On Being 30 and Single

Pardon me for the radio silence…I’ve been chugging away on my afghan (about 3/4 of the way finished now on the main portion and I just got the yarn in the border color a couple of days ago), but other than that I’ve been dealing with general blogger’s block.  That is, until yesterday.  Let’s see, I recently started emailing an old friend of mine from when I was attending college (I only attended for three semesters at a local community college before dropping out due to financial and transportation problems, and I still have aspirations to return someday to finish the associate’s degree I started; this friend and I attended the same high school, graduating a year apart, but we didn’t meet until college), and when I informed him of my brother’s wedding date, he responded with a somewhat cynical email about all of his friends’ marriages that he’d seen fall apart.  I kindly let him know how cynical he sounded, and his response and my reply ended up being quite reflective of something that I don’t think gets talked about a lot in a real, honest manner: the experience of being a single thirtysomething.  What follows is reflective of my experience, and my experience alone, of being single and in my thirties (granted, I am only four months into being in my thirties, but I am in my thirties).

I don’t have much of a dating history, just one date in high school to my senior prom, and that was 12 years ago.  I haven’t been on a date since, and while it bugged me quite a bit in my 20s, it doesn’t bug me so much anymore now in my 30s.  Sure, I get the occasional questions asking why I don’t have a boyfriend or (on rare occasions) the assumption that because I don’t have a boyfriend that I’m into girls (sorry, I have no interest in playing with other ladies’ fun parts), but otherwise, it doesn’t bother me and I don’t care if it bothers anyone else.  Other than that one date, I really have no other experience other than that of being perpetually single. It hasn’t been easy, but I tend to approach this with the mindset that I’d rather date few men of quality than a sizable quantity of men and hoping I strike gold.  Unfortunately for me, there aren’t a lot of quality men where I live.  Where I live, the ones that aren’t married are the type where I take one look at them and I know I could do better.  Most of the quality men where I live have usually had the sense to move away to pursue better opportunities than what’s necessarily available in small town and suburban Florida.  And what remains are men of simpler means and simpler needs, the kind that like to go four-wheeling, mudding, or fishing.  I have never been an outdoors type of person.  Not a lot of these men are into reading the kind of books I like to read, or would be willing to pay attention to my thinking out loud about my knitting or other creative endeavors, or share my ideas and opinions on things that matter to me.  Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong part of the country.  I’m the kind of girl who knows what she likes and knows what she needs in a potential boyfriend or husband: I need someone who challenges me mentally; who is a voice of encouragement in whatever I decide to do; and who will allow me to be my own ridiculous, opinionated, goofy, intuitive self without trying place his own expectations on me and holding me up to be something I can’t.  I’m, among other things, a terrible housekeeper, a pretty good cook, a somewhat masculine woman in personality (though I am not above wearing a dress or a shorter skirt when I want to feel feminine, which isn’t very often), and unashamed of my geekdom.  I know by this point I will never be a girly-girl, a supermodel/beauty queen, June Cleaver, or a trophy wife…but I hope I can still be a nice match for somebody.  I know at this point in my life, though, I am not settling for anything.  I deserve the best, and I’m okay with admitting it.

It seems like society often looks down on people my age who are still single.  And true, a lot of people in my age group are starting to marry and have families of their own.  And yet, no matter if it’s the government or a religious group, most social institutions seem to value people more if they’re married: married people get tax breaks, married people get to have children without being judged for having them out of wedlock, married people are more trustworthy because the single person might try to *gasp* sleep with your spouse!  Sometimes it feels like in the eyes of society, though I may not be worthless, because I am single I am literally worth less in social capital.  Now, all this may have been an issue in my twenties, but honestly, now that I’m in my thirties, I don’t care.

