Since moving to So. Utah almost a year ago I haven't felt impressed to invest a lot of energy in the singles scene. I use the word "impressed" because I do try to be prayerful about the actions I should take that will enhance my life and allow me to be an influence for good. Getting myself to go to singles activities, the likes of which I have attended for years, has not felt like a priority (I hope I can express what I'm trying to say in a way that doesn't sound like a persuasion or dissuasion...just an honest description of my experience). I'm not saying singles activities are invaluable--I just think I've gained another view of what it means to develop community and the importance of spending my time in what, to me, feels like a more natural way of doing things.
Even though I'm single, my marital status does not entirely define my existence by any means. I think that more importantly I am a person having a human experience like everyone else. Just so happens that includes being single at 34. I know that by nature we conglomerate with those in similar circumstances, and I think those friendships are necessary and sometimes even life-saving. But it does seem like singles focus on being with other singles to a heavy extent because wanting to be in a relationship is instinctual and family is a priority in the church. It almost feels like we're not doing our duty or we might be missing out on the chance of a lifetime if we're not kind of constantly putting ourselves out there, so to speak. I think that other well-meaning married people may even give us the impression that we're not serious about marriage if we're not devoting ourselves to singles wards, single activities, and the like. And really, there is some truth to the idea. We should be aware of good opportunities and make ourselves engaged enough that we can open our social circle and create space for someone who we may connect with. But I've realized it's damaging to always approach or decline opportunities based on the potential to meet a future spouse.
In my years of dedicating the majority of my social life to singles experiences, I think my perspective, at times, has grown out of balance in terms of what it means to be happy, open-hearted, and centered. I think it's caused me to think a lot more about myself and my appearance, I haven't been as oriented to the ultimate goal of family because I haven't been around families, I've been overwhelmed with angst by the reality that many of the incredible single people around me are also not getting married--which makes it seem like an impossible goal (if they can't figure it out, how can I?), and it has been easy to think that marriage is the answer--the end all, be all to happiness. This is by no means true.
When I began attending a family ward at the age of 28, it was like a breath of fresh air. It was so wonderful and relieved a lot of undue pressure to be around people of all ages and circumstances. And although it's true that some people in the church are not sure what to do with the single girl...I realize that most discomfort I have felt is imposed upon me by my own misperceptions and fear of judgment. If I don't believe I'm a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, then people don't treat me that way. We're all brothers and sisters just trying to make it home, right? Nothing about our marital status precludes us or gives us a headstart in living the gospel--particularly the two greatest commandments.
Since moving into my own little home, I have found a lot of joy in striving to create a community that feels more well-rounded and natural. My favorite friend in my new ward is a young mom with four kids, I love spending every Saturday at the farmer's market with my married friends and their 16-year-old daughter, I'm delighted that I was with my nieces and nephew every spare minute this weekend, I laugh to tears with my co-workers (of all ages and marital status), so grateful I can visit teach grandmas who are true mentors, and so grateful that my married and soon-to-be-married friends will continue to be just as dear. I'm seeing beyond the boundaries of marital status and I keep thinking, "This is what life feels like!" There is so much beyond the bubble of single life. I'm less focused on getting myself to another singles event (unless it's one that seems like a natural place for me to be) and more focused on just living life, loving every soul in my path, and being in places that feel interesting to me--even if there are no other single people in the mix.
The ironic part of this new kind of freedom I've found is that I feel more open-hearted and available than I have probably ever been. I'm rarely, if ever, with a group of single people, yet I feel more hopeful about dating opportunities. Maybe it's just that I feel more hopeful and have a brighter perspective in general. I also somehow feel more capable to receive and follow promptings...I suspect because I'm thinking less about myself in relation to dating (which tends to be accomapanied by a certain amount of anxiety) and thinking more about myself in relation to being. And being is awesome.
I have a thousand more things to say on this topic, but I think I'll just end the longest post I've ever written by saying that I'm grateful for life. It's teaching me good things. Also, I love pancakes, but that's another topic for another day.