To Single Women In Their 30’s,
Today I turn 34 years old. We all know what the world is going to ask me.
“Are you married?”
“Do you want to get married?”
“Do you want me to set you up with my cousin’s niece’s friend’s nephew?”
“Do you have any kids?”
“Are you sure you want a career that requires so many hours?”
It seems like each birthday since age 27 the number of times I get these questions doubles.
While I find them annoying, I no longer let them influence my decisions in my life.
We live in a world that tells us if we are not married by our late 20’s and if we don’t have kids by our mid 30’s, we are headed down a path of doom and destruction. We failed as women.
They tell us as we get older, our skin will wrinkle, our boobs will sag and our place and value in the world will begin to diminish.
The message is loud and clear in your 30’s. Dating should no longer be a casual hobby, but must be a strategic mission.
Even though it’s not the 1950’s, there are still subtle hints that as you age, your days of shorts skirts, bikinis and high heels should be traded in for aprons, minivans and a one-piece bathing suit.
In years past, my birthday gave me incredible anxiety. I would mask the tension by taking a trip to Vegas or Miami or throwing a big party in New York City. The festivities aimed to mitigate that churn in my stomach that came with becoming one year older.
However, I can’t blame society’s expectations for the cloud that’s loomed over many of my birthdays. Even when I was following the unspoken rules society laid out for me, December 11th still felt like a dreaded chore instead of a celebration of life.
When I was 21 years old, a man got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
I said, “Yes!”
He is an amazing person, who I respect and appreciate tremendously. Brilliant, successful and with great character, he filled every box on my so-called checklist. He never cheated. He didn’t lie and he considered my well being in all situations. Many of my friends thought we had it made.
The only problem was that I was miserable. Every time someone said the word “wedding,” my eyes would roll, my muscles would tighten and my entire demeanor would change. Every few months I came up with an excuse as to why we should just wait a little longer to plan the big day.
“I just graduated.”
“I need to look for a new job.”
“I have a new job.”
“We need to save money.”
Truthfully, I wasn’t ready to make decisions based on “we” or “us.” My life was still driven by “me” and “I.” There were dreams I wanted to pursue and experiences I wanted to try, without restriction or hesitation.
Plus, I barely knew who I was, so how could I be sure about who I wanted?
It wasn’t easy, but after a three-year engagement, I broke it off.
For the next ten years, I kissed a few frogs, fell in love once more and wholeheartedly pursued my career as a sportscaster. I love that I achieved a goal that I set out for myself when I was ten years old. Interviewing Michael Jordan and Grant Hill had the little girl inside of me screaming and shouting in amazement. Being at games and speaking in front of a camera felt comfortable and exciting.
But I was always looking for my next job and my next opportunity, as it felt like a race to go forward in my career before another circle around the sun.
Each birthday was a reminder that life was moving and for some reason, no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t keep up.
I couldn’t get the next job fast enough.
And I couldn’t meet a new guy soon enough.
But this year feels different. There is no big party. There is no planned trip. And there is no fear of adding yet another year of life experiences to my resume.
No, I am not married. I still don’t have kids.
I am not even on NFL sidelines or anchoring at ESPN.
Instead, I am following my heart to an unplanned and unclear destination.
I started my own company called The Unsealed, where I help people tell stories through open letters and hopefully change lives in the process. Interestingly, the company added yet another question to the list.
“So, is that your full-time job?”
My life hasn’t followed the path that the world mapped out for me or stayed true to the plans I drew up for myself.
But I am more than OK with that.
For the first time in my life, I am not chasing what’s next. I am chasing what is right now, constantly brainstorming as to how I am going to make this work. No matter how much uncertainty is involved in starting a business, I am pursuing a project that feels like part of my life’s purpose, which has brought clarity and even peace to other areas of my life.
I realized marriage isn’t what I want. Being in the right relationship at the right moment in my life is what is important to me. Marriage should be a consequence of finding your person, not the main objective.
I realized our age doesn’t stop us from wearing heels, bikinis or short skirts, only our attitude can do that.
I realized when you let go of the plans you had in your mind to go to a place that fuels your heart, you begin to focus less on the physical traits you may grow out of and begin to value yourself by all the wonderful qualities that grow with you.
All too often we as women live our lives following a bossy GPS and a broken clock. Doing so, without fully recognizing it, made me feel lost. And that birthday panic was simply an urge to find my way.
As I continue on this journey of learning more about who I am, what I want and why I am here, I am encouraged that this year my birthday does not feel like a burden.
That’s because even though there will be no cake, no candles and no party, today, I am celebrating the fact that I finally have the right answer to the only question that matters.
“Am I happy?”