I think I’m happier now being single at 30 than I was being single at 20; part of it is just understanding myself a little better as a person and being able to own my flaws, and the other part is just the fact that there isn’t really any pressure for me to fit in anymore. In your twenties, you’re coming out of adolescence and trying to find your place in the world, and people place a lot of expectations on you; in your thirties, you’re more assured of yourself and feeling more confident in your own decisions and aspirations. I feel no personal pressure to date, I feel no pressure to marry, and I feel no pressure to have a child.  I’ve accepted the possibility that my life may not necessarily include a husband or children. I could be happier when it comes to things I want to do in life (career, education, traveling, et cetera), but where I am right now is where I’m needed.  I could be happier with how I feel about my looks, but then again, it’s all superficial anyway.  But I’m content with where my life is right now for the first time in a long time.  I’m not angry with the world.  I’m not angry at anyone.  And I’m not angry with where life has taken me.  I could be happy, but if content is all the universe wants to give me right now, then I’m okay with it.  At this point I am just along for the ride, and I hope I can get as much out of life as I can.  I wasted my twenties with fear, anger, and cynicism.  I hope I won’t do the same with my thirties.

I hope other single thirtysomethings out there can take some solace in my thoughts and know that their worth is not determined by their relationship or marital status.  And those that do have love in their lives, know that what you have is rare, special, and something that not everyone will get a chance to experience in this life.  Cherish it, treasure it, and don’t let small things get in the way of the bigger picture.  And to those out there perpetually single like me, don’t fret over it; take the opportunity to learn great things about yourselves, appreciate all of your strengths and own your flaws, and don’t be afraid to put yourself first.  Singlehood should no longer be a scarlet letter, a badge of shame.  Singlehood may be a part of my life, but it doesn’t define my life.  I’m a geek, a knitter, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger, and a smartass who just happens to be 30 and single.

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Bumble

Idea for this post taken from this prompt.

Dictionaries define the word “bumble” as a verb referring to the act of moving, acting, or speaking in an awkward or confused manner.

Sometimes I feel like I am the epitome of the word “bumble”.  I think back on choices I have made over the years, and I realize that my path to finding myself has not been a straight line, but a meandering path with a lot of dead ends and backtracks.  I think back on even the littlest things, and I wonder: what if I had stuck with band class in sixth grade instead of quitting after just a couple of days?  What if I had taken that driver’s education class?  What if I had said yes to that boy who had asked me to go to a dance with him when I was 14 and not bowed to the pressure of my parents (who thought I was too young at the time)?  What if I hadn’t dropped out of college?  What if I had been able to find steady work?  What if I’d been more assertive about myself and my ideas and opinions?  And even now, I see so many possibilities for my future, but my own personal path has so many forks in the road that I don’t know how to go about it.  In my 30 years so far, I have bumbled through my life without so much of an idea of where I want it to go.  And it bugs the crap out of me.

It bugs the crap out of me because I know I should be doing better things.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I should’ve already had an idea of what I want to do with my life now.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I’ve disappointed my family.  It bugs the crap out of me because I feel like I’ve disappointed myself.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s a common view in my generation.  Why do so many of us have such a lack of personal fulfillment?  How do we deal with all these crossroads in our lives and pick a path that not only leads to self-sufficiency but also to self-fulfillment?  How do we make our own lives and preserve our happiness at the same time?  Do we have to sacrifice happiness to become self-sufficient or can we have both?  How can we escape the constant feeling of bumbling through life and actually take control?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that question right now, but there is one thing I have figured out in my first 30 years so far: it’s okay to not know all the answers.  Hopefully, my not knowing doesn’t resign itself to complacency and results in my life ending with no purpose, meaning, or fulfillment.  I hope to be able to answer that question someday.  I hope a lot of people in my generation going through the same challenges are able to answer that question as well.

Local

Local

Locus.  Locality.  Location.  Location, location, location.  Local.  We all know what the word “local” means when we look it up in a dictionary: Adjective.  Referring to something nearby.  But what does “local” mean to each and every one of us?  I cannot speak for the other billions of human beings on this planet, but I can speak for myself.

I prefer not to share my exact location online, but any of you who follow my dear friend The Lady Bryan on here know that she used to live in Florida for several years, and the town that I live in neighbors both of the towns that she used to live in.  I live within driving distance of both Daytona Beach and Orlando and we can get to either location in an hour or less.

