My Adventures in Online Dating, Part 2: If You’re a Christian, Swipe Right

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Give me a little time and, take all my money, take all my money

You’ll come around and someday, I’ll be the one you love.

– “Broke,” Bear Attack

Hey!

According to most men on dating apps, that’s not how you should begin a conversation with them. But I think I can say hey to all y’all, instead of thinking of a witty pickup line. (I mean, what do they want other than ‘hey’? A deep question about systematic theology? Very confused.)

But I’ll get to “what men want” in another post. What do Christians want?

In other words – should Christians use dating apps?

Well, my obvious answer is probably “yes,” since I’m currently using one myself. BUT like most topics, different people have different opinions about it.

The Bible isn’t cut-and-dry about dating apps…obviously. We all know Hosea didn’t have an awful marriage because he accidentally swiped right. Ruth didn’t get Boaz’s attention with…well…~pics.~

And then there’s Song of Songs.

BUT ANYWAY

Dating is different now than it was in Biblical contexts. It’s more different than it ever has been before. Until the later part of the 19th Century, most women were still given away by their fathers and/or the patriarch of their family – sometimes to someone they’d never met. ~Love~ really didn’t come into play all that much. It was more mutuality or convenience that drove most courtships and marriages. (Not always…I mean, we’ve all read Jane Austen. I hope.)

What I’m trying to say is, the dating game has changed. But the name of the game is the same. (Lame.)

So has Christian dating. There was that whole courtship phase we all collectively went through in the 90s, until that was overruled by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Courtship is a bit stressful, with a little bit too much commitment far too soon. (It was so bad that the guy who wrote the book apologized.) And we have our ideal, “celebrity” Christian couples, like the Duggars or the Robertsons, who we then found out each have their own fair share of problems just like the rest of us.

So now what? Now what phase are we in? If we’re not being given away, or being courted, what are we doing?

Are we being swiped? 

Well, in a word, yes.

The game has changed, and I don’t think we need to sit idly by and let it change without us. Of course there’s dangers to online dating, but there’s dangers to live dating too. And I’m not even saying you have to limit yourself to an exclusively Christian dating website. Put yourself out there.

So that’s kind of my answer. Yes. Of course a Christian can date online. But, like all aspects of living in a fallen world…you have to be careful.

Actually, I would encourage Christians to date online. The great thing about dating online is you’re spreading your net further than if you simply mingled among your work, school, or church friends. (Because to be honest, sometimes the pickings are slim. Especially at church. Everyone’s already married. Or maybe you go to an old person church.)

So yeah, definitely set up an account on a site you deem appropriate and go on dates.

But here’s the “no-duh:” only if you actually want to. 

If your female relatives keep asking you why you’re still single, that’s not a good enough reason. If your guy friends are telling you about their amazing wives, that’s not a good enough reason. If you’re just plain lonely and want someone around, that’s not a good enough reason.

The church definitely puts undue pressure on single Christians to get married. (You can’t graduate from your 20-something small group into a couples group until you do.) So if you’re seeking a partner just because you feel like you have to (or your grandma keeps asking) don’t do it. That goes for both offline and online dating. Just don’t do it. Wait til you are ready.

And only you can know if you’re ready.

That took a much more serious tone than I meant it to. But the song remains the same: I invite my young, single Christian friends to check out the online dating scene. I’ve had more interesting conversations on these dates than I normally have. And I’ve met other Christians who have different opinions than me (gasp.) So even if you don’t find your soulmate, you’ll probably meet some pretty darn cool people that you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

One last thing before I let you go. When entering the dating scene, whether it’s for the first time or after your last-breakup, remember this (another no-duh clincher:) If you like someone, don’t change your convictions for them. This can come into play especially in online dating. You see a cute guy’s profile and see what he’s interested in, and you might be tempted to, well, change. Maybe he smokes marijuana, and you’re not comfortable with that. Maybe he doesn’t mind sex before marriage. Maybe he has vastly different political opinions – or even some opinions about the Bible that you disagree with. Even if he (or she) is a Christian, that does not give you a free pass to change who you are in order for them to like you “more.” Seriously. It’s super easy to do online. I’ve definitely done it a few times.

So, my Christian brothers and sisters, go on dates. Talk to people. Swipe left. Swipe right. Remember what you believe and why you believe it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s okay. God has something better in mind for you.

Now you kiddos go have fun.

a. w.

 

 

Falling in Love With Marriage.

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A week and a half ago, I came across this on my Facebook newsfeed. I almost thought about sharing it after only reading the title – “You don’t have to get married to be happy.” I thought, “Yes! I’ve written almost the same thing in other blog posts of mine! Christians understand that marriage isn’t a varsity sport that every Christian has to reach in order to achieve the pinnacle of the Christian life!”

