Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be a good time for a heart-to-heart…
Two weeks ago, I got to speak at my alma mater twice in 24 hours, including on a panel with my dear friends Collin and Elizabeth Messer. Our panel was about friendships and relationships after college—a sticky topic that Collin, Elizabeth, and I realize we’re still very much figuring out, too. A question we discussed was what it’s like to be single (me, now) and married (them, then) in your twenties. Collin asked me: “What’s one thing you want your married friends to know about where you’re at as a single person?” And I said:
“Don’t assume I’m sad.”
It got a hearty laugh from the students, which is fine! I know I can be funny. But it’s also true! I continued: “When I was a senior, I thought I’d be married by now. And I’m not! But I’m way happier in that than I imagined I could be.”
I spent much of my life not knowing anyone who was unmarried in their late twenties and wasn’t massively sad. That probably sounds silly to some people, and you’re not wrong! But my context is that I grew up in a small town, went to a Christian college, had parents and two siblings who married by age 22. I do not look at the people in my life who married young and think that they’re better or worse than me, nor do think it’s bad to be sad about singleness. There are certainly times in my life when I feel sad. But! There’s SO MUCH that’s lovely about my life how it is right now. I’m not saying this to plow over the parking lot of heartache, but because I think it’s good to name the rich and varied ways a life can be lived.
What I love about my life today, Valentine’s Day 2022:
I have work I enjoy, experiences that enrich me, and practices that are deepening my relationship with God. I have a place to write and people that even read it! I have a body that is healthy, that moves through running trails and across state lines and through the rooms of my apartment that I have made my own. I live in a town I love with people I cherish. The Bible says that it is not good for man to be alone…and I’m not! I have rich friendships and deep ties with my family and church. I am not alone.
I wish I would have seen or heard from more people who are experiencing this particular flavor of life earlier in my life. I think it would have spared me a lot of anxiety and allowed me to enjoy college without feeling pressured by what my peers were doing and what I was not doing. Years later, I now know that the life I was living was the one that God wanted me to live, but when you’re 21 and have been trying to get your crush to notice you for 2 years to no success, it feels like there’s something wrong with you. But there’s not. This is your life. This is God’s will. There is so much that is lovely here. I’m glad I can say that all these years later.
The last thing I told the students is that I don’t think any of us go through our twenties without feeling lonely. I’ve spoken candidly to married friends about the challenges they face and sat with other friends in times of profound loneliness and heartbreak, too. I’ve lived alongside single AND married friends who show me the varied ways that a full and faithful life can be lived. Love can be hard and sad…but it can also be the most beautiful miracle, too. What a joy it is to love and be loved in this life! I’ll never be too cynical to say that over and over again.
So today—Valentine’s Day—I am not feeling like something is missing from my life. I know that there’s more space in this heart, and maybe that’s for a man who will come along one day and walk with me through the sticky parts of life, too. But maybe the space in my heart is for something else. I don’t know, but my heart feels fine with that. I look forward to seeing how God will use the space, too. And I close with a reminder for me and for you, for today and tomorrow: you are loved, just as you are. Thanks be to God.