The Vocabulary of Singleness: From Shame to Messy Celebration

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I really don’t want to be known as the girl who always writes about singleness. Like if there was a list of ways to make yourself un-dateable, talking about how single you are all the time is probably towards the top of that list. However, it is probably a step below becoming a foster parent at 21, which is another thing I’ve considered, so I think I’ll embrace the possibility of accidentally becoming the poster child for singleness.

Singleness is a topic that is not super fun to talk about and even harder (and weirder) to do while you are still currently single. When you’re in the thick of it all, it can feel daunting and embarrassing and like talking about it means that you hate your life, are codependent, or have no dreams outside of relationships. Lies. Lies. A whole lot of lies.

Shame is what convinces us to stay silent – to not be willing to get messy and vulnerable and honest. Shame is about hiding. It’s about feeling fake and that if you let people in, they aren’t going to like what they see. Singleness is a topic that we’ve covered, coated, and sprinkled in shame.

There’s this presumption that if you talk candidly about singleness you are angry or depressed or needy or not dependent on God. Honestly, I’m none of those things. I am incredibly happy and love my life. Being a somewhat “hip” twenty-something surrounded by creatives and world changers with adventures around every turn is so freaking fun. I don’t view relationships as the beginning or the end of fully living life – just getting to sharing it with another person.

In Christian culture, there seems to be so many mixed signals of definitive statements and honestly, it’s both frustrating and confusing. We push being content in your singleness while at the same time praising marriage as the end-all-be-all. We tend to project this idea that marriage is a prize – a spouse is something you achieve if you do everything right, are blissfully content, and sprinkle some magic fairy dust in your bedtime prayers. Life is so much more messy and complex than that.

For example: please, do not tell me one more time to focus on becoming a better gift.

The reason I am single is not because I’m not a good enough gift.

Lies. Shame. No.

That’s implying that I am not enough. And that if you are in a relationship, it makes you more “enough” than I am. It implies you’re a better gift, potential spouse, and human than I am. I’m not going to believe that lie. Aint nobody got time for that sort of comparison and condemnation. Now if you use that phrase, there’s grace and I’ve said stuff along those lines before too. We get to move past that to tweaking how we talk.

That’s why I write about singleness – to extend the conversation and hopefully figure out how to change the vocabulary to allow people the freedom they need to live their lives without condemnation or shame. I don’t pretend to be an expert, I’m still working through lies and mental patterns that are destructive. This is what I am learning though as I seek the mind of Christ and critically examine this season of my own life.

The biggest lie I’ve identified is that of “enough-ness.” That because I am single, I am somehow less-than. That I need to do or be something more in order to be good enough for a relationship or for a guy to choose me. Getting really real here, this is a list of my own lies that I’ve believed:

  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I haven’t traveled the world.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I can cook a mean crockpot soup.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because of my family past and baggage.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I’m doing cool things with my life like starting a photography business and running a strip club outreach.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I struggle to keep my bedroom clean.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I have certain talents, giftings, or callings.”

No. This stems from a view that our worth is wrapped up in what we do. It’s performance mentality. It’s striving. It’s bondage. It’s religion. It sucks.

Identity is the core. I am hidden in Christ. I am seated in heavenly places. I have been crucified and raised.freaking.again. I am a kid and coheir in the Kingdom. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am redeemed, restored, and set free. I am enough because Jesus gives me His “enough-ness.” Do we really get this? Like truly? My life’s worth is unchanging. So is yours.

Is it sometimes easier to work on our junk while being single? For some people, yes.

Are there some areas in our lives that may need some serious growing or adaptation when we get into a relationship or get married? Yeah, life is full of processes.

Do some people take longer until they want to be in a committed relationship? Definitely.

Is it always the best idea to get into a relationship if you’re going through a big crisis, have a current addiction, or are emotionally unhealthy? Probs not.

What I am saying is that I am no more and no less enough in my singleness than my awesome married friends are. Marriage isn’t a Mecca or a state of enlightenment. They didn’t do something right that earned them their relationship, it was just that the life tapestry that God is weaving for them happened to include a spouse earlier on than mine. My engaged roommate is amazing at not giving off the vibe that she is better because of her relationship status – in fact, she’s one of the coolest, humblest, accepting, and validating people ever.

Now, I know that no one is trying to give off a bad vibe. No one intentionally is out to get single people. It just creeps into out attitude and is worth taking a look at in order to do some self-examining. That’s really all I ask for – let’s be willing to ask questions and see if the way we talk about singleness, relationships, and marriage is promoting lies about identity and worth.