A few days ago, I decided to actually read the article. (Confession time: I often only read the titles of things and the first few sentences…I mean, who has time to sit down and read a full Atlantic article? Those things are like novellas.) I read it, and I was still satisfied. This guy was very honest and real about the Christian single life. Nothing I haven’t heard before. You can’t rely on a spouse to fulfill you because that’s impossible for humans to do. Heartbreak happens as a result. A song from the great band Jimmy Eat World says, “If I don’t lean on you, I fall.” Well, sometimes, you lean too much and you both fall over. Which is why you need to lean on the Rock. (Not Dwayne. You know Who I’m talking about. I’m just using a lot of Christian-ese.)

 

The gentleman who wrote the article is now married, so he’s seeing it from the other side. And he did a great job outlining our human yearnings and our absolute need for the love of Christ. But…haven’t we heard all this before?

That’s what some people in the comments section of that post were saying. I scrolled through the comments for a bit to see if there were any that stuck out (if it were not from a Christian website, I probably would have found some more colorful ones). None really did specifically, but a lot of them said something very similar, which I already mentioned.

Haven’t we heard this before?

It can seem like kind of a cop-out for the people who have waited years for a spouse to come into their lives.

“Oh, you just need to love Jesus more first. You can’t rely on someone else to do that for you.”

“Marriage isn’t really that great. Jesus is better!”

“Just pray about it!”

And the unmarried person, who might have that deep longing for companionship, will say, “Yeah, but…” And that’s totally okay. I remember sitting in a restaurant with my parents once, sobbing inconsolably, and just saying between tears, “I’m lonely.” That’s okay. God created Eve for a reason. Because it’s not good for man to be alone.

I decided to gauge the reactions of some of my friends as well. I talked to a couple who didn’t read the article in full, but understood the gist of it. One of my friends is vehemently single, and the other is in a relationship with my roommate, so you can imagine their opinions might differ.

“If you’re an unhappy person, getting married won’t change that. It can enhance your happiness, but it can’t change it.” That’s how my single friend put it. “I think Christians treat singleness as a plan B.”

My roommate’s boyfriend had something very interesting to say about it. “If you’re losing trust in God because you’re obsessed with finding a partner, and you start making deals with God, you have much deeper problems,” he said. “You just have to say, ‘okay, I don’t know why you’ve put this desire in my heart, but help me deal with it.”

As human beings, we have a fundamental need for companionship. I’m an introvert, but I yearn for the companionship of my friends. If I come home and none of my roommates are there, I get a sinking feeling that only goes away when I hear a key turning in the door. Since we were created, we were innately programmed to want people in our lives. 

If you’ve ever watched The Twilight Zone, the premiere episode features a man who wakes up in a deserted town. There’s literally no one there. He walks into a drugstore, he steps inside a phone booth to call someone – nothing. In the course of the twenty-minute episode, he goes all but crazy. (Then the twist happens, which I won’t tell you about in case you want to watch it.) That man had everything he needed: food, clothes, a car, everything – but no people. And that drove him nuts.

People need people. And that’s okay. And marriage is one of the ways we manifest our need for companionship (there’s also the whole “be fruitful and increase” thing, but your parents can talk to you about that one.) Marriage isn’t just any relationship. You’re not just roommates who will separate once the lease is up. You’re not just best friends who meet up for coffee every Saturday afternoon. You’ve made the vow to spend every day with each other for the rest of your life, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, through bankruptcy and stomach flu and love handles and hospital bills.

I think the writer of that post got it right – marriage isn’t the ultimate fulfillment, and many Christians have decided to devote their life to Christ instead of marrying (there’s this guy named Paul who did that a long time ago.) And that takes a lot of discipline in a world that’s saturated with love and romance. People might look sideways at you if you take a vow of singleness (and celibacy, in this day and age), but it’s possible to be happy without a lifelong partner.

But I want to address something that the writer didn’t quite address in his post, and that’s idealization. Are we just more in love with the idea of marrying than with the actual person? If you’ve ever read or seen the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder (if you went to American high school you probably did) one of the characters notes that people like to “make sure the knot is tied in a mighty public way.” And holy crap is that an understatement. People spend thousands of dollars and sometimes more for one day of their life to be “perfect,” sometimes not taking into account that there’s still fifty more years or so to go with the person they’re sharing it with.

