The Thirtysomethings: A Hotbed Of Angst For Single Women

Single Female Angst
Self ImprovementWomanhood 26 Comments

My 21 Year Old Self Knew Nothing…
And Other Things I’ve Realized as a 30-Something Unmarried Woman

As I grew up, there were certain things in life I was made ready for. My parents lovingly prepared me for milestones such as my first day of school. I sat in classrooms with educators who taught me how to be conscientious about the planet, how to form a coherent sentence, how to do complicated math that to this day I have never used, and eventually how to take tests that prepared me for higher education.

Then I went to college for training in the field of my choice, where I sat in larger classrooms and had experiences that would prepare me for a profession, thereby enabling me to enter the real world and somehow survive.

In spite of all this intentional, quite expensive preparation for navigating the waters of life, one thing I was never prepared for was ending up in my 30s, questioning dating and marriage, wondering what on earth I am doing with my life.

The thing that took me a very long time to realize is that being alone does not translate to standing still.

All of these are very meaningful happenings in the lives of those we love and care about, but we are rarely prepared for the emotions that flood our hearts when we realize their lives are moving forward and ours seem to be standing still.As young girls, it seems we are programmed to be excited about our wedding day. Then we go to college and watch our girlfriends get engaged and married in apocalyptic proportions. Soon they start having kids like the survival of the population depends on their specific uterus. Then down the road some of the marriages devastatingly fall apart and you become a shoulder to cry on because you are still unmarried and know what it’s like to be alone.

The thing which took me a very long time to realize is that being alone does not translate to standing still. Pursuing a successful career, traveling, and fixing up my home while being unmarried does not mean my life is stagnant, but rather, means I am chasing dreams that do not include a man yet.

In her book A Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh reminds us, “Actually, these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.”

One day a married coworker was talking about getting ready for an event the previous night. She said, “I don’t know how single people zip up the back of a dress.” This got me thinking. What else do single people do that married people take for granted? How do single people drain pasta? Fold fitted sheets? Open jars? Know if their jeans make them look fat? It’s truly a miracle that we survive! Do you get where I’m going with this?

At some point, after being asked the question of when I’m getting married one too many times, I began to feel incomplete. What society expected of me had not yet happened in my life, therefore something must be wrong. I echo the sentiments of the heroine in Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict when she says, “I resent it being a truth universally acknowledged, no matter what era I find myself in, that a single woman of thirty must be in want of a husband.”

I do want a husband, but I also want to be a whole and happy individual even if I never get married. There are things I wish I could go back and tell myself at twenty-one that might have prepared me a little better for this space I find myself in. Perhaps a letter that could travel back in time and say:

Dear 21 Year Old Self,

As you leave college you will be thrown into the world without a life preserver, expected to swim upstream through challenges and hopes and dreams you never knew would come your way. I, your future self, want to tell you a little of what lies ahead so that in your darkest moments you will have hope that all is not lost.

You have been blessed with the most wonderful friends! I am happy to report that the ones you value most now will still be your closest friends in 10 years. You will come to understand that a man is not the answer to the fulfillment you seek. Your heart will be broken a few times and you will feel like you cannot survive the loss, but you will. In fact, you will not be married when you hit your 30s, but will be in a relationship you hope will eventually get there… after several years.

You will work at a really crappy job that you hate and then you will be unemployed for 13 months before landing your dream job. Your friends will get engaged, married, and then all have children at the same time, 10 in one year. Then they will have second children all at the same time. You will buy so many presents for other people’s showers, you will seriously consider pulling a Carrie Bradshaw and registering at Manolo Blahnik just for the hell of it. Some days you will feel like you are going insane and are so “behind schedule”. The timeline in your head is imaginary, it does not exist. You will turn into a crazy cat person who sends out Christmas cards with pictures of your cats in retaliation for all the Christmas cards you receive with babies on them.

You will go to Italy and love it so much that you decide to learn the language one day. Facebook will constantly make you wonder if something is wrong with you. Ignore it. You will lose a beloved grandparent. You will buy a house by yourself. You will miss the place you grew up so much and your heart will ache to go back there, but you will remain where your work has led you and visit often.

And through all of these situations when you question where your life is going and wonder if you made a big fat mistake, you will feel blessed by the love you have in your life. There will be moments when you stand looking out your kitchen window thinking back over the years and catch your breath at the treasures that exist in your life. You will deal with feelings of jealousy, depression, inadequacy, and hopelessness at times, but will emerge from each situation with resilience, a greater capacity to love, and the understanding that your story is your story and not anyone else’s. This knowledge, plus good friends to encourage you along the way, will bring you peace.

