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July 26, 2019

I’m 40, Single, Childless & I F*cking Choose Myself.

 

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The clock is about to strike midnight. I’m single, childless, and almost 40. There is no glass slipper on the staircase for the prince to find, or a magic pumpkin to carry me home.

Just Netflix, my favorite soft clothes, and maybe an Uber ride (if I actually leave the house). As a perpetual single lady I only know one way to live, and how to handle my sh*t on my own, alone.

Walls up with a moat guarded by dragons of fire. No one gets all the way in and I decide what aspects of myself I let out, if any.

I have been the rock of the family. The sarcastic, witty friend. The “cool girl.” The bitch. The “shy girl.” The “fat girl.” The good girl that got the best grades. The girl that survived years of childhood trauma.

I’ve also been the sneaky pothead. The fun drunk. The “guy’s girl.” You know the one, hustling guys at darts and pool while listening to their lady problems over the sound of 90s music.

I’ve always been that girl at the bar who cared more about the music being played, what craft beer was on tap, or how well my cocktail was made, than meeting guys. The successful female dermatology physician assistant who intimidated some men. The overly independent woman. The liar. The woman who was drugged and raped. The woman “too fat to date.” The woman in love with her married friend. The empath. The psychic that scared people.

In reality, I mostly felt like the odd person out. I played my role. I wore my masks. Some friends made fun of me behind my back. Others felt bad for me. Perpetually alone. No boyfriend. No husband. No children. “So sad.”

The truth was, no one knew my personal life. Who I was alone in my house in the middle of the night—angry, sad, crying. No one knew who I dated or may have gone home with at night. As far as I was concerned, it was no one’s f*cking business. I wasn’t private. I was secretive, and where there is secrecy there is shame. My vulnerability of self felt shameful, as did some of my behaviors. So I let them keep their whispers behind my back while I lived my life.

However, in the midst of my late 30s, unbeknownst to most people, I started peeling back the layers of myself in silence, and then in therapy. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I still felt like I was that 20-something-year-old, shameful, guilt-ridden, fearful girl trapped inside a woman’s body.

So I started. Bit by bit. Layer by ugly layer. I dug inward. I learned a tremendous number of things about myself—including my past. At times, it was intense and horrifying. Other times, glorious and breathtaking. There is a certain beauty within the breaking down of one’s self. There were boxes on boxes of Kleenex, and a lot of Claire-Danes’-ugly-crying.

I realized the stories I had been telling myself were lies. I had become my own worst enemy. My greatest fear actualized—I was the ultimate liar to myself.

Falsehoods that were initially put in my head by childhood abuse and conditioning—I made them into my own beliefs. They became my truths, which turned into destructive patterns. I had been deceiving and disillusioning myself for years.

Subconsciously, I was a master manipulator of self. I self-sabotaged. I played the victim of my own circumstances, time and time again. I was dishonest, fearful, and disempowered. Emotionally unavailable. Consciously I believed I was honest, fearless, and courageous. And I hid my lack of self-worth behind my sarcasm and perfectionism.

It was the first time I truly saw myself. Stripped down. My subconscious cracked open like an egg. My heart aching from grief, trauma, and unrequited love. I was a f*cking sh*t show. It was then that I learned that I not only f*icking hated myself, but I also f*cking loved myself. All my parts, even the gorgeous and messy bits and pieces.

I was all done waiting for someone to choose me in order to choose myself. F*ck that sh*t. I, in fact, had finally chosen myself, wholly and completely. Not some future version of me, but the current me—the me right now.

I started to become increasingly self-aware. Cognizant of what made me tick. I gave myself space to heal. I embraced my shadow and my light. The beauty radiating from within, just as I see the beauty of my blue eyes smile and sparkle long before the corners or my mouth turn upward. I embraced and loved the body that had carried me through battle after battle while continuing to hold an immense amount of pain. I continue to thank and appreciate my body daily.

Living this new, authentic self allowed me to drop the masks. Take off the armor. Call back the dragons. Crumble the walls of the fortress I had built around myself and lower the drawbridge.