Seeing all of those beautiful “fairytale” moments (they’re called weddings, in case I wasn’t clear) can make you kind of…want it, right? I’m not gonna lie, I would love a beautiful, romantic wedding. I cannot confirm or deny that I have pinned (multiple) wedding dresses and themes on Pinterest, without having any idea of when this special day is going to be. Raise your hand if you played wedding when you were little. Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Stock photos don’t help, either. This is what I found when I typed “love” into a stock photo search:

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Look at how happy and comfortable they are in that very awkward position!

And this is what I found when I searched “single” at the same site:

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I can hear your heart breaking through the screen.

Love and marriage is an ideal. It’s been instilled in us from a number of sources: tradition, stock photos, 80s slow-jam love ballads – but wherever the source, it’s undeniably there. And the main problem is we think it’s going to be perfect. We think it will be exactly what Johnny Cash said it was, “This morning, with her, drinking coffee.” How does your heart not melt when you hear that, how can you not yearn for that picture he’s painted? Of course it’s good, but it’s not like that every single day. And if we go into marriage thinking it will be perfect, that’s a bit of a tall order, isn’t it?

I think a lot of single people (including me) make out what we think marriage will be for us. And usually, we’re not right. It’s like what happens any other time you picture how something is going to play out – it usually doesn’t happen exactly the way you hoped. At sophomore homecoming, I was absolutely certain I would spend the evening slow dancing with my crush. Instead, I didn’t even see my crush at all, and stood in a hot room full of grinding adolescents for two hours wondering what the heck to do. Way less than perfect. Marriage is a little bit more serious than teenage musings, but you get my point.

And remember that it’s just as easy to idealize people as it is to idealize marriage. And if you end up marrying that person, it can lead you down a very messy road.

“Audrey, you’re being just like that guy. This isn’t anything we haven’t heard yet.” You might be thinking this. And maybe you’re right. Marriage is a topic that Christians like to mull over often. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be singles groups at church that were basically free eHarmony sessions.

But maybe what I’m trying to say is, marriage isn’t easy, but neither is being single. Especially a single Christian who really isn’t sure if marriage is in the cards for them, no matter how many people tell them it is or it should be. Single Christians go to Christian colleges where it seems like everyone gets married after their sophomore year. Single Christians get pelted with advice on finding a good Christian man or woman. Single Christians have to deal with the tension and occasional social awkwardness of being a virgin at twenty-five, or even older. Or the guilt of being a single Christian and not being a virgin. Sometimes all of those urges together make us desperate. We’ll all but throw ourselves to the next Christian guy or girl who comes our way, because everyone is saying it’s the right thing to do. Because you need to put “happily married” on your Christian resume, or else your faith stands for nothing.

So I guess I want you to leave you with this, if you’re a single Christian and feel guilty for wanting someone: don’t feel guilty. If you have a yearning for a spouse, that is a beautiful yearning. It’s a fundamentally human yearning. Don’t think that just because you want a partner, it means that you don’t want God enough.

But I would encourage you to let God in on your yearnings. Don’t hide them from Him. “God, I want a husband.” “God, I want a wife.” “I want to know intimacy with another human being.” “I want to live my life with a companion.” These prayers are 100% valid, even if they seem strange. God wants in on your yearnings. If you let Him in now, He’ll guide you in the future.

I’ll also leave you with this, which is probably something you already know, and quite possibly a thought you’re afraid of: I can’t promise you that God will answer that prayer the way you want him to. My prayer for you is that God gives you the strength to accept that answer.

Because the choice to be content with being alone is one of the bravest things you’ll ever do.

When You Go to College in Your Hometown.

“You’re living far away from home; and you’ve traded everything for a stone.”

– “Everything for a Stone,” The Belle Brigade

Before I get into the actual topic of this post, I’ll begin by saying I wasn’t planning on going to college near my hometown. I’ve talked in previous posts about how my college plans changed rapidly (see post Growing in Struggle.) I ended up at a small university in a decent-sized metropolitan area near where I grew up. I was born and raised in a very small town with a lot of cows and cornfields. Drive twenty minutes one direction and you’re in the city. Drive twenty minutes the other direction and you’re in the middle of nowhere. The area is a very odd, somewhat jarring hybrid of country, suburban, and metropolitan settings. It’s equal parts quaint and cultural, rural juxtaposed with urban.

My hometown is about a half hour from downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan – if you’ve never been there, GR is like a very small Chicago. A very, very (very very) small Chicago. My friend described it as a “Holiday Inn Express” for hipsters – it’s neither East Coast nor West Coast, but there are definitely strong hipster vibes in the city (everywhere you turn there’s a farmer’s market – one of the benefits of a metro area surrounded by fields.) My college is located on the “north end” of town, and I was raised on the “south end.” If you’ve lived in a metropolitan area, you’ll understand when I say that “north-enders” and “south-enders” are very different. Same overarching culture, but different subculture.

