03 May 2011

The life I imagine, the life I lead

I realized recently that the life I imagined for myself as a child and the life I've led are not the same. I'm sure everyone has this experience, but I had it again this weekend. When I was younger, I imagined that - of course, being the beautiful and amazingly smart and engaging individual that I am - I would have to beat suiters away in droves and that I would have my pick of the best of the best. Instead I've found that my confidence and intelligence are sometimes intimidating and that while I am far from ugly, I'm not showy enough to get that much attention. I've also found that I wouldn't have wanted it anyway, because hoverers make me nervous. I used to think that I would marry while I was in college and live a poor early married life in a run down but pleasantly sunny apartment and that after graduation we would traipse off wherever the wind took us (outside of Utah) and we would be gloriously happy. Instead, I'm living right in the heart of crazy conservative Utah Valley in a new house with two nice (female) roommates.

I've also found (much to the dismay of some people, I'm afraid), that the life I'm living right now is making me gloriously happy. Most of the time.

My wonderful cousin got married last weekend in Southern California and I got the chance to go down with the rest of my family to celebrate the event. I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to it. Not that I'm not happy for her, but that selfish side of me that gets lonely sometimes saw it as nothing but a chance to be reminded of my perpetual singleness and lack of permission to enter the temple for myself yet. I saw myself sitting outside with people seven plus years younger than me and felt more than a little trapped by circumstance. It put a frustrating sort of magnifying glass up against where I am and created a huge source of inner turmoil in the months and weeks leading up to the weekend.

See, being a single person (particularly a single woman) in the church is a precarious sort of place to be. Finding balance is difficult. For example, I am told (often in the same lesson) to be satisfied with my life and work hard, but to be looking for a husband. I am told to expect to be treated well by the man I will marry, but also reminded that many men in this modern day don't know how to treat women and need a little help. I'm told that I am worth a great deal single or married, but told that the life I am leading now is not the best way to be living compared to taking on housewifely duties and a family of my own. I'm told to be strong and independent and educated, but to make sure that I'm not TOO much of those things or I'll risk being scary to the boys. The clashes of advice are often quite overwhelming and even more exhausting.

You see - I am very happy with the life I lead. I love my job. I love my students and my coworkers and the sheep I drive by every morning. I've enjoyed the friendships I've made in the ward I attend. In many ways, I am perfectly content with my life. I take great satisfaction at providing for myself and love the freedom I have to set my own schedule. If this ended up being my life for the next ten or twenty years, I would be content and know that I'd done some good in the world and lived a good life.

But then I attend weddings like the one last weekend and those feelings of guilt start creeping back in. Wondering if I've grown so attached to the excitement and joy of my job that I'd ever be satisfied doing anything that involved watching small children all day and cleaning bathrooms. Wondering if I should be doing more to find that companion or if I should trust that doing what I'm doing will be enough. Trying to figure out what my role as a single woman in the church is really worth. Battling against pressure and teasing from family and friends. Recognizing that I feel peace in what I do and feel as though I'm where God wants me to be, but knowing that other people may see it as wrong or strange or temporary or of less worth or importance in my eternal progression than other things I could be doing. Recognizing that some people just don't understand, and trying to be ok with that.

I guess I'm not looking for answers or advice or anything at all except a brain dump into the void. And perhaps a greater sense of validation and comfort with liminal space.

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