I was chatting with my co-worker’s seven year old daughter. When the matter of age came up she confided in me, “I just can’t wait to be 30.”
I asked her if she meant thirteen; English was her second language so the mistake would be understandable.
“Nope,” she explained, “I want to be 30 so I can be married and have a cat.”
Which left me pondering my own timeline.
I’m nearing 30 and I am neither married nor own a cat. And there is a social pressure that I seem to be facing more and more lately that I like to call “The Timeline Lie.”
What is the timeline lie? It is the social idea that you have to have obtained a certain relationship, career, or achievement by a certain time or you will have a less fulfilled life and increased chance of loneliness. I have seen strains of this in so many aspects of my life but currently the pressure to hurry up and date and get married is especially intense. After all there are only so many times you can hear: “When are you getting married? Do you have a boyfriend yet?” Before it starts sounding like, “Would you please hurried up and get in a relationship so I can stop worrying about your excruciating loneliness?”
Lonely or not, I feel a bit bad for my co-workers who are so concerned about my well-being and my glaring lack of a boyfriend. Even my worried coach has started trying to set me up with people in whom I have no interest because he feels like I should stop coming into the gym on weekends. He explained that Saturday and Sunday are meant to be romantic days with your significant other. But despite all the pressure to get married sooner rather than later, I have had long conversations with friends who bemoan marrying too young. They talk about how they wished they could be single and free just a bit longer.
In other words, the timeline lie goes both ways.
So what’s the truth?
My fate is to be the fun aunt, the bridesmaid, the loner? Or should I lower my apparently impossible standards just a bit so I can make that 30 year deadline? Or do I just have to be patient and wait a little longer for my happily ever after?
I think all these questions are just fragments of the timeline lie still floating through my life.
Right at this second.
I think it’s time to stop thinking of singlehood as the “Not Married” stage of life and give it’s own identity. It’s time to embrace every stage of life for what it has to offer. My life is so different from my co-worker’s. She rushes home after a full day of work, stressed about in-laws and cooking dinner for her sick child who will probably keep her up all night again before her next full day of work. I listen sympathetically but can’t relate as I hit the gym right after work then meet up with friends and take a long, hot uninterrupted shower before a full night of rest. That, my friends, is the single life. Time is abundant because it is all our own.
When I am married there will be a new set of ups and downs and that stage of life will also be beautiful. Despite all the sacrifices it will take, I do want to get married someday and have a bunch of adorable babies. It will be more than worth the struggles, and will be a grand adventures of its own.
But I will not waste time now thinking about what it will be like or sitting, wishing the day will come faster when now is its own unique gift. The timeline lie is so dreadful because it takes us away from opportunities we have in front of us and makes us believe we are more lonely because of our stage of life. It makes us believe we are doing life incorrectly because we are doing it differently, because we got married too early or too late. We went to university or got a career too late. That is the greatest danger of the timeline lie: it has us looking elsewhere.
Our lives are now.
And the truth is:
Now is the Happily Ever After.
Now is when we can be grateful for the good days and learn from the bad. Now is when we can build relationships that bring us joy whether they are romantic or not. Now is when we can pursue our dreams. Now is whe we can chose to happy because now is what we are given. We owe it to ourselves to do what is right for us in this moment. We owe it to our friends to appreciate at whatever stage they are, be happy for them, and honestly share where we are as well. Happiness is not chasing a rigid timeline; fulfillment comes from entering into what we are meant to be at every stage of life.
In an alternate reality where everyone goes to university at the correct time, gets a prestigious career directly after college, and has a guaranteed love-of-their-life who will appear the day they turn age twenty-two sounds like a very boring reality indeed. I think it’s time to start ignoring any social pressure which dictates when we should do things or what stages of life will be the most fulfilling.
Our lives are now. Let’s live now beautifully.