By Bindu Adai-Mathew
It was 1998. Friends ruled the local channels, and Sex and The City ruled cable television. The Internet was still taking the world by storm and just starting to change our lives. Email, surfing, and cyberspace were becoming everyday terms, and cell phones were just beginning to replace pagers. Oprah was nowhere close to retirement, and Michael Jackson…well, he was still weird…weird, but alive.
I remember looking at the world around me, and realizing much had changed since I had graduated high school and college. And yet, in many ways, nothing had changed at all…at least not in my life.
I was in grad school at the time, living on my own in my own apartment in the Dallas suburb of Denton, a small college town.
On the outside, I seemed to have it all—a beautifully furnished apartment, a brand new sports car, all the freedom, all the free time I could have ever wanted…but on the inside I felt lost, dazed, and confused regarding my career and my purpose in life. I also had this vacuum of emptiness. Emptiness that longed to be filled with a relationship, complete with romantic candlelight dinners and the promise of a happily ever after.
A constant question mark seemed to loom over my head. When was my life going to start? And by start, I mean, when was I going to finally meet someone? And not just any someone…The Someone.
This was not how I had planned my life. I was 26. Back in the 1990s, that means you were supposed to be married, engaged, or dating someone. And I was not alone. I had six close girlfriends. All single…all just as confused, frustrated…waiting. Waiting to find the One. Waiting to Get Married. And Determined Not to be Happy Until One or the Other Happened. I was beginning to live my life like a Lady in Waiting.
Flashforward to 2011, and I’m on the phone with one of those six girlfriends, all of whom, by the way, are married. Before either of us had kids, we talked almost every day on the phone. After her first child, our conversations decreased to a one or two a week. After my daughter was born, they decreased even more. After her second child was born, we have snippets of conversation whenever we can catch a break. But that doesn’t hold true just for our phone conversations, we realized…it seemed to hold true for everything. Time for baths, cleaning the house, and even cooking all suddenly seemed like luxuries rather than something we no longer had a right to.
What were we complaining about in our twenties, she asks me. I can hear the exhaustion and exasperation in her voice. I have no idea, I reply with a laugh as I recall the ability to watch a movie through its entirety. Heck, I even remember having time to go to the movies! We were so stupid not to realize how good we had it, she says. Tell me about it, I reply. Together we breathe in a deep sigh of regret. Why didn’t anyone warn us back then how life just got tougher and more stressful after marriage and kids? Oh, they warned us, I reminded her. There were plenty of married women and married women with children, encouraging us to enjoy our lives. We were just idiots and didn’t listen. Hindsight is always 20/20.
How ironic…we were finally at the place we had always wanted to be…and what were we doing? Lamenting, missing what we once had…
What I wouldn’t do to be able to jump into a time machine, march up to the second floor of Pace’s Crossing Apartments, and slap my former self back to reality, Moonstruck-style, “Snap out of it!”
Hindsight is always 20/20. But I realize, it doesn’t have to be. As I’ve been on the phone, my 1½ old has been tugging on my leg incessantly. I finally glance down, and she raises her hands and “eeeehhh—ooooohs” like a monkey, begging to be picked up. I guess the lesson is enjoy whatever stage you are in, I remind my friend. One day, we may be tugging on our kids’ legs, begging them to stay and spend some time with us. Just the other day, I was holding this toddler in my arms as an infant.
Enjoy your lives, ladies. Whatever stage you are in. For our lives are like as James 4:14 says, How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
And that especially goes for you single ladies, particularly to those of you who are living your life as “Ladies in Waiting.” I’m not trying to stop you from wanting, dreaming about a relationship. I just want you to make sure you don’t allow that desire, that dream to stop you from living your life in the meantime. Because I know how those feelings can gnaw on your insides, further hollowing out the emptiness in your gut. You think there’s only one remedy for that emptiness…only to find out years later, it was never really about a boy.