It’s OK to Be Right Where You Are, I Promise

Hi, my name is Lisa. I’m 33 years old, I’ve never been married and, nope, I don’t have any kids.

No, that’s not my online dating profile. It’s the quick answer to what people ask when they find out how old I am:

“Are you married?”

“Do you have children?”

There’s nothing wrong with a friendly conversational starter, because many my age are married and have kids. But unfortunately, if you’re in my situation, you know the next question is, “Do you want either?”

And I always answer, “I absolutely want marriage and children. Hands down!”

Cue the puzzled looks that scream, Well what’s taking so long then, honey?

I’ll tell you. A husband and kids haven’t been in God’s plan for me yet, which is ironic because I plan everything. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you that my daily agenda and projected goals look like a color-coded manifesto.

And so for all of you out there like me — I feel you and I’m with you. You’re not alone, even if you feel alone.

I know how you feel when you scroll the highlight reels of social media. We’re genuinely happy for our loved ones, but sometimes we’re lonely.

That’s the beauty of life. We don’t know. We don’t know when, one day, all of the pieces will fall into place and those pieces could be entirely different than what we imagine.

I know the sting when your best friends tell you, “I have a love for my child that people without children don’t understand,” or “You’ll understand when you’re a mom.”

I’m with you when you’re at a group dinner, and your answers transition into interrogation sessions:

“You know you’re getting older, right? As in biological clock older?”

“Do you even give dating a chance? Do you want to meet this single guy I know who’s a cousin of a coworker’s brother’s friend?”

I’m with you to tell the world that it’s OK.

It’s OK to ask us if we’re married or if we have children. After all, our family and best friends should get the chance to talk about their awesome accomplishments: of being married, having kids, or having a million rescue dogs.

It’s also OK when we say we’re single and we don’t have kids. Maybe we don’t want to get married or have kids, or we want kids and don’t want a partner. Whatever combination is fine.

At the same time, it’s not OK to ask us what we want. Maybe we want strength, the kind we had to rely on to walk away from a previous relationship, when it would have been easier to stay.

You just don’t know what our answers will be. So please don’t ask.

And that’s the beauty of life. We don’t know. We don’t know when, one day, all of the pieces will fall into place and those pieces could be entirely different than what we imagine.

What we do know is that, right now, we’re happy. We’ve had time to accomplish goals like launching a website, writing a book, strengthening relationships with family and friends, and pursuing a deep relationship with ourselves — with time that most might not have available. That’s part of our plan.

We’re happy when we’re invited to family dinners, and we love spoiling everyone’s kids with cuddles. We love learning, because our parent friends will be our go-to one day.

My former small-minded self used to be terrified of being single. Now, my biggest fear is to experience my life and its transitions with dissatisfaction because it doesn’t fit into a perfectly planned agenda.

I refuse to look around one day to realize that everything’s fallen into place, but that I’ve hated and complained about my life — the entire time.

That’s no happy ending. Not in the least.

For everyone else out there, include us. Continue to share your family photos and embarrassing stories. Explain the latest animal-cartoon-song trend thing. We want to hear what’s making you happy.

In doing so, let’s also reshift questions from what people feel like we need to accomplish on timelines to ones like:

What’s new? Any travel plans?

Have you gotten your fourth rescue dog yet? What’s been making you happy?

Because I guarantee when we see each other with a more open mind, we’ll have a whole lot more to learn.

Photo by John Baker
Content originally posted for TODAY
- Lisa Cleary