HUFFPOST PERSONAL
07/03/2018 08:31 am ET

I Didn't Expect To Be Single At 42. Here's How I've Embraced It.

The author in Sydney, post-divorce.
Jenn Maronek
The author in Sydney, post-divorce.

In the summer of 2009, just before I turned 33 years old, I found myself embroiled in a divorce ― which made me feel ashamed, abnormal, lost and, honestly, like an unworthy piece of s**t. 

I’m a nurse, so my job is to serve and help other people. Unfortunately, I somehow managed to download the faulty version of care-taking, which as my therapist told me has made me an excellent “co-dependent” in relationships. You see, my marriage was extremely toxic and I was suffocating on its poison. I didn’t know what to do other than grasp at straws for the love and worth I wanted to feel but couldn’t.

And after my divorce, I still had no idea how to get there. I felt stuck at Point A, struggling to get to Point B. 

My lackluster adventures in dating made me realize that life was waiting for me to stop conforming to the mold.

As I tried to start over, it was hard for me not to obsess over messages from society or my social circles about where I was “supposed” to be. My expectations had been influenced by the paths taken by my married parents, sister and friends.

I had ideas about how I could realize my dreams of having a family, and I felt like I had to speed up my timeline since I was approaching “advanced maternal age.” So I took charge: I tried to meet men while pursuing my hobbies, at work, during solo trips to the bar, via online dating or by being set up by friends ― all to no avail. There were some wonderful moments filled with laughter and flirting, but most of those dates were painful and I didn’t feel a spark or connection.  

My lackluster adventures in dating made me realize that life was waiting for me to stop conforming to the mold. I discovered I didn’t need to find Mr. Right to unlock the door to my true happiness. Once I realized this, I was on my way to finding my true power and peace. 

I have learned to take care of myself, and have found the time to prioritize and pursue the things I enjoy. I’m passionate about taking care of myself with healthy eating and exercise, and I’ve also discovered a love for spiritual practices such as reading Tarot, meditating and getting grounded in nature. These things let me listen to and trust my intuition. I no longer grasp at straws, and instead feel the inner bliss of self-exploration and empowerment as a confident, independent woman.

I am now a trailblazer in my own right, with a new sense of freedom, self-expression and resilience. I broke through my own mental barriers and fear of being alone. Today, I am proud to stand tall as a liberated woman and travel the world confidently on my own. I can raise one hand to hail my own taxis and take pride in getting myself where I need to be. I have seven colorful passport stamps ― check marks of success ― that don’t even account for all the places I’ve lived and traveled around the U.S. 

My self-care path eventually included a conscious choice to not have children, but I rejoice in knowing that I can be a sort-of mother to my patients. I still wipe butts and handle blood, sweat and tears after trauma. Then I go home to recharge.

I live connected to myself and am the partner I had been looking for all along. I live energized, with a sense of purpose as a healthy and satisfied single, complete person.

Don’t get me wrong: There are moments ― the holidays, birthdays, even Valentine’s Day ― when the struggle of loneliness can be real. But who said you can’t have romance and fun while being single? I still enjoy my own vibrant company, take myself out on dates and love trying new things. I buy myself fresh flowers every week and have candle-lit bubble baths because I’m worth it. The home I created is mine, and I relish the freedom of knowing I’m not being held prisoner by my fear of being alone. 

My healing process took a long time ― nearly nine years ― but I’m closing in on Point B. I live connected to myself and am the partner I had been looking for all along. I live energized, with a sense of purpose as a healthy and satisfied single, complete person.

I am still open to the idea of finding a handsome, fun partner with whom I can share my life, but he has to be an equal partner who will add to, not subtract from, my life. It’s relationship mathematics. Partnering is about the process of learning the absolute value of our worth.

And the best part is that I’m really not alone. My family and friends, both married and single, have stood by my side and cheered me on as I have taken responsibility for my own self-care and happiness. They’re my community, and they admire my strength and remind me that being married with kids is just one path ― a different one and not necessarily a better one.  

I’m excited about what the future may bring. Regardless of the outcome, I know it’s not about organizing my life around another person to make myself happy. It’s about prioritizing this beautiful relationship I have with myself. I am so thankful that the journey since my divorce has taught me all of this and that I am thrilled to still be single at nearly 42.

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