With Respect for the Woman You Will Be,
Your Future 30-Something Self

Leah LaRocco, WYSK Lifestyle Contributor About Leah LaRocco, WYSK Lifestyle Contributor

Women You Should Know Lifestyle Contributor Leah LaRocco is a Long Islander who now lives in Franklin, Tennessee and works in the music industry for The Recording Academy. Her greatest pleasures include BBC drama, good British tea, botanical gardens, Betsey Johnson dresses, and playing with her two cats, Maddox and Myrtle. You can read more about Leah’s adventures in life and perspectives on people, places, and things on her personal blog Edges Like Sea Glass.

  • Anne

    Leah sets the bar really, really high. She is a wonderful example of the young women of today who have so much to offer to all of us. They may struggle to find themselves, but in the end, we are blessed with young women who are competent and complete. As she says: “…being alone does not translate to standing still.” She has accomplished so much. Her writing is intelligent and eloquent, and she expresses herself beautifully. Kudos to Leah for being able to tell her story. BTW, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book that she mentions is a great book and should be read by all.

  • jerri

    loneliness is probably what most people want to avoid. it’s the worst feeling….usually accompanied by
    paralyzing depression. the fact is one can be in a relationship and still be lonely…that is totally sad.
    in the end, we all stand alone. and if one is in a relationship, who knows how long it will last. being
    independent, growing, and loving are the most important. “not standing still” is key…thanks leah.

  • a recovering 30something

    This 30-something has perfectly articulated what I and SO MANY women I know have gone through. Good for her for putting her wholeness and happiness above what she is “supposed” to do in the constraints of some ridiculous, fictional timeline that society made up. You keep rockin your world, on your terms Leah!

  • JA

    I LOVE the Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote she referenced. A great mantra for any woman at any stage in her life.

  • gargouille

    Wait, Leah, if you’re not married, how did you write this? All by your single self? Without a husband anywhere in the house? But all those letters, the word order, the grammar…? Tongue in my cheek, I add my voice to the chorus of thanks for this rousing cheer for women and their individuality.

  • Elisa

    Beautiful piece Leah! There are many women who can relate to this. I am one of them. After reading this, I sense there is Hope again after all!

  • Phyllis

    Your writing is so honest and real. As you said, being a whole and happy individual is what’s really important. That is true not only for”thirtysomething” women, but for women of all ages. Since I have now reached twice the age of thirty, I know that life takes you in many different directions. But, having the love of your family and the love of good friends makes life so worthwhile. Keep moving forward, Leah, knowing you can count on yourself to reach your fulfillment. You are well on your way.

  • Thank you for this really beautiful post. I found myself reading your letter and marveling at how truly unexpected is the course of our lives, and how precious is that voice of inner strength and encouragement to keep us going. Thanks for sending out that message of encouragement to all of us.

    • Leah L

      Laurie, thank you so much, you’re absolutely right, the course of life is truly unexpected. And thank you for the inspiration!!! 🙂

  • Vaish

    Thank you

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  • tidewater

    Thank you!

  • Pingback: Don’t Pity Me Because I’m Single | The Girl Next Door is Black()

  • jimmy

    It’s called biology, that simple fact has not changed over hundreds of years

  • S Kaur

    Thank you so much for writing this,It was so needed.:)

  • Kressy

    Heres the deal: Women don’t need men for happiness, period! Rejoice in being single in your 30s, 40s, and beyond. There’s no shortage of cute guys through tinder (haha) and keep working on your career, and exploring your world! Never settle for anything less than perfect, because it will come back to bite you in the butt!

    • jimmyxx

      Repeating this won’t make it true. Get clipping those Friskies coupons!

      • Emma

        Some women can fool themselves as much as they want, this “I don’t need a man to be happy” song is such a joke. I hardly ever hear men say they dont need a woman, and those who do sound crazy, why would women sound any different? I have a guy friend in his 30s who feels just like me : being alone in your 30s is depressing, especially when most of your friends are married with kids, moved on with their lives. It’s nothing in yoru 20s, it’s not the same in your 30s.

        • Ryan Clarke

          Men can handle being single a lot better than women; it’s not even close.

    • Ryan Clarke

      Sounds like one bitter woman trying to persuade other women to join you in misery.

  • And There Lies The Real Truth

    Well being single nowadays is certainly also very depressing for many of us good innocent men out there that really should’ve been married with our own good wife and family by now since many of us still DON’T have that at all nowadays since it is the single women that are very much to BLAME for that one right now since we really have no reason at all to BLAME ourselves in the first place since most of the women of today have really CHANGED for the worst of all because of their greed and selfishness.

  • Lol, this is some good stuff… As a woman ages men are less willing to marry a used up box of goods. I don’t blame men for standing up for themselves in this regard… Even when women can work and take care of themselves men are still on the hook to be fully responsible for the marriage. So if a man is to take one of the greatest risks of his life – to marry a woman, then he definitely doesn’t want a depreciated asset.