be closing this chapter of my life that has honestly transformed my heart in more ways than I could have imagined.
My friend Arinda makes a vision board every year, and I became interested in making one of my own after hearing her talk about it and her reason behind making one at the start of each new year. On the final weekend in December, I went over to her house, and we sat together cutting out magazine pictures and words that pertain to my life and the goals and hopes and dreams I have for myself. She always picks a word to be her key focus, and there was only one that popped into my head and wouldn’t go away.
We cut out the individual letters for that word, and it has its special place on my board. I covered the rest of it with the images and words we had found, and it’s my new visual representation of who I am and what I’m anticipating for 2019. (As a side note, the only board I could find was this canvas-material thing with bows and some little girl on it that I found at Target in the kids section. I did my best to cover it up, but you can definitely see bits of it through my collage of stuff. Life, you know?)
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how fitting the word freedom is for my life right now. I genuinely believe that God called me out to California on purpose and with specific intention, and I believe that one reason was to be set free—free from anxiety, free from the pain of a broken heart, free from fear, and fear from the notion that I’m not enough.
I’m going back to Dallas stronger than I was when I left. I don’t say that to be boastful or to boost your opinion of me, because it honestly has nothing to do with me or with anything I did on my own. I say it because it was all part of God’s plan for me.
I’m as single as they come, and that’s always been something that’s been a little difficult for me. It’s tough to see nearly everyone around me falling in love and starting families while I’m still sending in RSVPs for one and never being able to drive in the HOV lane legally and twirling on the dance floor on my own during the slow songs. For far too long, I let my singleness define what I thought of myself, and I let it be something that diminished my opinion of who I was. I let it convince me that I simply wasn’t enough—not pretty enough, not funny enough, not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not whatever enough.
But “not enough” is a lie.
I found freedom from that nonsense during this last more than year and a half. My singleness allowed me to come out here on my own. My singleness allowed me to ask people to be my friends and spend time with me without worrying about messing with someone else’s schedule. My singleness allowed me feel more alone than I ever had and realize that the only One I need is with me all of the time everywhere I go. My singleness allowed me to invite myself places without thinking twice. My singleness allowed me to lead other single and unmarried women and encourage them and pray with them for their future husbands. My singleness allowed me to drop what I was doing and be there for a group of high school girls when they needed me most.
And my singleness allowed me to experience the freedom from the fear and pain that my singleness has brought me for far too many years.
Sometimes we need to take journeys we weren’t expecting to grow and learn lessons that we never knew we needed to learn. We may even be fortunate enough to make some lasting friendships along the way, and I’m so grateful for the lifelong relationships I formed in California. I know in my heart that the distance of miles and miles in between the different states won’t tarnish these friendships. I know that some friendships are only meant to last for certain seasons of our lives, but I didn’t make many of those out here—I’m more of a lifer.
I think one reason that I was able to form such friendships is because I’m letting myself be completely real and open and honest with people more than I ever have. I’m more comfortable being me, even around guys I have feelings for or think are attractive. Heck, I even sent a message on Instagram to my friend’s dentist because he’s a hottie, and she said he was single and that we might be a good match for each other. He never replied, but I’m cool with that.
There’s freedom in finally being OK with the rejections that used to hurt me.
When you break a bone, it often returns to a stronger state than it was as a result of the calcium that built up during the healing process. I left Dallas with a broken heart that I thought would never be whole again, but I’m returning home with a heart so mended and capable of much more that it ever has been because of the love that built up around it and in it during this healing process.
Life is often unpredictable and will lead you to places you weren’t planning to go. And those are often journeys that you need to go on by yourself in order to discover that you’re never alone as you think you are. Your relationship status doesn’t define you, and don’t ever be afraid to do anything simply because there isn’t someone else with you to make the journey. It might be the adventure you need to help you become who you were always meant to be.
And you’re certainly worth taking the chance to find out.
Things aren’t necessarily always as bad as you think they will be.
But that doesn’t stop us from letting our imaginations get the best of us.