Like I said before, I didn’t plan on going to school in my hometown. I only applied to two colleges because I basically had my mind made up – but then, in true teenage fashion, my mind was changed, and very quickly. As a result, I ended up at this small, private, liberal arts university on the north end of Grand Rapids.

It was fairly convenient – I know not everyone grows up in a college town or even a town that has any college at all, which means they have to move away if they want to pursue higher ed. The other college I was considering was two hours away and a true college town (the college was literally the town. Other than that, there were Amish people and a Burger King.)

“So Audrey,” you might (or might not) ask, “What has your experience been like, going to school in your hometown?”

Well, Nameless Imaginary Inquisitor, it has been wonderful. I have loved going to a university that is so close to a large metropolitan area where there’s lots to see and do. And it’s been great being close to home (I mean, free laundry and food, am I right?!)

“But Audrey,” you continue, “don’t you feel like you’ve missed out by staying close to home? Aren’t you sheltered now? Isn’t it just the same as it was when you were growing up? Are you ever going to have the courage to move away?”

Whoa, now, don’t get ahead of yourself, Imaginary Inquisitor. I’m not saying that going to school locally is the best idea for everyone, or that it’s perfect, but I am saying that it’s certainly not a bad thing. And here’s why:

You’re staying close to your roots. College is going to hit all of your ideals, beliefs, and opinions right between the eyes, no matter where you go. Whether it’s your professor or your roommate, someone is going to disagree with you and possibly shake up some of your predispositions. Sometimes, these things are hard to grapple with. When you’re far from home and where you grew up, you may feel lost, maybe somewhat marooned, like you’re on a ship without a captain. When my beliefs were somewhat shaken in college, my roots helped me shape my own opinion of what was being taught to me in college – I wasn’t allowing myself to be directly spoon-fed information without first approaching it with opinions of other people whom I trusted. Having roots close to you can help with that.

You know the area. It’s easy to feel isolated in college because you don’t know anything about the city it’s in. In the case of that college-town school I was talking about, there literally wasn’t anything in the area except farmland. And at a remote college like that, most students are also from out of town so they know as much as you do. Going to a local school I had the benefit of knowing some things about not only Grand Rapids but the surrounding communities. I also found myself learning more about the area than I’d ever known before (like the dearth of coffee shops GR has to offer.) I got more connected with my church, explored new areas, and made connections in the city that I had been totally unaware of up to that point. It’s kind of nice to go into college with some background knowledge of not only the school, but its city.

You’ll have a new perspective. Although you’re in the same place, you’ll see it through different eyes. With college comes freedom to be independent and think for yourself in more ways than you ever have. I learned more about my city in college than I ever did growing up near it. I explored more towns in the outlying area than I ever had before as well. In the fall, I explored uptown with my roommates, which was a place I wasn’t too familiar with. I auditioned for shows at the community theatre. I volunteered at an inner city school. Sometimes the best opportunities are right under your nose for eighteen years and you never realize it because you’re too busy grinding through the American school system (not bitter.)

All of this to say – if you’re searching for colleges right now, don’t rule out the ones that are twenty minutes down the road. It doesn’t mean you have to live with your parents (unless you want to – I mean, free food. And your pets.) People might hardcore judge you, but that’s okay. They just don’t understand, because they were taught their whole lives that they have to go far away for college. Or they didn’t have the amazing privilege of growing up in an awesome spot like you did.

So don’t take your hometown for granted. You might just realize that it’s where you really belong.

Things that Bring Us Together.

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If you haven’t noticed, this week hasn’t been great. For anyone. For various reasons. And if you thought I wasn’t going to talk about it, you’re wrong. Things don’t change unless you talk about it.

If we don’t talk, we become islands and we become bitter and overprotective of ourselves. If we don’t remind ourselves of what we have in common, we’ll become fixated on what we don’t. If we don’t realize we’re more alike than we think, we’ll spend our entire lives believing everyone is out to get us.

And it’s true. We’re more alike than we are different. Only a few strands of DNA separate us, but those strands carry traits that make us each unique – our hair, our skin, our laugh, our talents. And that’s beautiful. But, as you probably can tell, it’s also not sometimes. Because people forget that, other than those few strands of DNA, we are equal. We are all humans.

And for the sake of humanness, I want to remind everyone that we’re not all that different. That there are universal experiences that bind us together. We all experience happiness, sadness, joy, pain. These are all things that every human on earth can relate to. But I also think there are things beyond static emotions that unite us.

I’m going to list a few human experiences that I hope relate to most people. I hope you can relate to at least a few of these, and realize that we can relate through shared experience.