I began taking myself to the movies, dinner, bars, coffee shops, and parks. I traveled the country. I went to concerts, art exhibits, and museums—and I did all of these things, alone.

I made a conscious decision that I would no longer wait for anyone in order to go do all the things that I enjoyed and loved. If it brought me joy, then I was all in, fully present and mindful.

I was dating myself.

This is something that gets talked about a lot lately but isn’t really fully explained. Basically dating yourself, and ultimately being in a relationship with yourself, means doing all those fun, exciting things you would normally do with a partner—but instead, you do them by yourself, for yourself. In my relationship with self, I learned more about the lady I truly was during all those experiences than I ever did surrounded by family and friends.

In doing this, I started to embody the person I wanted to be. I was becoming the love I deserved.

This became the catalyst for attracting healthier people who energetically aligned with my life. It also gave me the courage to disengage with those who no longer fit into my world. 

Here are a some of the things I learned along my journey:

  1. No one is coming to save you, especially a man. They may help and support you, but the saving part, that’s on you. I had to learn how to let people (especially men) into my life to help support me while setting safe, secure, and healthy boundaries for myself. Boundaries are flexible and can be changed. Lean into them.
  2. Learn how to ask for help. Seek out family, friends, professionals, coaches, energy workers, or healers. They’re waiting for you. I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me along my path thus far.
  3. There is nothing wrong with being single. It’s how you perceive it. I love getting to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m enjoying it now because it may not be guaranteed in the future.
  4. Being a childless woman at the age of 40 does not make you a failure or less of a woman. My self-worth is not determined by whether or not I choose to have children. I am a kind and nurturing woman, aunt, and godmother. I love the sh*t out of those tiny humans, and would do anything for them.
  5. It’s okay to be private about your dating life or relationship, but not secretive. No one needs to know the intricacies of your love life. However, do be honest. Secrecy breeds shame and lies. Most of all, please be safe, especially when dating someone new. Let someone know where and who you are meeting for the first time. Also, trust your intuition.
  6. Get curious about the things and activities that cultivate joy. You will learn a lot about yourself. You may just meet new friends, a support system, or even “your person” along the way.
  7. Change the old narrative. The story of who you used to be. This is by far the hardest, yet most freeing thing you can do for yourself. I had to let go of the narratives that carried brutal beliefs and patterns that desperately needed to be changed. I had to start releasing my victim mentality.
  8. You are enough. You were always enough. Never allow someone to diminish your self-worth and power, including yourself. Stand bravely, strongly, and confidently in your self-worth and power—even if that means standing alone.
  9. Embrace your entire being as you are currently, both inside and out. Don’t wait until you find inner peace or after you lose 10 pounds. Do it now. Own all your sh*t and watch your life transform.
  10. Take up space in this world and proudly use your voice for the betterment of yourself and others. You never know that you might be influencing someone silently sitting in the background.

Ultimately, I welcome leveling up to 40 with an open heart, mind, and arms outstretched. Ready to hug the sh*t out of myself for coming this far in life. Thankful to be taking all that I’ve learned with me into this next phase of my life.

However, if a pumpkin does happen to turn into a carriage that takes me to what better be a rockin’ party on my 40th birthday, be damn sure I’m getting in that carriage. Also, f*ck that glass slipper. I’m not a damsel in distress who needs a symbol to represent my beauty or identity. This lady will probably be wearing boots or Vans anyway (those don’t slip off, especially while dancing).

As for Prince Charming, I’m not interested. I’m too old for f*cking fairy-tale nonsense. I already rescued myself. I’d rather have a partner. Someone to support me. A man to cocreate a life with—a conscious coupling—a decision where we both choose each other daily, and do the relationship work together, along with our own self-care, work, and growth. But until then, I know being single is not a curse. It is something I am actively choosing.

In the end, I’m unsure what my 40th birthday will bring me, but I do know this much: it has been one hell of a ride up until this point. I am grateful to still be here as the woman I am today.

Besides, even if I do end up celebrating my birthday home alone in soft clothes, I know there will be lemon cupcakes and a movie starring Jason Momoa waiting just for me.

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author: Leah Dreja

Image: Alessandro Valli / Flickr

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Editor: Julie Balsiger