My town is a bit peculiar for what one would expect of a Southern town.  For one, it’s not a small town.  At least, not by stereotypical standards.  Our population is in the five figures, home to at least 10,000 people.  I’ve lived in this town for nearly 30 years (my family moved here when I was about 5 months old, well before my brother was born), and in those 30 years, I’ve seen my town evolve from a somewhat sleepy little place to a hustling, bustling, busy suburb.  I remember when the stretch of road that connects my town to the two nestled next to it had more trees than restaurants lining it.  My town’s side of that road is filled today with all sorts of chain eateries, gas stations, doctor’s offices, stores and boutiques, and a hospital where a vast stretch of Florida scrub once was.  I remember when the area where the local high school now stands was once a dense collection of sand, pine trees, and “secret” forts that the neighborhood kids would build.  My neighborhood itself has changed very little.  My neighborhood has always been a very hilly place, ranch-style houses lining the terrain around every peak and every dip.  Walking around this neighborhood certainly will give one’s legs a workout, better than any inclining treadmill could give you. 

I’ve always been a bit wary of many of my neighbors, possibly a consequence of my own overly cautious personality, but the ones I’ve managed to get to know are some of the nicest people you’ll meet.  A sweet Latino family lives just around the corner from us, our backyards adjacent to each other.  The guy just across the street from us is a single father doing his very best to raise his youngest child right, and he knows he has challenges ahead of him because his little girl has just become a teenager.  He divorced his little girl’s mother years ago, and sadly his little girl’s mother has since passed away.  His little girl, or as my mother likes to call her, “Little Bit”, is an incredibly outgoing, vivacious young lady of thirteen who loves to dance, tumble, and strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, even if the “anyone” isn’t really feeling up to it.  Next door to the single father and his Little Bit, is a couple we’ve known for years.  We’ve watched their three boys grow up over the years.  I remember when the middle son, who was just a little over a year older than me, decided to marry his girlfriend before they even finished high school.  They had three children together, but their ending was not a happy one.  His wife, who I later learned had been afflicted with all sorts of health issues, died at the young age of 24, leaving my childhood friend a widower with three young kids before he turned 25.  He and his children moved in with his parents and his younger brother until he could get back on his feet and find a place of their own, which he eventually did.  The kids still come to visit their grandparents pretty often.   Across the street in the other direction is a retired couple with a lot of dogs.  The wife likes to garden and maintains a lovely looking set of plants in their front yard.  The husband usually can be seen tinkering with things, common with the men in my neck of the woods.  Before them, a gay couple lived there; we would sometimes see them at bingo, and they even gave me some crocheting supplies after seeing me crochet at a bingo night.  And before them, a couple with three kids around my age lived there.  I was friends with the oldest daughter, who was a grade behind me in school.  I remember being sad when she told me her family was moving to North Carolina when I was, I think, in third grade.  I sometimes wonder how that family is doing now.  Unfortunately I don’t have Facebook (and I have no cell phone to start one).  Our neighborhood is relatively quiet.  Of course, you also notice some of the more colorful characters: the rednecks living on one street near us, a Mexican-American family living around the corner on another, both of which announce their presence with the numerous cars that dot the front yards (I think I may have seen five different cars parked in the rednecks’ front yard at some point).  There’s another redneck man who can be seen walking his little Dachshund mix some mornings, which drives my own dog nuts even though he can’t come through her window.  Sometimes when we go walking, we can see him and his wife sitting in some armchairs set up in their garage with pedestal fans running, just watching the passers-by.  We even talk to him on occasion.

Local, for me, has so much more going for it than the places.  Any location can make it a place, but it doesn’t come alive until you get to know the characters that inhabit it.  And the memories you make as you inhabit it give that location meaning.  Local, for me, is an experience.  And the great thing is that no two people, even within the same family, will have the exact same experience.  Local is life, imagery, color.  That’s the difference between just a place and a home.

Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Summer’s Door

This Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States.  While the day itself is meant to be a somber one (as it commemorates our war dead), this particular day also represents a turning point in our cultural calendar: the unofficial start to summer (the actual summer solstice takes place about 3 weeks or so later).  Many schools end their academic year right about now (some a few weeks earlier, others a few weeks later), the Sun’s rays seem to arrive with greater intensity as our Hemisphere leans closer and closer towards the Sun as our Earth orbits, and especially for Florida, the thunderstorms start to clap and flash and soak us at greater frequency.  It all sounds lovely, but…it’s my least favorite season.

Seriously?!  A Florida-born woman who doesn’t like summer?!  Heresy!  Sacrilege!  Traitor!!!!

Yep, I said it.  I don’t care much for summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the blue sky is out with nary a cloud in the sky, but…the heat.  The burning, blistering, so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, don’t you dare walk barefoot on the street or you’ll get blisters, time to get out your Blue blockers on to keep the Sun out of your eyes heat!  We regularly experience temperatures of at least 90° F here during the summer.  If you want to take a walk here, you better bring lots of water.  Shade can come at a premium around here, but it feels oh so good when you manage to find some.  And don’t get me started on the humidity.  Oh yeah, it’s usually not a dry heat around here.  The humidity around here is so ubiquitous this time of year, that it seems like sometimes you need to cut through the mugginess with a machete.

So…what do I like about summer? Well…

The beaches and the swimming pools begin to fill with people looking to escape the heat.  It’s been years since I’ve been to a beach, but I can still recall the briny aroma that comes off of the ocean, and the din of the waves crashing onto each other and onto the sand.  I can recall the memories of minnows swimming around in the shallows as the water beckons them towards the open sea.  I can see myself, swimsuit-clad, just sitting in the shallows, allowing the water to splash over my legs.  I know I’m not a very strong swimmer…I dare not even think of going out too deep into the water.  I watch the seagulls swooping in and out of the sand and waves.  But that scent…I can never get enough of the smell of seawater.

Inland, the trees are resplendent in beautiful shades of green.  The bugs fly around trying to dive-bomb by my ears, as if they know how much the sound of their wings beating against the hot, humid air annoys me to the core.  Gnats attempt to infiltrate my eyelashes as I sit in the shade, knitting, and my dog enjoys her sunbath.  I see her sprawled out on a sunny patch of grass, her nose in the air looking for a scent and her tongue ever-so-slightly hanging out of her mouth…not so much out of heat, but out of sheer happiness.  (Believe me, when she’s hot, her ears warm up and her tongue is hanging way out of her mouth like it’s trying to escape it.). She turns to get the other side of her body warm, as I continue to knit.  The mockingbirds are out in full force, chasing anything and everything that dares to come near their nests: crows, buzzards, even squirrels.  (I can vouch for that: I saw two mockingbirds chasing a squirrel through a tree across the street from me this morning.).  The cardinals, dressed in feathers of red, continue to make their tweets loud and clear…I’m sure their songs are longer than 140 characters.  😉   But what I really notice is the buzzing of the cicadas from the tops of the numerous pine trees that call my part of Florida home.  The buzzes migrate from tree to tree, in a sort of call-and-response echo that I can hear all around me.  First from one tree off in the distance behind me, then they come closer and closer to me, until the closest tree to me is singing with cicadas in one loud buzz.  When these cicadas die and fall off the trees, the appearance of one’s corpse is kinda uneasy on me, due to their sheer size.  They make the beetles that like to crawl near my front door on these summer nights look tiny.

But my favorite part of summer, the one thing that gets me through these long days, is baseball.  I get excited for the games that come on during those summer days.  I scour the TV guide in the hopes I’ll be able to watch a favorite team of mine play.  More often than not, I usually end up watching the Boston Red Sox, a team whose 86-year-long curse was the stuff of legends (of course, rivaled only by the 108-year curse that the Chicago Cubs finally broke last year).  My mother’s family had their roots in New England, and this part of the country holds a very special place in my and my family’s hearts.  Though the Red Sox are no longer the underdogs they once were, they still have me as a part of their dedicated Red Sox Nation, and they are the only American League I regularly root for (or support, if you’re Australian, as I hear that “root” means something very different in Australian English).  In the National League, I cheer on both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs because of the connection they have to my dad.  When he was just 9 years old, my dad and his family moved from Indiana to Florida, and back in those days the only baseball team you could watch or listen to in Florida was the Braves.  He still waxes poetic about guys like Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and later on the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and the Central Florida native Chipper Jones.  The Chicago Cubs, though, were my Granny’s team.  She was a fan of the North Siders for as long as I could remember, until the day she died.  She died only four years before they finally broke their curse.  I am a fourth-generation Cubs fan: in addition to my grandmother, her dad (my great-grandfather) and my dad have also been supporters.  And it wasn’t just them, either.  My dad has cousins who are Cubs fans, and where they come from in Northwest Indiana, many of the people there are Cubs fans.  But enough on fandom.