  1.  The quiet that comes right before the sunrise. When it’s cool and still smells like nighttime, when everything feels clean and new, when the world is just starting to wake up.
  2.  The smell of an old house. The feeling that people have been there before you. The mystery of what they might have been like.
  3.  Your best friend’s laugh.
  4.  The point in autumn where the leaves fall all by themselves, like nature’s confetti. And when you look down, the ground is carpeted in color.
  5.  Warm summer rain. The smell and the warm dampness afterwards. The distant thunder that gives you a little thrill every time you hear it.
  6.  When you sit and cry with someone you love. No words exchanged, only hands held, prayers whispered, support given. A beautiful kind of pain.
  7.  A hug from your favorite person in the world.
  8.  A kiss from your favorite person in the world.
  9.  A summer evening after the sun has just gone down, the world is warm and drowsy. A few birds are still singing, and the sky is slowly turning dark blue, insects beginning to hum a lullaby.
  10.  The touch of a toddler’s small, soft hand in yours. The way they look up at you with so much trust and hope.
  11.  A conversation that you didn’t expect to be long, but went on for hours and left you feeling enlightened and refreshed. The connection that’s made. The mutual understanding.
  12.  Sitting in a room full of people singing a cappella.
  13. The pearly glow of a cloudy sky on a winter evening. Everything is gray, but it’s a luminous gray, not dull or dragging. It’s so gray it’s almost silver.
  14. A warm shower or bath after a long day.
  15. The sound of lapping waves on a beach. The smell of wet sand, of leftover campfires, of coffee. The feeling of memories made.
  16. The sound of your mother’s voice.
  17.  A blanket straight out of the dryer, or straight from the clothesline. The way it feels like the warmest thing you’ve ever felt.
  18.  Cloudy, windy days where the cloud patterns are more beautiful than a blue sky.
  19.  Getting a compliment. Not just “nice shoes” or “I like your haircut,” but “I love your confidence” or “you are just such an amazing person.”
  20.  Hearing someone’s heartbeat. Whether it’s that of an unborn baby, your father’s as you snuggled up to his chest as a child, your lover’s as you lean on them for support. That reminder that there’s Life.

And where there’s life, there’s love. And where there’s love, there’s hope.

Doldrums.

Hello, Internet. It’s been awhile since we’ve sat down and told you what I thought about stuff. The last time I was here, I was talking about being single and stuff. Now I’m going to talk about other stuff that’s similar to that stuff, but not exactly that stuff.

“Audrey,” some may say, “why have you been so silent for so long?”

That’s a good question, Internet. The reason I haven’t been spouting off lately is because there’s nothing going on in my life that I can spout off about. Nothing inherently interesting has crossed my radar.

“But Audrey,” says Internet, “that’s never stopped you from talking about stuff before!”

You’re right, Internet. I like to pretend to know things and then talk emphatically about them. I have three blog drafts to prove it (some of which you might see crossing your various feeds in the near future, if I think I pretend to know enough about the thing I know nothing about).

The truth is, right now, there’s really nothing going on.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in the living room of my friend’s house and we were just talking (apparently that’s what adults do) about our summers and what was going on. Me, my friend, and her boyfriend were all pretty much saying the same thing – nothing was really going on. We weren’t doing anything exciting. We’re all working a lot, sleeping a lot, and that’s about it.

It was during that conversation that I actually realized it, too. I feel like I’m not doing anything special right now. People ask me, “So what’s new with you?” and I can’t think of anything.

Then I start to panic. Does that make me a boring person?

I get up. I go to work. I go to my summer class. I go home. I go to bed. I wake up and do it all over again. And that’s about it.

I call it the Doldrums. I think that’s a nautical term for a sea that’s totally flat. No wind, no storms, nothing. If it’s not a nautical term, it’s still a good term for whatever I’m trying to talk about.

I’m not traveling overseas to rescue orphans. I’m not taking a grand tour of Europe. I’m not interning at some prestigious company. I’m not getting engaged or married.

Isn’t it funny how when you’re in the Doldrums, it seems like everyone else isn’t?

Another good term for the Doldrums is Stuck in a Rut. A bit more crude, but it’s still an accurate description. It seems like you’re doing the same things every day and getting nowhere. Didn’t everyone tell you that repetition leads to success? That hard work will get you somewhere?

But where the freaking heck are you going?! You’re still driving the same car on the same road to the same place you go every day, whether that’s work, school, or somewhere else (maybe you sit in a field all day. I’m not judging.)

What do you do when you’re sailing through the Doldrums (well, not really sailing, because there’s no wind or wave to take you)?

