There are about 3 questions that I get asked all the time that I just don’t like to answer. The number one question is always something to do with my romantic life. It’s always some variation of “are you dating anyone?”, “are you married?”, or “do you have a boyfriend/husband?”. Now-a-days, those questions always get followed up with “well why not?”. It’s kind of hard to answer these questions when you’re put on the spot, especially by someone you barely know or you just met. Sometimes I just want to snap back with a sarcastic “well maybe I don’t have a boyfriend because I like women”, but that would probably get lost somewhere over the head of the inquirer.
Not that long ago, I started to take great offense to those questions and would immediately become overwhelmed with feelings of insecurity and embarrassment, like there was something wrong with me for being in my mid to late 20s and single. And to be honest, I would be lying if I told you that today I do not get feelings of insecurity when someone asks me these questions. However, after so many years, I have finally realized that no man or relationship will ever truly fulfill me. The past 8 months have been the longest that I have probably ever gone as a single woman in the last 10 years. I realize this makes me sound like a serial dater, but I had some long relationships over those years and I’ve finally been able to step back and look at how I was living my life so wrong.
When I was in high school, I thought that I would go off to college, meet the man of my dreams at church, and we’d get married after graduation, have 3 kids by 30, and live in a fairy tale, God-centered world. Unfortunately, I did not yet realize how sheltered I was. There was always a part of me that wanted attention, affirmation, and popularity. I never quite gave full vent to this side of me until I went off to college. Now, don’t get me wrong, college was a lot of fun and I made some of the best friends there and had some amazing experiences. Unfortunately, my greatest downfall was losing sight of who I truly was so that I could fit in with certain crowds and gain the affection of the world. I was torn between serving God, and serving “the world”. Ultimately, one had to win out.
I cannot even try to pretend like I was some goody-two-shoes in college, much less after. When I would go home on breaks, I’d hide behind this good girl image I had going with my family and friends at home, as if I could just be one person at home and another person elsewhere. I had boyfriends, and I played the dating game. It gave me a confidence boost, I felt wanted, needed, pretty, popular, and like I was on my way to marriage and 3 kids before 30. With every date I went on, I’d sacrifice one more thing from my “list” of desires in a man and my future life. It got to the point after college where I didn’t even know the girl I was in high school. I had changed so much of myself to fit someone else’s ideal mold that I had lost sight of anything even remotely real about me.
After college, I took a job as a flight attendant. This job made me feel special. It wasn’t anywhere close to glamorous, but I could pretend like it was. I could post photos in some far away land with good looking people to fake this amazing new lifestyle I was living. It was so exciting because I was suddenly getting more attention from people and more and more men were shallowly trying to date me. I met one pilot who was a nice guy and to me, my biological clock was ticking so I eagerly went out with him…for over 3 years. We had many issues throughout our relationship, and a lot of them were on my end. I was so selfish. However, the one issue that just kept bugging me was that I knew he was in love with the idea of me, and not me. I can’t even blame him. I had no idea who I was in that relationship and I couldn’t even give him a real person to be in love with! When I finally realized what had been going on for the last 3 years of my life, I mustered up the guts to break up with him. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really learned anything.
I was in a new flying job where I was gone 20+ days a month doing long haul flying and living out of a carry-on sized suitcase. When you can barely keep your feet on the ground at home, you lose yourself even more. Airport hotels, alcohol, and equally-low-in-life men are what my life became. Loneliness and depression sank in and I was going nowhere with my life. I was on a high from the job (I can’t lie, I had a lot of good times flying and got to see some amazing things), but each time I landed, I got lonelier. So many of my close friends were getting married and there I was, making a mess out of my dating life. Jenn tried to help me, but who really wants to hear that their life is a mess? I got back into the dating game, and yes, it was a game, and then I found myself in a horrible relationship that I wanted to hold on to strictly for the attention. I would like to say I was so much smarter, but I had lost sight of who I truly am.
I should probably be clear, I hadn’t made a total mess of my life in general, but as far as relationships go and where I was putting certain priorities, those aspects were a mess. So one day I was in my parent’s living room and noticed that my mother had strategically placed the ever iconic Christian dating book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” on the coffee table next to some work I had been doing there. She has been trying to get me to crack that book for the last 17+ years and she is still unsuccessful in her efforts. It did get me thinking a bit though. I made one final effort to hold on to this pathetic “relationship” I had gotten myself into when I realized that I was being so stupid. I was not defined by this human being. He could call me whatever name he wanted to call me, make up whatever lie he wanted to tell about me, put me down in any way that he wanted to put me down, but he could never define me. I have to admit, I was at my lowest point emotionally when I decided to pull up podcasts on my AppleTV. One of the top rated podcasts was some pastor whose name I couldn’t even tell you, much less what he looked like and I just clicked on it. All I heard from it was “behold I stand at the door and knock”. It was like my eyes were opened and all I had to do was open the door that I had closed so many years ago.
I began to find new purpose in my life and everything bad that I had put myself through in the last few years was just like a bad dream. Changes didn’t happen immediately, pain doesn’t just go away, but when I realized that my purpose on this earth is not defined by the world, I began healing. I began realizing that I don’t need to have the attention of a man to make me happy or make me feel good. I can be confident without the affirmation of a shallow guy. I can put my focus on the things that matter in this world and not be distracted by a relationship founded on fakeness. I don’t have to deal with the pressures of the whole “dating game” either.
So now, when someone asks me the follow up question “well why not?”, I can give them the honest answer: because I am doing something that I feel called to be doing. God-willing, I will get married and have a family one day, but now is not the time and I am OK with that.