All my friends from high school are getting engaged and having kids. I can’t help but feel bad about it even though I KNOW that’s not what I want. How can I keep from feeling down about it?
Hello again. I’m sure that, after reading my entry last week in which I said I would give you two concrete pieces of advice, you have felt a radical change come over you and your problem is halfway to being completely, 100% solved! All you are missing is part two and, lucky for you, it’s here! You no doubt remember that my first piece of advice from last week was to do a little work on your relationship with you by making a list of some good moments in your life. I’m sure you have integrated this into your daily routine and you are feeling more loved and beautiful than ever. The second thing I want you to do may take a little more time. It’s a long game and it can be hard, but don’t give up! I believe in you.
To recap: you already know that you don’t want to be married and you don’t want a baby, but you want to feel loved and like you belong (as we all do!). Besides your relationship with yourself, I can think of another extremely important, loving, and special relationship that is not a spouse or spawn: friends! My second piece of advice is to start investing very heavily into the relationships you already have, or want to have. I’ve been known to say, when I get very drunk, “I want to text everyone I love and tell them how much I love them!” I have very vivid memories of that instinct, and also of carrying it out and feeling embarrassed the next day. (I also tend to do that in person, so if you were at my New Year’s Eve party and I accosted you in the doorway and made you feel uncomfortable but also very loved, well…I’m sorry and you’re welcome!) This is exactly the type of thing you need to do, though maybe leave out the drunkenness. If there is someone you love, text them right now and tell them! An obvious choice is a best friend, but I’d suggest also sending one to someone more peripheral in your life that you do truly love but want to be closer to. These declarations of love can take the form of a novella about your appreciation of the specific qualities that you admire in your friend. They can take the form of a simple “I love you!” out of the blue. They can take the form of, “I saw this movie and it made me think of you!” or “I think you’d really love this book/podcast/TV show I’m reading/listening to/watching.” The key is to let your friend know that you are loving them or thinking about them when they are not around. I think this is such an important way to show love to people! It is active and intentional and, like most important things, a little scary to do. It makes you a little vulnerable, but all you’re really doing is making your loved one feel known, which is such an incredible way to feel. And I’m fairly certain you will find that once you start to send the love out, you will start to get it back. It may take a while, but it’ll happen. Maybe not with everyone, but it also doesn’t have to benefit you in that specific way to be worthwhile. When I send out love, I just start to feel more love in general – how could that ever be a waste of time? And I have found that when people feel sure about their place in your heart, they are willing to be more vulnerable with you, they are happy to be there for you when you need them, they are more honest and at-ease with you, and they share the love they have to give with you. That is a recipe for supportive, loving, committed companionship with endless room for growth, which is exactly what you need to cultivate.
Your life is beautiful, and it is your own. And yeah, I know, it’s soooo easy for me to say that to you when I’m not inside your body, inside your life, when you’re up at 3AM feeling more lonely than anyone on the planet has ever felt, when you’re walking home from the grocery store alone carrying the heaviest bags anyone has ever carried and wishing someone was there to take one, or when you’re at work and you’re the most exhausted you’ve ever been and nothing feels right. I haven’t been there in your life or your body at those moments, but I have in mine. I have them too, and so does your friend from high school who just had a beautiful baby. And so does your cousin who just got engaged. It’s tempting to look at other people’s lives and imagine that they have exactly what it is that you’re missing in your own, but I promise you that you know people who wish they had your life or your job or your apartment or your group of friends. Try to appreciate you and your life for exactly what it is. Try to bring love and a sense of belonging into it by aspiring to healthy, long-lasting, fulfilling relationships that aren’t with significant others or offspring. I’m positive that you can think of a million more genius ways to do this than just the two I’ve mentioned here.
I’ll leave you with this anecdote: a few summers ago, one of my professors in college died very unexpectedly. She was a teacher who was extremely loved, with a large and devoted following of students. I attended her funeral, and the church was packed. At one point in the eulogy, the pastor asked us to raise our hands if we knew exactly how my teacher felt about us. Hundreds of hands went up. I remember being amazed at the kind of legacy my teacher was leaving behind, one in which love is spread around generously, and given so freely. One in which empathy, honesty, and kindness are radical acts and vulnerability is strength. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind, and I vowed that I would try really hard to be the kind of person whose loved ones were always sure how much I cared for them, through my actions and my words. What kind of lives, what kind of world, could we build with this as our goal? Try to find out.