That’s a great question. Because I have no idea. I’m in the middle of it too, and it’s hard to figure things out when you can’t see the big picture.

It’s scary. You feel like you have no direction. Like you’re a beatnik, or whatever those lazy people used to be called in the fifties. You feel like a bum. Is this going to be me forever? Stuck in this “rut”?

The answer is, of course, no. You know that, I hope. But it’s still hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. It seems like everyone else you know is lapping you, running the race so much faster.

Remember that horrible term that people used to describe certain children? I’ll remind you. Late Bloomers. Were you one of those cursed children? “Oh, she’s just a late bloomer,” a mom says, laughing sheepishly while putting a hand on her shy second-grader’s shoulder. Whose idea was it to use that term? It’s horrible. You weren’t a late bloomer then and you’re not now. Just because you couldn’t add and subtract as fast as everyone else doesn’t make you slow or stupid.

And just because you’ve been turned down for three internships within three weeks doesn’t mean you’re slow or stupid either. It didn’t make you a late bloomer then, and it doesn’t make you a late bloomer now.

So don’t let anyone tell you that.

I’ve yet to come on the other side of these Doldrums, and I don’t know its purpose as of yet, but I do know that it’s helping me, somehow. If anything, it’s helping me appreciate the little things more. Even that moment sitting with my friends on a drowsy summer afternoon, talking about nothing at all. Those are the moments that you’ll remember for a long time.

You are on your track. You’re on the track you’re supposed to be on. You don’t need to be living your dream life right now. That time will come in its time.

Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. And most importantly, keep waking up, getting in that same car, and riding that same road.

Because eventually, that road will take a turn.

 

Here’s Another Unsolicited Blog Post About Being Single. You’re Welcome.

You’ve been waiting for this. You clicked on this link because you, your single and desperate self, need more advice on how to make Singleness worthwhile. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask, possibly scarfing chocolate and watching The Notebook. “Why am I still single? I must be doing Singleness wrong. Please, O Internet, tell me how to Single.”

We all know there’s an exact science to Single. You do all the right things and eventually you magically bump into The One. Not intimidating at all, right? You have to get the formula exactly right, or else you’ll end up alone forever. You have to do exactly what those lists on Cosmopolitan and Pinterest blogs tell you to do. You have to read all those Open Letters on the Internet so you know exactly what is wrong with boys who won’t ask you out, girls who always say no, and how to be wonderfully Single in the most perfect way possible.

You could be 15 or 55. Singleness can hurt sometimes. Because (surprise) it’s kinda lonely. If you’re in your twenties like me, everyone and their mother is getting married (well, hopefully their mother is already married). Or they’re in steady relationships – those week-long high-school flings are (most likely) a thing of the past. And you, the Single person, feel like you’ve been left in the dust.

In fact, I was talking about marriage to some friends awhile back, poking fun at the fact that I have “plenty of time” to plan my wedding, and my friend told me, “yeah, marriage usually requires a boyfriend first.”

I’m not going to pretend that didn’t hurt. This friend is in a steady relationship. Several of my friends are. (Don’t worry. This blog post isn’t going to be me complaining about Singleness. My complaining begins and ends here.) That comment wasn’t said to hurt me, but it kinda got me. It caught me by surprise and made me aware of something I didn’t like thinking about – I’m alone. (“You’re not alone!” says people. “You have all these friends!” Not the same thing. Sorry, it’s not. Okay. Complaining over.)

So here you are, Single as you are. I’m not writing an “Open Letter to Single People” or a “Embrace Your Singleness” because most people who write that junk aren’t single anymore. And they forget that it can hurt a lot. Sometimes it was eviscerating. (Am I complaining again? I’m complaining again. Sorry.)

So Singleness, am I right? There’s definitely a Single trope that we’re all aware of. There’s actually a couple. In the movies, we’re the ugly friend. Or we’re the frenemy or nasty person, who’s usually blond. We’re the nerdy, awkward ones. We’re not the Disney princess. We are the cute, fuzzy animal that accompanies her in her musical numbers. Or the second-string princess, like that girl in The Princess and the Frog. You know, not Tiana, but the other one. The one whose name we don’t remember because she wasn’t Tiana.

Am I complaining again? I’m complaining again. Sorry.

You’re just waiting for that magical movie moment where you run into a handsome/beautiful stranger and your life changes forever. Where the camera zooms in on their dilated eyes and then pans to your hands accidentally touching as you both reach to pick up whatever you dropped (because you inevitably dropped something). Because that’s what life has built up to, right? That magical turning point where you finally get your happy ending?!

