I turned 35 in the first half of 2016, and it came with a heavy heart and a bit of a conundrum.
First thought: ‘I’m not married.’
Second thought: ‘Do I want to get married?’
This quandary left me with the tried and tested (and sometimes not such a great) method of turning to my married, attached and single friends for advice, and hopefully a reassurance from them that I was doing alright with whatever path I had chosen for myself. Bad, bad idea. It left me in a state of utter confusion and despair, and far worse off than I was before I expressed my thoughts to them. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t their fault, I just had no clue as to where my head was in the marital aspect of life.
You’ve probably read this a fair few times already, and probably resonate with some of it. Being a child born in an Indian household in the ’80’s it was embedded subtly into my far too innocent child-brain that once I was done with my schooling – University education and all, I would be ‘ready’ for marriage. If I found someone of my own accord, there were ‘parameters’ as my wonderfully lovable father put it, in that there were boundaries that I had to stay within and they were set out for me in choosing the ‘right’ boy for myself. If that didn’t work out, then it was the arranged marriage route for me… and I have severe reservations against that ideology. Believe me.
It became evident, as I reached the ‘ripe’ age of 24 that neither of those options were working terribly in my favor. By 25, panic in my greater extended family set in. ‘She’s not married!’ ‘The good men are all snatched up by 24!’ ‘She will not have too many options if she delays marriage!’ ‘She will have so many complications when she tries to have children!’ – Dear lord, my world was coming crashing down with no male companion worthy of my hand in marriage in sight. What would I do?! (Sense. The. Tone.)
Sure, I had my moments of wanting to have a ‘perfect’ relationship, with the ‘perfect’ man, and then we’d have the ‘perfect’ marriage, with 2.4 kids, a pet and the whole ‘perfect’ family shebang. The stuff RomComs are made of, truly. However, my luck thus far has been far from perfect.
A string of terribly, god-awful, W.T.F relationships – I use the term ‘relationship’ loosely – and suddenly I was in my 30’s. Oops. In my family, this was a problem. My younger brother was married, my cousins were married, hell, everyone younger than me was married and moving on with their lives and here I was, seemingly stuck in the singles rut. However, as I grew older and wiser, I began to see that being married wasn’t the be all and end all of life.
Cut to turning 35. I’ll spare you the details of my volatile relationship with my current (ex?) other half (not better half, not significant other, just other half.), but I will stress that it has helped me realize that no relationship, especially in our 30’s is easy. It’s hard work. It’s compromise and it’s adjustment, and it’s finding a balance. And it’s also being on the same page for most things – it helps tremendously. But, as opposed to being in your twenties and using every spare moment to either post a SnapChat of something rather pointless, playing Pokemon Go (which I have yet to get my hands on!), Instagramming the shit out of seemingly hipster food, Kardashian copy selfies and what not, we’ve got a little more grip on what we want out of our relationships as opposed to just being in it for the sake of posting a million photos of each other on Facebook.
So being 35 and unmarried – it’s actually not half as bad as people might make it out to be. I’m not sitting home with my cats and talking to them, and drinking a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows every night as to why I’m still not married and don’t have kids. I’m not holed up in a room with dubious looking dolls and poking pins through them, or burning them (Dear exes, you are safe, for now.). Au contraire my dear readers, I’ve got a great job that allows me to work WITH kids, so I get to shower them with learning and love. It’s rather fulfilling. I have a group of friends that are both single and attached, and we spend our time over wine and good food. Less hipster, and more wholesome food. I’d rather eat a good meal than eat something that comes with an extortionate price tag.
I don’t have to focus on making small talk or tiptoe around conversation during nights out – we’ve done it in our 20’s, it was terrific, and now, in my 30’s I’d rather talk about things that don’t revolve around, ‘Did you see her Facebook feed?’ or ‘The Kardashian Instagram feed is my hashtag fashion goal.’ or something utterly pointless to that effect. I don’t have to worry about dressing up to the nines – although it IS fun sometimes, and I can just focus on being myself.
I enjoy the solitude, I enjoy the fact that I can read a book and feel like I’ve accomplished something. I enjoy the fact that on a whim, I can book a flight and go traveling on my own (hashtag solotraveler – check out my Instagram feed for more), and actually enjoy the experience. As much as it feels like I don’t have it all – that I don’t have someone to come home to at nights – that I don’t have someone with whom I can share my ups and downs, it is quite the opposite. I’m not averse to having a partner, but being married isn’t high on my list of priorities. If it happens, everyone is happy, if not, I’m happy. I love kids, but do I want some of my own? I’m not opposed to the idea but again, I’m okay with not having any. I’d adopt if I could.
I believe that I’d rather focus on the ‘now’ (Eckhart Tolle, my savior.) rather than dwell in the past, or preempt the sodding future. You and I both know – and nod your head if you agree – the future isn’t certain. We paint a picture of the future we want, work towards it but for the most part it doesn’t go according to plan. And the future, well she becomes the mother of disappointments. I’ve held on to so many things, and thought so far ahead that everything that’s happening currently, be it work, domestic life or relationships have suffered. I’ve let the present suffer because I let the last 35 years creep into my present. The past is history, and unless you are stupid enough to let history repeat itself, Let. It. Go.
So to sum up, my name is Shilpa and I’m 35. I’m currently unmarried and I may or may not have a partner. I have a younger married sibling. I have a great job, great friends, and a carefree, independent life. Am I happy? Completely. Am I missing out? No. Abso-effing-loutely not. I am woman, hear me roar.
Until next time,
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P.S: For the sake of not upsetting some of my hyper-sensitive friends, I’ll post this disclaimer:
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this piece are solely my own, and have not been influenced by any outside factors. I’m not expecting you to agree with me, but be a lamb and don’t spew vitriolic words at the piece because you’re a keyboard warrior ok? Ta!
Also, no offense to any of my attached friends. You know I love you unconditionally!
Photo Credit: Danielle Ditzian.