I think it’s easy sometimes to create worst-case scenarios in our minds that don’t actually exist, and we end up dealing with unnecessary anxiety. There’s an episode of Modern Family that depicts this pretty perfectly when Claire freaks out about Haley’s whereabouts and what possibly could have happened within the last 24 hours. She spirals down a crazed worry path, but it turns out that Haley was upstairs in her room the entire time, and all of Claire’s panicking was for naught.
I’ve definitely been guilty of that more than once in my life, and I let those anxious thoughts get the best of me recently.
Last week was rough for a number of reasons, mainly because of the whole kidney stone thing. I’ve been feeling like a train wreck since then because something still isn’t right (don’t worry—I’m going to the urologist this week), and I didn’t do a great job of making sure that I got enough rest. I made the perhaps unwise decision to play in my flag football game on Saturday morning, and when I was getting closer to the beach, I noticed a strange sound coming from my car’s front right tire. I started worrying that my car was falling completely apart and that I was going to have to get an entirely new car ASAP if I wanted to be able to drive anywhere. But I really don’t want a car payment right now, so this wasn’t going to be good at all.
I parked on one of the streets near the beach and got out of my car to inspect the damage. All I saw was some circular silver thing stuck in my tire, and I wasn’t able to pull it out, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment because I needed to get to my game, but during my walk over to the beach field, I started thinking about how I was going to return to a flat tire, and I didn’t know how to change a flat. I didn’t want to have to call anyone to help me, so I then started worrying about trying to figure it out on my own and putting it on the wrong way.
By the time I got back to my car, the tire was still intact, and I drove to the nearest America’s Tire (I have a lifetime warranty with Discount Tire, and America’s Tire is the same thing as Discount out here), but it had closed at noon that day. I called two more America’s Tire stores, but it turns out they all closed at noon for some company event ON THE ONE DAY THAT I NEEDED THEM TO HAVE THEIR NORMAL HOURS.
As I drove to the nearest auto place that Google Maps had found for me, I started panicking about how much it was going to cost to fix it or get a brand new tire all because freaking America’s Tire had to have a company event. (I honestly hope that all of the employees had a great time—I used to love it when my company in Dallas would close early to have some fun as a company family.)
I sat inside and watched college football on my phone (don’t ask me why the store had a throwback NBA game on its TV, instead) and had a convo with God to try to get rid of my worrying. It wasn’t too long later that the guy who had been working on my tire came in with the keys and gave them to the guy behind the counter, who turned to me and said that I was all set. It was a bolt that had been in my tire, and homeboy had removed it and then patched up the hole. I braced myself as I asked him how much it was, and he said four words that made my heart soar: “Don’t worry about it.”
He didn’t realize it, but he was speaking to me about so much more than the tire.
All of that worrying and stressing ended up being a waste of energy that I really didn’t have in the first place. I feel like I should know by now that going down the worry path is a horrible idea and usually leads me in the wrong direction. What’s the point in stressing so much about situations that don’t even exist and may never be actualities?
I have a lot of unknowns ahead in my life right now, and at least one has been causing me more anxiety than it should. Here’s the truth, though: I can handle anything that comes my way, because I know that I’m never alone, and God has never once turned away from me—and He won’t start now. No, that doesn’t mean that everything will always work out in my favor, but it does mean that I can endure the trials and trust Him through them all.
Life is going to throw challenges at us, and there will be times when it leaves us feeling anxious about what may or may not happen. There are questions constantly filling our minds: How much is this going to cost? What if I can’t afford this? What if I’m single forever? What if the dreams in my heart don’t come true? What am I going to do if this happens? What am I going to do if this doesn’t happen?
You can “what if?” until you’re blue in the face, and you can sweat over your mind’s inquiries until you wear yourself out completely. But, rather than spending all of your energy worrying about things that aren’t realities and may never be, why not use it to enjoy where you are, trust that what needs to happen will happen, and love the people in your life in this very moment?
Because one bolt in your tire can’t destroy the entire car.