But that’s not how it works. When you meet someone cute, there’s no magnetizing force that draws you together. At least there hasn’t been yet (because according to all your friends, “you just haven’t found the right person yet,” they say in a sympathetic voice. Am I complaining again?) You just kinda stand there awkwardly and stare at them and imagine what it might be like to say hi to them. But it never happens. And you may or may not beat yourself up for it.

Singleness is a strange monster. One day you can be so freaking psyched that you’re single, the next you can be downright sad. Maybe it’s because (taken) people tell you “Being Single is fun!!!” and you believe them, but you also know that there are parts of it that are very not fun. Your Taken friend is not wrong. Being single is fun sometimes. Friday night “watch (and eat)-whatever-the-heck-I-want” time is a real thing for me and I love it.

Being single is also not fun sometimes.

Because sometimes you come across a moment where you stand there and think, “Gosh. I wish someone was here to experience this with me.” And not just anyone. But Someone. You know what I mean?

So, I’m not going to tell you anything new about being single. I’m not going to pretend I’m some sage who knows everything about Singlehood (why the heck is that a word?!) because I spent six months in the Himalayas with a monk walking barefoot on hot coals or whatever (Do people blog about that? They probably do). I’m not going to drop a vague truth bomb on you (“You have to go find yourself first, before you find someone else.”) I’m just going to say something that you can take or leave.

You just have to be okay with it.

You don’t have to be “Yay! I’m single and ready to mingle! ;D” or “I’m gonna die alone! DX” Despite what people/media/culture might tell you. You don’t have to think that just because you’re single, you need to be wild and crazy and party all of the time. You don’t have to think that you’re the odd one out, the weird nerd who can barely talk to a guy/chick. But you do have to be okay with it. Because if you’re not, it’s that much more miserable.

“It’s not your fault you’re single!” some well-meaning people say.

“Just find someone already! You’re not trying!” others say, especially when you hit your 30s.

Who are you supposed to listen to then? Is it your fault, or isn’t it? I’m not trying to complain or down-put people who say these things, but these things hit single people in very specific places in their heart. Very raw places that a lot of people have poked at. Something they might occasionally poke at too. But it’s a place that’s very vulnerable and very real. A feeling that they’re not enough. That dreaded feeling that “something’s wrong” with them.

I’m gonna say it again: You just have to be okay with it. I’m not going to try to begin to understand or explain away the pain that some single people endure almost every day. I know it can hurt a lot and be alienating and isolating. I’m not going to stand up on a soapbox and tell you “If you’re single, this is how you should live. Don’t waste these years.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The only way you could waste your Singleness (I am so fed up with these words and their stupid prefixes) is by not living at all. Like becoming a hermit or something, unless that’s what you really want to do. I wouldn’t blame you. I’m surprised I didn’t move to Iceland after graduating high school. Sometimes the drama just reaches a peak and you need to get away.

So just live. And be okay with where you’re at. You don’t have to be overly happy about it, but neither do you have to be overly sad. You can be right smack-dab in the middle, and that’s okay. You just have to keep waking up every morning and finding new things that excite you, that ignite your passions. I’m not saying that that’s the formula for “finding someone.” But that is the formula for living, whether you’re with someone or not.

I know it hurts. I know there’s fun parts and there’s stupid parts. I know people say stuff about fish in the sea and “your time will come.” I know there’s that spot in your heart that you can’t quite explain, but that’s definitely there and feels raw.

But your life doesn’t revolve around that magical moment where you bump into Mr/Mrs. Right in an extremely unconventional way. You’re not a second-string princess. You’re not a weirdo. Nothing’s wrong with you.

Just keep living that awesome life of yours. And live happily ever after, wherever you end up.

Growing in Struggle.

“I’m not where I thought I would be a year ago.”

We’ve all been there. Ending up somewhere we never thought we’d be. Maybe it’s somewhere we don’t want to be. Maybe we never dreamed we’d be here because we didn’t think it was possible – because it’s too amazing to be true.

But here we are. Somewhere between who we used to be and who we’re becoming. Whether we like it or not.

Two years ago at this time, I was graduating high school. I was flying high – I had taken my crush to prom, gotten a steady summer job, and was being showered with graduation gifts as well as birthday presents (it’s pretty awesome when your birthday lands near another significant event, like graduating). I felt on top of the world, like I had it all figured out. I collected accolades from my tenure in high school – awards for drama, music, and other things I was involved in – and had been accepted to a very prestigious college with a little bit of scholarship. Everything was perfect.

Fast forward to today. I just finished my sophomore year of college. I just turned twenty years old. Twenty-year-old self looks back at eighteen-year-old self and says, “Brace yourself. Life isn’t as easy as you think.”

