You know the story. Boy meets girl, boy woos girl. Boy and girl get married and live happily ever after. Pretty straight forward. It’s every Disney movie, every other Julie Roberts film and half the songs on the radio (the other half are about the times that things didn’t work out). But how many of these movies or songs are about people finding themselves? Finding independence? Finding community? Or more importantly, finding any of those things and feeling not just ‘ok’ but really GOOD about their current point in life? Not many that I can think of.

It strikes me as a bit odd then, that those of us who are still single by the time 26 (or later) rolls around, find the feelings of anxiety and loneliness that I have heard so many describe—surprising. We have spent the better parts of our lives inundated with unicorns, fairy tales (not the Grimm’s kinds), cotton candy love stories and happily ever afters. In the mainstream stories the boy and girl ALWAYS end up together and that is WHY they are happy. It’s shocking that we willfully indulge in “Sleeping Beauty” and “Sleepless in Seattle” and are then surprised when the emotional vomit we come up with in seasons of singleness is full of despair and fear. Don’t get me wrong, I mean I’m a girl. I love pretty princesses and sappy/horrible Lifetime movies as much as the next woman. But I’m beginning to see the necessity of separating those things more intentionally in our minds. To remember that they are stories, and not reality.

For a large part of my life I struggled with being happy, finding contentment in my daily life being a single person—not searching for someone to share it with. I frequently feared that there was something ‘wrong with me.’ Only in the last 2 years have I even bothered to ask myself if I actually WANT to be married, or if I’ve always just felt that I SHOULD get married. That was a real time stopper.

During that season, I did the one thing that I had always been terrified to do before. To ask the question, out loud, that had silently lingered –tucked away in the back of my mind for so many years, “What would happen if I never got married?” I found the response I received from a still small voice in my heart (the voice that I believe is God) to be pleasant and peace bringing. Even funny. It said, “Nothing would happen. Buildings would not crumble into the oceans. Your life would just be the same as it’s always been. And that’s been ok hasn’t it?” In that moment I felt joy breathe up from my heart and a relieved smile spread across my face as I realized that yeah, my life was ok. More than ok—pretty stinking good, actually. I am blessed to have so many different, talented, thoughtful and encouraging people in my life. The friends I have made in Los Angeles over the past 10 years have become more life family, and I recognize that I have more deep and meaningful relationships in my life at this point than I have ever had before.

It’s not that I am opposed to the idea of romantic relationships or marriage. What I AM opposed to, is continuing to hold onto a false or empty idea of what I think that should look like. To place expectations of any kind upon someone who doesn’t even exist! Some of the best advice I’ve had in this area is from my best friend Renee, who is married. She frequently tells me, “Don’t get married,” and then laughs. “I mean being married is GREAT and fulfilling in so many ways. But it’s hard. Really hard. So don’t get married unless you absolutely HAVE to marry that person.” Sounds simple enough, but it grants a greater perspective. I so appreciate and value the bits of wisdom I have been gifted through my married friends—men and women—in the last 5 years. These friends have painted a more vivid, colorful and realistic picture in my mind of what it means not just to get married, but to BE married. I enjoy packing these little pebbles (or sometimes boulders) of sage advice away after such conversations. Knowing that if I do decide to get married some day, I will be better prepared for that endeavor.

But for now, I can honestly say that I am more than contented as a single 29 year old woman. I am enjoying my life! And every day, I try to think of at least one thing, that I am grateful for. On bad days that might be just a cup of coffee, or on good days—a surprise visit from a friend. But practicing gratitude is something that has dramatically changed my outlook on life, and allowed me the freedom to explore who I am and the things that God is speaking into my life—in an uninterrupted way. Psalm 84:11 is a verse a friend passed to me a few weeks back when I was having a hard day. And it’s really stuck with me, “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Not that I am blameless because of who I am—but God says I am blameless in His sight as I strive to achieve His will and walk in obedience as doors open and close in front of me.

I have also grown in my capacity to believe this year. And I can say I firmly believe (in my heart, not just my head) that God wants what is best for me and that is what He will bring to pass in my life. Whether that is having a spouse or being on my own I really don’t know. In the mean time, I will do my best to practice gratitude and patience while continuing on my journey, graciously embraced by dozens of lovely people whom I am blessed to call my loving friends.