What I love about baseball is so much more than balls and strikes, hits and runs, batting averages and on-base percentages.  It’s about camaraderie, between fans or between teammates.  It’s about the moments of drama in a close game, wondering if this pitch will be the pitch, the one that could turn a game around for my team.  It’s about memorable moments, whether it’s David Ortíz launching a game-tying grand slam into the Boston bullpen in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS or Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo recording the final out of the 2016 World Series or Clayton Kershaw throwing a no-hitter.  It’s about rising and falling with the tide of a game, and keeping your hands clenched together in hope or prayer until the final out is recorded or a team walks it off.  I don’t get much emotional adrenaline rushes in other sports.  These things help me get through the summer.

I don’t know what this summer will have in store, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Perhaps I will learn to like this summer better than previous summers, perhaps not.  I’d hate to be a seer who knows everything in the future…knowing everything would probably drive me mad.  I much prefer life’s element of surprise.

May your summer be a good one.

Blogger’s Block

Have you ever tried to find inspiration for your writing only to have no effing clue what to write about?  It’s like that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie’s writer’s block in between relationships is so bad that she writes an entire column comparing her search for the perfect man to looking for a French fry and was about to write another one comparing men to socks.  Mine right now is pretty bad.  It’s bad enough that there isn’t enough random stuff going on right now to qualify for a “Randomly…” post.  I wrote a post over the weekend that will be posted next month to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that hit me and many Floridians pretty hard in our hearts.  Otherwise, I haven’t had much go on.

So I guess the topic of this post is about the lack of a topic.  Or more precisely, how we manage to write ourselves out of it.

Where do we find inspiration anyway?  I often find that inspiration for my various writings, projects, and ideas often come when I’m not looking for it.  I’m not the kind of person who can force themselves to write.  I can’t force myself to write a poem, because if I wrote a poem for the sake of writing a poem, I would find the quality of it to be…crap.  Complete and utter crap.  I find my best writing comes from my heart.  My best ideas don’t come from mentally taking magnetic letters and throwing them at a board to see what sticks.  That afghan I’ve been working on since March?  I started it when I found some old scrap yarn that I had rolled up into a Frankenball of yarn and decided to see if I could start an afghan from that yarn.  I liked the color scheme so much that I decided to continue on with it.

I find the creative process goes along a little more easily for me when I don’t pressure myself to write…even when it comes to this post.  Yes, it does come across in a style of stream of consciousness, but I can immediately tell that its quality is much less static and sanitized, which is what I sound like when I force myself to write.  It reminds me of all those essays for various English classes that I had to write, and all I can think of after having read them over, many years later, was, “Man, those sucked.”  (At least they sucked from an average, everyday reader’s standpoint.  From an academic standpoint, most of them were perfectly acceptable.).  My writing back then was very robotic and formulaic.  I’ve only ever taken one creative writing class (my freshman year of high school, and even then I don’t remember much of it), and I don’t think I remember a single thing I learned in that class.  I’ve learned more about my writing style over the years from just writing, be it in my journals or my notebook where I write my poems.  An individual’s own writing style cannot be taught in school, he or she has to discover it for themselves, through experience, both in life and in the very act of writing.

How’s that for trying to work through blogger’s block?  Sometimes I have to write by the seat of my pants, but in the end, I think this was a pretty nice result for an effort of experimental, impulsive writing.