Rachel recently mentioned her single friends in a post… hi, I’m one of them! I jokingly mentioned doing a guest blog post for her and she jumped on it!
Two years ago, after walking away from a 13+ year relationship where a ring was nowhere to be seen on the horizon, I found myself single at 34 years old, the first time since college. The last time I had been “on the market”, smartphones didn’t even exist, let alone dating apps.
At first, I will admit that I spent a lot of time on my sister’s couch, watching TV and eating Qdoba. I just didn’t know what to do for a while. I didn’t remember what it was like not to have someone to come home to at the end of the day, how to just be alone with my thoughts. Then I started to focus on my identity … who I had become, what I wanted for my future, what I needed.
Thanks to the encouragement of a friend, I got into Zumba – despite my lack of rhythm or coordination. I loved the endorphins from it, along with the friendships I formed with the girls in my class. It didn’t feel like a workout even though I was exhausted and sweaty at the end of each session. I went on Girls’ Nights Out and enjoyed a drink or two (normally I had never been much of a drinker). I visited my out-of-town friends and went on vacations by myself or tagged along on their family vacations as their “nanny”. My friends were rockstars in helping me “live a little” and I am eternally grateful to them.
Guys started to come out of the woodwork. I had male friends approach me and express interest - while I was flattered, I just wasn’t interested in getting back into a relationship too soon. I got attention from guys in the store, at gas stations, at restaurants – like I had a sign above my head that screamed “Hey world, she’s single!” It was a confidence booster and, at the same time, a tiny bit annoying. No one likes a cat-call.
One big milestone came the week before Thanksgiving – my first holiday at a family celebration without a “plus 1”. I had been approached by the owner of a company that I formerly represented as a sales distributor to fly from Wisconsin to Florida and interviewed as a candidate to help her expand a new division of the company. While it turned out to be a hilariously awful comedy of errors the entire trip, I returned home for the holidays with a fire lit under me. My family has always been extremely supportive and loving – and they encouraged me as I started to search for a new job. No, they didn’t love the idea of me moving away from home, but I had nothing else tying me to the cold, snowy Midwest any longer and I had always dreamed of warmer destinations. And this would give them an excuse to get away for a real, true vacation occasionally!
After interviewing for jobs in Dallas and Detroit, plus 3 more trips to Florida for business and pleasure in the next 6 months, I ended up getting a job in the Sunshine State. I had less than 3 weeks to pack up my bed, my clothes, and a handful of my earthly possessions in “The Beast” – my new SUV – when I didn’t even have a new apartment lined up to move into once I arrived in Florida. My dad drove with me so we were able to make the journey in 2 days. I hugged my sister and mama tightly and suddenly realized I might not see them again until my sister’s wedding in the spring. I cried big fat tears – and I’m typically not the emotional one in my family.
But I held my head high and was off to start my new chapter in life. A cross-country leap of faith. Normally my anxiety would have been through the roof, but throughout the entire process, I was fairly calm and collected. I prayed. A lot. And God followed through every step of the way, often with better plans than I could have hoped for myself.
When you’re 1263 miles from home and don’t know a soul, you have to look deep within your own. I got to know my teammates in my training class at my new job and developed some great friendships. I became a tourist in my new city. I spent as much free time as possible at the beach to soak up the sunshine – especially in December, when I knew there were snowflakes falling back home. I enthusiastically met up with any of my friends and family that vacationed in central Florida, any chance I could get a hug from a familiar face. I started to volunteer at my church and made friends there too.
My team had to work on that first Thanksgiving and Christmas in Florida, so I wasn’t technically alone for the holidays, but it stung a little to not participate in the usual family traditions. Thankfully my aunt and uncle had moved within an hour of me and invited me to join their family to celebrate on my time off. I did send an 8x10 headshot to my parents as a joke. They taped it to a yardstick and took family pictures with “me” as they opened presents and had Christmas dinner. It was hilarious to see how much fun “I” had that weekend! (And yes, I ugly cried again when my sister Snapchat-ed them all to me.)
I eventually joined the 21st century and jumped into the world of online dating. I had an online relationship with a former co-worker and thankfully it stayed strictly electronic. While he built me up with wonderful compliments and love notes, it ended terribly when I found out – from his long-term girlfriend – that he was still very much in a relationship and had lied to me 95% of the time. Normally I would have been a wreck over the breakup, but I was proud of myself for getting back on my feet and brushing myself off immediately.
Not long after, I downloaded my first dating app and held my own version of “The Bachelorette: Tinder Edition”. After 5 lunch dates with 5 different guys in a week, one of them – a tall, dark, handsome gentleman with similar values – swept me off my feet. We had a lot of fun memorable dates, but eventually realized how different our levels of “adventure” were and that would eventually lead to the demise of our relationship.
Most of my dating stories – online or in person – end with me shaking my head and laughing over the tales with my girlfriends. There have been proposals from men old enough to be my father. Boys who only want one thing. Guys who just want to talk about themselves without an ounce of interest in getting to know me. I had a few very fun weeks dating a co-worker… before he got promoted and transferred to another city. I went on a few outings with a guy from my church but I was “friend zoned”. (It’s OK – he wants like 17 kids and I have adamantly decided I am not having kids at this point in my life). There has been one match from a dating site recently that has some potential, but communication has been lacking, so we’ll see how it goes…
I have thought about what has gone well – and what went very wrong – with each guy and have a pretty specific list of what I am looking for in my future husband. And nothing on the list says “blond” or “blue eyes”. I don’t have a “look” but I do have a personality and sense of morals that are very important to compliment my life. I don’t plan to settle, so the wait might be longer than I’d like, but it also means it will be worth it. I also have a very strong idea of who I am and which awesome personality traits I bring to a relationship. But more importantly, I have embraced my flaws, which I hope my Prince Charming will find adorable and endearing one day. (I am still taking applications if you know a tall, single, handsome prince!) If nothing else, finding myself has been the biggest blessing and I look forward to what is yet to come in this adventure I call life.
So for anyone who is struggling with a breakup or being single – remember to love yourself and enjoy life. You don’t need someone to complete you. You need to “complete” yourself and find someone else who compliments the wonderfulness that is YOU!