People say your 20s are for “finding yourself.” I think what they really mean is, find out what you want to do in college, meet someone, and settle down by the time you’re 22, 24 at the latest. Longer than that, and you’re labeled as restless, wild, or worse—indefinitely still single.
It’s not hard for me to remember what 20-year-old Jess thought 30-year-old Jess’ life would look like by now. I would have an intelligent, bearded husband and one ridiculously adorable kid. I’d have a book draft due to the publisher next week, but would finish it on our way to London, Rome, or somewhere exotic. Obviously, I had very realistic life goals.
In college, I found love, but he didn’t love me back. My stomach still churns when I think about it. Unrequited love is the worst kind because it’s empty, leaving you with questions but no answers. After that experience, I just left “love” or the thought of it out of my life. I attended university, traveled with friends, and sought counseling to understand what a healthy relationship should look like. Dating was off the table for me.
Surprisingly, I had a blast not dating–really! I loved picking up and moving when the wind changed. People called me a nomad, and I wore the title like a badge of honor. Jess the Nomad. Jess the Wanderer. Jess, not tied down to anywhere or anyone.
Something changed as I moved from my mid to late 20s. The calls to hang out came less and less. Nearly all my friends had married and were working full-time. They did exactly what we said we’d never to do at 18: become a cog in the system. Forty hours at a job wouldn’t catch me. I wouldn’t let “The Man” get me down. Do you see a pattern of running in my story? Tough relationship in college = running away from dating. Working full-time = running from responsibility, losing friends. Yet, the more I ran, the more God chased me. The more He chased, the harder it became for me to ignore Him. My life became like that arcade game Whack-A-Mole. The problem: I was the mole, trying to find my own way and make my own path. God was like, “BAM! You need to wake up. BAM! Understand I have a better plan.” Suffice it to say, we went a few rounds before I got the picture.
Certain times of year can be tough for me. Not because I’m still single, but because I’m reminded of the plans I had and the fact that those plans changed. It’s hard going to Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings alone. It’s painful to watch young families and realize that’s not for me right now. But, I guess my bearded hubby wasn’t the plan to begin with, was he?
Maybe you’re dealing with changed plans. Your life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would. And that realization, the acceptance of it, is tough. For me, it’s often in the in-between moments like driving in my car or walking somewhere when it hits. Or hurts.
I’ve found that sharing how I feel often helps me turn the corner from sad to grateful the fastest. I’m not talking a five-minute turnaround, but sharing begins the healing process. Despite what you may think from reading this post, I’m actually very private and only share my heart to a trusted inner-circle of friends. I find they can bring perspective and hope when I’ve lost both. And I find comfort in telling God that I’m hurting and don’t understand. It’s easier to shake my fists and say I’ve been forgotten or passed over. But I know in my heart that’s not true. Because when I really think and pray about it, I’m thankful for this time. I really am.
This year I chose “plunge” as my word for the year. I felt God calling me to plunge into life headfirst. Dive into all that He has for me right now. Right now, in my singleness. Right now, working at a full-time job that I can’t wait to go to each day. I still love being a nomad. I love exploring, growing, and getting to know myself. I’m not afraid of eating at a restaurant alone. I like it. I’m not worried about what people think when I go to the movies and say, “One ticket, please.” I’m owning this season of life—plunging in and fully embracing it. Why? Because God has chosen this season of life for me. He’s given me this time to know Him and to understand His ways. Singleness is not a burden. It’s a gift! I’m never alone. Life is about a lot more than avoiding loneliness. I’m learning about myself and how God uniquely created me to love Him and others and to enjoy life.
What changed for you? What happened in your life that you weren’t expecting? Tell someone. Get it out into the light and let God begin to heal you. You may find you’re thankful for this season.