I’m not at that prestigious school. Because I found out it’s hard to move away from home and it’s hard to enter into a new reality. I’m not flying high. Because I let my past fears and failures haunt me too often. I’m constantly questioning where I’m at and where I’m going. Sound familiar?

Yeah, that’s because it’s called Life.

I didn’t realize then that I was at a turning point in my life. I thought I was just going to cruise into the next phase of my life, stress-free. I was going to adjust perfectly to college, make a ton of friends, be super popular and successful, maybe bag myself a boyfriend who would definitely eventually become my husband, because everything was going to be perfect.

But none of that happened. I ended up at a university I never thought I’d be at. I was completely redirected. I didn’t automatically assimilate. Because somewhere in there, I forgot that I don’t adjust to change very easily.

My first semester of freshman year was a nightmare. I don’t make friends easily (I guess I forgot that too). I kind of latched on to whomever was around so I didn’t feel lonely. I felt uncomfortable in the major I was in so I switched. I put so much pressure on myself. I worried about my future every single day.

Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s called Life.

But guess what? When your path gets redirected in a way you didn’t think it would, it can still turn out okay. And thankfully, it did for me. It took some time, but it did. I changed my major and started on my new course. I felt myself grow and change in ways I never thought I would. It was painful growth, but it was good growth, like a crab climbing out of a shell that it’s grown out of. It stands vulnerable for awhile, raw and unguarded, until it builds its new, stronger, better exterior. At that point in my life, I had popped out of my shell, totally exposed to a world that could be harsh and unforgiving, all of my flaws laid bare.

My mistake had been that I thought life was going to be easy – I admit, I tend to romanticize things (if you haven’t noticed that already). But I came to realize, as most people do at my age, that life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. There’s these things called taxes, for example. There are bills to pay. There are relationships that you have to work on, not just assume will work out the way you want. There are accomplishments that you have to work hard for in order to achieve. There’s death, death that affects the young and “immortal.” The world is jarring, and that becomes apparent once you’ve lost your shell.

How has your world changed as you’ve grown? Has your course been unexpectedly redirected? How have you reacted to it?

There are two ways of dealing with the Struggle of life: (I’m going to blow your mind here) Positively and Negatively. Do I really need to explain? Glass half-empty and glass half-full, y’know? It’s as simple as that, and I think you know that.

But what about you? Do you know which camp you’re in? Do you really know?

I’m going to tell you this right now (and blow your mind again): Life is what you make it. Two years ago right now, I expected to be finishing my second year at a super-smart, super-preppy college. I’m not. I’m at a university that’s probably not on par with the rigor of that college, but guess what? Education is what you make of it. You can be the good student or the slacker student, whether you go to Princeton or community college. You’ll reap what you sow (I just keep blowing your mind with these new ideas today).

I didn’t make friends easily. It took me almost an entire year to find the friends I have now. It took time to develop those friendships. The friendships I didn’t work on or develop faded away into acquaintances. Relationships are what you make of them. If you don’t let anyone in, your relationships will be shallow. If you do, they’ll be rich. That whole reaping-sowing things again.

I didn’t adjust to change easily. I cried a lot my freshman year. Out of frustration, hurt, confusion, stress. I felt so lost and disorganized. I still didn’t feel secure when I planned classes for spring semester. I didn’t feel sure of myself when I started spring semester. I didn’t feel certain when I moved in as a sophomore. But I kept going, and kept making daily steps, daily choices. Not all of them were good choices, but they led me to where I am now. Change is what you make of it. You can either sit down and let it drag you painfully down the road it’s taking you, or you can take its hand and walk alongside it.

You’ve probably heard the saying that we’re turning into human “doings,” instead of human “beings.” But are we supposed to simply “be?” Just sit back and let things happen, just float along its current without letting it shape us, mold us, beat us up a little bit. I think we’re human “becomings.” We’re a piece of art, being worked on, sculpted. We’re becoming something different. We’re not simply a blank wall, simply being. We’re becoming something.

I hope I’m not preaching, but these things have become apparent to me as I’ve grown and learned. And I’ve still got a lot of learning to do. Five years from now, I probably won’t be where I imagined I would be. But I’ll be a different person. And Five-Years-From-Now Me will look back at Current Me and remember who I was and what I was becoming, and what it took to get from Point A to Point B – what struggles, what successes, what growth.

Every struggle is hard the first time you go through it. But then when it comes your way again, you’ve got that muscle memory of what it felt like the first time. You can face it.

And you can grow in the struggle.

TL;DR version: You reap what you sow (I promise I won’t go all Aesop on you again.)

Keep living your life. Keep being awesome.