I'm just going to come right out and say it: I am 38 years old, and I am single. I have never been married, and I do not have any children.
If someone had asked me two years ago, two months ago, or even two weeks ago, I would have said that something was very wrong here. I would have laid out my entire last relationship and breakup, sobbing and asking, "Where did I go wrong? How did this happen yet again?" And, "Why can't I let go of this relationship??" I was hanging onto it like my favorite comfy sweater. Except the sweater was now so stretched out, it looked like I was wearing a sack with a bunch of holes in it. I was frustrated with myself: Why couldn't I just let go of that damn sweater -- throw it away for good so I could wear a new one that actually flattered my figure?
If you'd asked how I thought my adult life was going to look while I was growing up, I would have given answers full of hope and aspiration. At 4 years old, I was going to be Wonder Woman; at 10, an Olympic swimmer and the first female pro baseball player; at 16, a professional photographer living in a loft in New York City; and at 17, I was going to be on Saturday Night Live. My answers would also invariably have involved this statement: I will be married to the man of my dreams and have a family.
So when did all the dreaming stop? When did I give up on myself?
My father left my mother when I was 7 years old. Afterwards, my mother told me that not only had he left, he'd left both me and my sister. At the age of 7, I created a huge fear for myself about people leaving me. Then my mother became sick and angry, and I became her outlet: she took her rage out on me both physically and verbally. Since that time, she has apologized numerous times and I have forgiven her. My father has also apologized. Yet here I am, 38 years old and still afraid of someone I love walking out the door.
I've been told that we don't choose our jobs or careers -- they choose us. I have both a career and a job. My career: I'm upper management in an assisted living facility for people who have Alzheimer's and Dementia. My job: I'm a dating coach, and a damn good one at that. The irony is unmistakable: I'm in a career in which I take care of people and help family members let go of their loved ones on a daily basis. Yet here I am, unable to even let go of my last relationship. When I was a child I decided I wasn't being taken care of; to make up for that, I now take care of others. Not only that, I also coach people on how to find the loves of their lives, partly by becoming aware of where they are getting in their own way in their dating behavior. And I'm passionate about dating; finding the love of my life is my only dream. Yet here I am, 38 and single.
When I was 35, I began to take a hard look at my relationship life. What I saw was this: I was 35, single, and I was the only common thread in every relationship I'd ever had. I also saw that I'd consistently chosen men who verbally abused me. In other words, in my relationships with men I was always recreating my entire childhood with my mother. When I discovered this, I made a decision: I was going to choose differently the next time.
Choose differently I did. I chose a man who was loving and kind. I chose a man who was funny and friendly and whom everyone liked. I chose a man who could give. The only problem was, almost three years later I discovered he could only give so much. As the relationship progressed, he admitted to me many times that deep down, he was all about himself. While he treated me well and loved me, it became apparent that he would always choose what he wanted first, and do what he wanted to do, when he wanted. (And I'm not saying anything he didn't say to me himself).
We had a good run. We went on great vacations. We learned how to compromise. We learned how to forgive. We created amazing dates and adventures for both of us as a couple. We had amazing sex and most of all, we created love. We discussed being together forever and I really believed I could finally have it all: marriage with my best friend.
Then, two weeks after Valentine's Day of this year, we broke up. I had to move out of the home he owned that we called "ours." I had to say goodbye.
This wasn't easy. In fact, it was close to impossible. I could not and would not let go. For over two months I lived in complete misery. I kept thinking, "There is something wrong here," and, "What is wrong with me?" Not the most empowering way to live.
However, it was the misery that led me back to looking at myself. Not from the perspective of, "There is something wrong here," but with a new pair of eyes. I started to look at my life with a pair of eyes I hadn't used in a long time: eyes that told me I could be Wonder Woman, an Olympic swimmer, the first female baseball player, a photographer and on Saturday Night Live -- maybe even all at once.
This is what I saw: I saw a woman who actually stood up for herself, three relationships ago. When I finally got that I didn't want to be with a man who constantly yelled or punched holes in the wall, it was me who decided to leave. I let go of that old sweater. I saw a woman who chose to let go, two relationships ago. When I was with a man who was mean and manipulative, it was me who decided to get out. I let go of another ratty old sweater. And when my last ex -- yeah, that "nice" one -- finally got that he didn't want to marry me and began to mistreat me, kicking me out of the house while drunk in the middle of the night because he was mad at me, saying he was saving for an engagement ring but also that two dates a month with me was too many, tweeting and changing his Facebook status while out but not calling or texting to say he wasn't coming home -- I stood up for myself again. I told him that if he couldn't treat me the way I deserved to be treated, he should let me go. He apologized for what he had done, and then he did let me go.
What I failed to see these past few months was that I, Sandy, consistently stood up for myself, and that that was an indication of something bigger. I wasn't just a victim -- I was an active participant. When I didn't get the treatment and respect I wanted and deserved, I let go of the old sweaters. In a way, I had been choosing to forget or ignore that I was strong, that when it wasn't right, I had stood up for myself and left. I was, in fact, not abandoned myself, like I'd felt when I was a little girl.
I write this now with my new set of eyes. Here is what I see: there is nothing wrong here. I am strong, I am enough and most importantly, I am choosing my freedom. I'm free to choose to tell someone to let me go. I'm free to love another man who both wants and deserves my love. I'm free to let another man love me. I don't know and in some ways don't even want to speculate about what's next for me. I'm choosing the unknown, letting go of how it will go, and electing to be OK with that -- no, not just being OK with it, but embracing it. I am choosing my own freedom. And within the choosing of my freedom, I'm confident I will have everything I ever wanted for my life.
I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm 38 years old and I am single. I have never been married and I do not have any children. I am choosing my freedom and there is nothing wrong here. In fact, everything is exactly how it is supposed to be. And that makes me happy -- and free.