My life is mine. Woah.
I heard these words recently when listening to Tracee Ellis Ross’ speech for Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit. In that speech she discusses how being an incredibly successful woman in her mid-40s seems to be forever overshadowed by the fact that she is still single and childless.
“Oh, you just haven’t found the right guy yet.”
“What are you going to DO?”
“Oh, you poor thing… WHY is someone like you still single?,”
people ask her (and all single women), thinking it’s a compliment. When in fact it often undermines our entire existence. As if being single and manless/childless is our burden and our one defining factor.
Tracee went on to describe how during a particular season in her life, after breaking up with a guy she loved to date other people, she was journaling about this. About what I’m sure felt like guilt over wanting to date other people and not being in a relationship with a man she still loved (just (I’m assuming) not in the right way). She wrote down the words ‘My life is mine.’ And it stopped her in her tracks.
It stopped me in my tracks the other day while listening to that speech. My life is MINE.
What does that even mean? What does that look like when I really embrace it?
I’m 35 and single and even I have been treating myself as if that fact, the relationship-less one, must mean that I’m broken. As if that one thing, being single, is the only thing that can define me. Why? Well maybe it’s because we (women … and some men too) are programmed by society to adopt a dream at a young age, especially if you’re a girl growing up in a small conservative town. Wedding, husband, kids = woman.
These last four years of my life have been a rearranging of things. An overhaul of my life. It’s strange, when I left Jay 4 years ago it was like I could feel this energy .. this creative power surging in my life. Standing up for myself and believing that I deserved something better and that it was OK to desire more than a stale, emotionally abusive relationship. (NOTE: He wasn’t a monster, it wasn’t all bad, but for me, the relationship was not healthy) I walked away from the norm – a home, a husband, stability – to embark on a journey of self-discovery. I felt selfish. I felt … broken and wrong. But I also felt … right. Like even though it looked like insanity, it was the truest, most right thing in the world for me to do.
I was proud of me … then. I was brave, I was reckless at times. I tore through this world like a bat out of hell. Then things slowed, settled and calmed and that former dream came back in to fill the void. Because that’s what happens when we start to feel a tinge of doubt, of uncertainty, of loneliness. We leave the courageous dreams of the unknown and go back to the dreams we know EVEN if they no longer serve us .. because they’re safe. The dream of a home and wedding bells and my perfect ‘one’.
I started to date with that in mind, but because I didn’t really address some past issues (as in I never stopped to figure out why I chose such an unhealthy relationship in the first place), my dating game was way off. I kept choosing terribly for myself. Then the anxiety would set in … what if I can’t find him? What if I am broken because these relationships aren’t working out? Never really taking the time to see that the relationships that weren’t working out would’ve been ones I’d likely have been miserable in. Ones I would’ve been treated TERRIBLY in. Or ones that would have been a groundhog day of what I’d chosen before … stale, loveless, without emotional vulnerability.
But that’s not something I can see or understand when it is happening. The failed attempts at establishing a connection have left me feeling like I have this … weird invisible deformity situation. Like here I am, successful in my career, brave in my life and yet something must be truly messed up about me if I’m single. Oh it must be I’m crazy right? I’m too much. Too high maintenance. She has daddy issues, etc. etc. I’m not saying that there aren’t valid emotional issues I’m still working through because I am, I so am. And each failed relationship is teaching me more and I’m grateful. But being single is NOT a disease. It’s not a symptom of brokenness … because lets be completely blunt and honest here, there are a LOT of broken people who aren’t single.
Some of the relationships that haven’t worked out are because I simply didn’t want to pursue it further. Some didn’t work out because our core values were WAY way off. Some didn’t work out because I had some heavy issues, yes. But still, some didn’t work out because the men were utter asshats and the universe was protecting me, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. But ALL of this is for my good. It is GOOD that I’m 35 and single. And figuring myself out. It’s GOOD that these ‘less-than’ relationships haven’t worked out even when I so badly wanted them to at the time … because most likely I was driven by this deep urge to check that box and live up to the idea of that programmed dream. (Also … sex on the reg is pretty awesome BUT STILL … still I want more)
My life is MINE. My journey is my own and fuck all, if it isn’t one gorgeous, glorious, hot mess. And that is ok. My main takeaway from Tracee’s speech is I’m gonna stop sitting here and pressuring myself to live up to some dream someone else handed to me when I was really young and unable to decide if I even wanted that. I didn’t even have ANY examples of a life that was different from that norm so how could I have known there were other dreams?
Man, if I had been a young girl of 6 or 7 and some woman, some strong single, badass woman full of wonder and grace came in as a role model … not needing validation from men or society. Simply owning and embodying her own rightful power and glory … I wonder, how could that have helped shape me?
In therapy, we have discussed how often times our wounds as children have to be addressed and healed as adults … and the way we do that is becoming our own parent. Our own role model. So … that’s what I’m going to do. Instead of spending my time focusing on the type of man and relationship I want .. I’m going to start focusing on the woman I CAN and will be. And the healthy loving relationship I want with me. I’m going to be my own role model and show the younger me, my inner child, that being single is not a punishment, nor does it have to do with our weirdness or awkwardness or really anything at all. It isn’t negative. And it CAN be powerful.
Yes, inner child, we are strong. We have chosen to walk away from relationships because they weren’t right and we had more growing to do. We are brave. We are fierce. And we’re going to embody our power to fullest. What does that look like? I’m not even sure yet. I know for one thing it looks like embracing my sexual and emotional past and forgiving myself for any missteps. Because each stumble has made me stronger. I know it also looks like investing in the connections and love I do have. And investing in me and my general badassery. It means holding myself to a higher standard AND holding any man I DO decide to date to that same standard. It means boundaries. It means being willing to walk away from a good man if he has no desire to be a great one. Because I WANT to be the great me, the BRAVE me. And I will accept nothing less from any man I allow into my life.
This life, my darling … this life is OURS. Let us be brave.
(PS You can watch and read Tracee’s speech here: https://www.glamour.com/story/tracee-ellis-ross-glamour-women-of-the-year-speech-2017)