I think it’s important to be open and genuine, and sometimes that involves sharing your heart and being vulnerable when you might not want to.
Right now is one of those times for me.
I’m not going to lie—sometimes it’s really tough being single when you’re an adult. Even if it’s not necessarily true, it seems like every other human being around you is in a relationship and has his or her person to do life with and make memories together. And plenty of people you don’t even ask have their opinions regarding what you should or shouldn’t do to make sure that you don’t spend the rest of your life singing the catchy Farmers Only jingle.
It can be such a special status at times.
I’ve shared before that, while I’ve never actually had a boyfriend or even been in a relationship (or on what I consider to be a real date), I’ve had my heart broken. And I feel like I’m currently going through a never-ending heartache that I can’t seem to escape, no matter what I do. Unfortunately, there’s no timetable for mending a broken heart—we’re all so different, and we all handle our pain in different ways.
For me, I’ve always tried to deal with emotional pain the same way I deal with physical pain: I ignore it. I do this for as long as possible, and then I usually reach a point when I have to face the fact that the pain is actually there, and there’s no way to pretend it’s not there anymore—I simply have to acknowledge it.
It’s been almost two years since my heart was ripped out of my chest, thrown to the ground, smashed into thousands of tiny little pieces, and then stomped all over by the guy who walked away from it. I thought that I would be over it by now, and I honestly thought more recently that I was. But one day last week reminded me that I was once again just masking pain that was still prevalent. It still hurts, and I still miss him, which makes me feel foolish and pathetic.
But I also know that I’m neither foolish nor pathetic—I’m simply a girl who cares about a boy who doesn’t care about her. It’s not exactly the classic romance tale, but it’s my current reality.
One evening last week, I went to a panel discussion at a church that’s somewhat connected with mine, and the topic was about dating in today’s society. It was kind of difficult to take advice from the married couples up there (especially the ones who had been married for 20 years and more), and I wish they would have had more than one single person to share some insight, but I ended up having a rather enlightening moment on my own in the midst of it all.
As I was listening to some of the couples share their stories of how they met, I began to feel alone and a little sad. I haven’t cried in a while, and I have a feeling the waterworks are coming soon. (Part of that not acknowledging my emotional pain thing that I do means that I ignore moments when I want to cry, so I end up bottling up a crap-ton of emotions, and they typically come pouring out all at once when I least expect them to.) I did the only thing that ever makes sense to me when everything around me makes zero sense: I started praying.
God knows my heart, and I began unloading it in a prayer of brokenness, asking Him what I was supposed to do. I hate the online stuff—it’s not part of my story, and I know it. But I’m hurting, and I’m still sad about [homeboy’s name]. God, if I’m supposed to be single forever, can you please take away this desire in my heart? And, regardless, can you please take away my feelings for him? Am I ever going to meet my person? What do I do, Lord?
And then I heard this quiet, calming voice that has spoken truth to me so many times: Don’t you trust me? I’ve never let you down.
Talk about a sucker punch to the gut. This big and powerful God who has the entire world in His hands—the One who called me out to California and has provided for me in more ways than I could ever have imagined—truly cares about me and has a plan that is more perfect than anything that I could ever create. He’s never failed me, and He won’t start now. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk into the elevator at work tomorrow and meet the man of my dreams, but it does mean that, whether or not I do ended up falling in love with the one guy who picks me out of every other girl in the world, He’s got big plans for me.
And I do trust Him.
We sang two songs in church Sunday that both had lines about God never failing us and never letting us down. I think it was His way of reminding me (along with countless others who needed to hear it) that He is who He says He is, and He’s taking care of the things that cause me worry and anxiety—He’s funny like that.
I don’t know what you’re going through in life. Maybe you’re like me and wish that you could find love in a world that seems to be more challenging for the single folks every day. I hope that you don’t lose hope. I hope that you keep pressing on through the storms of heartache that try to knock you down. I hope that you know that you are worthy and enough with or without someone else standing by your side.
And I hope that you know that you are loved by the One who will love you more than anyone else in the entire world ever could.