It seems surreal that in a few weeks, I will go from being a single lady to a wife. I’m reflecting back on my single days and what I would tell my younger self.
I remember the day I outlined my future in my head quite vividly. I was standing in the middle of the Hollister I worked at as a 17 year old high-schooler, selecting the store’s next song to play over the sound system. As I stood there, I imagined myself 25 years old, married with a house, and one or probably two kids to look after and a solid career to boot. At 17, I didn’t know how I would get to this perfect little narrative, but I figured it would all come together within that timeline. That imaginative moment occasionally came to mind over the years as I watched my twenties roll on by. I hopped between bad dates to bad relationships and that innocent vision of a four-person family in a house quickly became a far-fetched fantasy.
Come 32 years old, as a complete single lady the image of a perfect life at the age of 25 was long gone in the rearview mirror. I was stone cold single and while I certainly had sad moments, I truly came to accept that more than likely I would be alone for my life. I can honestly in my heart of hearts say I was content with that. Over the years I had been lucky enough to accumulate a wonderful network of friends, I was an auntie to some beautiful babies, my career was moving in a solid direction and I enjoyed being with my family.
For a little more background, by this point I had spent four years in Chicago, four in NYC and a couple back in Chi. I fulfilled so many of my goals while living out East. I built a network of friends from 0, secured a dream job as a beauty director for Condé Nast (then Style.com, now Vogue/Runway), attended countless charity events I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of being a part of. I traveled abroad for the first time right before my 30th birthday, visited dozens of amazing restaurants and had a pretty fun time on the dating scene. In full disclosure I certainly had my ‘down’ moments, I drained my back account a few times over, I rarely got a full night’s sleep and dated my share of complete frogs. Yet I loved living in NYC until I was completely exhausted and came back to the Midwest at the beginning of 2014.
After spending a couple of years on-and-off tangled up with the wrong guy, my ‘love’ life really came to a head mid-summer 2016. I all but ran from my train wreck of a relationship in which I had felt trapped and miserable. Somehow I had convinced myself that I needed to ‘stick it out’ (you should never have to ‘stick it out.’) Thankfully, all of the reasons why it was WRONG were quite literally shoved in my face and I finally slammed the door shut on that tumultuous chapter. It was an absolute relief to feel in control of my life and happiness again. I will definitely talk about this is subsequent posts, but I hope every woman feels empowered enough to know that they should never settle. You should never feel like your happiness is in someone else’s control. I promise on everything I have and everything I am that the person you are meant to be with will make you feel loved and secure and encourage you to be your best self unconditionally.
So, coming back to 32-year-old single Jes. There I was, quickly approaching my next birthday. While I had partially succumbed to #singlelifeforlife, I thought back to my days in NY and all of the amazing experiences I had. I decided I owed it to myself to treat Chicago as a ‘new city’, and date and explore just as much as I had when I lived in the Big Apple. Finding “the one” wasn’t necessarily my focus. It was being happy and enjoying life which included dating a few guys while I was at it. My friend also lectured me over coffee one morning September 2016 that ‘health, happiness, friends & family’ were the only things that mattered in life. I sighed and did some swiping that night on my dating apps to ‘get in some practice dates’ and much to my complete surprise (literally, to this day) I matched with Ben that same evening. We went on a date a few days later and as they annoyingly say, the rest is history.
I have NO IDEA what timing or fate or coincidence or WHAT played into the fact that I found the absolutely perfect match for me in Ben. It’s beyond obnoxious for me to say that it ‘happened when I least expected it’ although to be totally transparent, it happened when I least expected it. But I know what I would tell my younger self if I was able to:
- Focus on learning to love yourself. Really and truly, inside and out, how can you appreciate who you are and relish in all of the amazing traits you bring to the table?
- Embrace your friends as your family. I do think I did this and still do, but love on them, nurture your relationships and remember (single or not) how much they care for you.
- Care for your family! If I turned around and no one was there, I am lucky to know that unconditionally they would be there to love and support me.
- What do you want to experience in your life on your OWN? Writing in my journal while drinking wine at cafés in Paris, being stuck in London during the 2012 NYC Hurricane, climbing cliffs and rafting in Thailand, sitting at a restaurant bar while on a work trip and chatting with the people next to me are some of my top memories of things I did completely solo. Learn to love spending time with yourself, first and foremost.
- Have fun, enjoy yourself, date a bunch and spend time getting to know what it is you like about the men/potential partners you encounter in life.
- Never ever settle, and certainly don’t stick around for someone to prove themselves.
- Once you find the right person, you have the rest of your lives to map it out together. Map out what you want to do for yourself in the meantime.
- You can’t trade in today for tomorrow, so enjoy each day for what it is.
- Be happy with today and hopeful for tomorrow.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Comment or email me anytime, firstname.lastname@example.org.