While I was trying to decide whether to stay in Dallas after I graduate from DTS or else move to Athens, my biggest Dallas advocates were repeating the same variety of advice: Settle down. Start investing in long term 1) relationships, 2) career, 3) housing. Stop running. These messages were internal, too. After all, I’m 26-years-old, and Facebook is full of my peers marrying, buying houses, and even creating the next generation of adorable little girls and boys. Picking up and moving overseas is such a post-college phase (and, uh, coincidentally, exactly what I did post-college). A phase you’re meant to grow out of, right?
I felt vaguely guilty about my decision to choose Athens over Dallas despite feeling deep in my bones that it was the best choice and that it was where God was uniquely calling me. That guilt disappeared during a conversation with my friend Jennie. She affirmed my decision, then said, “It’s so great that you can just decide to move halfway around the world. I have a hard enough time [taking her four children] into town to buy groceries.”
Suddenly things made a little more sense; stability and security are wonderful things, but so are freedom and adventure. The former are more easily acquired through marriage, while the latter tend to find expression in singles. This is, obviously, overly simplistic. Singles can be stable and marrieds can have adventures. But generally, I think this division is fairly accurate.
I have a long and varied relationship with my own singleness. Sometimes I am desperate to be married, and other times I want to run as far away from the possibility as I can (these mood swings often coincide with the health or destruction of my friends’ relationships). I have felt the cultural and Christian pressure that implies I am “less than” because I am single. I have also felt the warmth and inclusion of marrieds and singles who welcome me into their homes and lives. I used to think that being single was essentially a waiting game; over the years I have started to embrace my singleness and see it as the gift that it is.
I have more time to myself, more creative energy, a greater ability to serve others. I can make decisions without aligning my plans to someone else’s, and I can be spontaneous in a way my married friends (especially those with children) simply cannot. In short, as a single woman, I have more freedom and adventure.
So back to those itching thoughts about security and settling down. Talking with Jennie, I realized that in many ways, I was hearing the message “Act like a married person.” Having described the benefits of being single, I’ll now say I think the benefits of marriage are primarily security and stability (relationally, vocationally, and geographically). I was being told to value the gifts of marriage above the gifts of singleness. And subconsciously, I had started to agree.
Now that the subconscious was conscious, my anger flooded in. No way was I going to feel bad about being single! No way was I going to agree with societal pressure. If I get married some day, and I hope I do, I will pursue and enjoy the gifts of stability and security. Until then, I intend to embrace the gifts of singleness–I want to pursue freedom and adventure. I want to be spontaneous, to use my nomadic ability to travel the world and connect with a vast network of amazing people.
Not that all single people need to travel in order to feel self-actualized. But I do think that single people need to look at their life situation and seek out opportunities for freedom and adventure, whatever that may look like for her or him individually. If single people do not take advantage of these gifts and instead pursue security and stability exclusively, I think we will become resentful. I did, when I imagined my life in Dallas, living in the same place, working in the same place, year after year after year…alone. I have seen this happen to single men and women–they get so locked into finding a good job and buying a house that they then obsess over finding the missing piece: a husband or wife to complete the set.
I don’t want to become so focused on what I don’t have that I forget to appreciate what I do have: the ability to relate broadly and meaningfully with many people, the freedom to be spontaneous, and an adventurous spirit that says “yes” before “let me check with so-and-so.” I want to love being single while I’m here, for as long as that might be. Deciding to move to Athens has renewed my ability to embrace my singleness.