I just want to live in the fullness of freedom and see others do the same. I want us to just admit that we don’t have cut and dry answers as to why some people get married earlier than others. It’s not a formula. There’s no “get married quick” scheme that will result in a perfect life. People are individuals and we all are living unique stories with twisty, messy plot lines. It’s part of the beauty. Let’s not let that beauty be under attack by over-glorifying any particular plot lines or plot points. Let’s make room for messy – for honesty and individuality.

Above all, can we just celebrate each other more? More high fives, hugs, dance parties, cake, and presents all around no matter what your life looks like. For that result, I’d gladly become the poster child of singleness.

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Necessary Paranoia || Life as a Female

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It was around 10:30 pm and I had just wrapped up a collaborative photography project for an anti trafficking group with a local male photographer. We had done some shots with a model and then we took some night cityscapes of downtown to be used for the website for the group we were both a part of. Afterwards, I went to his apartment that he shares with several other guys to load my pictures onto his computer. It was right downtown, only about a block from where my car was parked. Yet after we were done with the photos, I had to ask him to walk me back to my car.

It’s one of those things that as a woman, you are forced to be painfully aware of. We had just talked about how downtown was a major hot spot for human trafficking, so as an eighteen year old girl, walking a block through a dark ally was just not going to happen. It’s not the first time, and as I leave home for a college campus, definitely wont be the last.

I am an amateur runner. This May I started training to run and I love to take sunset runs down country roads nearby my house. I also love to have music in my earbuds to motivate me and I track all my stats on my iPhone. Yet I can’t really go running on bike trails nearby. Once, I tried to go over to this super awesome bike trail about a mile away and ran for about two miles over the hills on a beautiful day. But you know what? I felt so paranoid the entire time. My mother raised me with a heavy sense of Stranger Danger. I used to have nightmares growing up about being kidnapped. Since I was thirteen, I’ve been involved in anti trafficking efforts and have heard so many stories about girls being raped and trafficked in my own state. And yes, I’ve probably watched one too many crime shows that involve a female runner getting murdered on trails.

If I am single in my twenties, after grad school is finished and I’m “settled down,” I have no doubt that I’ll get a large dog. While I am a dog person, I would get a large one despite my preference for small dogs simply for safety purposes. That way I can go running and hiking and can sleep soundly knowing that even if my pooch is a softy at heart, he/she will scare off any intruder.

Within my first semester at college, I plan to take a self defense class. I also feel the need to get my conceal and carry permit. Which as a pacifist who can’t even watch movies with much violence because she can’t stop thinking of the souls of the people, that makes my heart heavy. Yet I am a young, single female who’s life goal is to work with survivors of human trafficking. I also plan to do a lot of work with troubled youth and women who have been abused, including domestic abuse. It’s not the safest life path to take. Therefore, I have to take precautions while also acknowledging that I could do everything right and still end up in an unsafe situation. (Note: because rape is NOT a woman’s fault. Repeat. DO NOT blame the VICTIM.)

And do you know what? I hate everything I had to write thus far. I hate it with a passion in my heart. I hate that I live in a world where I have to remember to “park under streetlights” if I go to a grocery store after dark. I hate that I can’t walk back to my dorm room by myself after working out at the wellness center across campus. I hate that I don’t feel comfortable going to parties in college because you never know when your drink could be spiked and you could wind up waking up with some vague recollection of being raped.

This is not the world that I want to live in. This is not the world that I want my friends and family to be living in. This is not the world that I want to raise my daughters in. I do not want to live in necessary paranoia just because I happen to be of a certain gender. I don’t want to live in this gut wrenching anticipation that my mentally handicapped sister will likely be taken advantage of in her lifetime because she’s pretty and vulnerable.

No, no, no. This is not what I dream of for myself or for women anywhere.

I dream of backpacking through Europe by myself.

I dream of hiking mountains.

I dream of solo camping.

I dream of going on a cross country road trip in a vintage camper by myself.

I dream of being able to walk to my car at night without twitching at every sound.

Not only do I dream of a world like this, but I want to do whatever it takes to get the world even a bit closer to that goal. Because I do not want to have my daughter someday to have to continually ask men to walk her back to her car. I want my daughters to feel as safe on the streets as my sons.

Am I crazy and delusional? Maybe.

Do I still hold on to hope? Absolutely.

Meet the Jua Project

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One year ago, I sat in my economics class and I was introduced to the concept of social entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, it’s the idea that you can take a business and use it for good. In that class I was also introduced to the concept of micro-loans and how women being able to start businesses provided excellent returns on investments as well as broke cycles of poverty in third world countries. I have fallen in love with the concept of using business and turning it into something that brings a bit of good to this world. I believe with all my heart in the ability of capable people with big dreams being able to make a real difference in the world. This is the reason why I’m going into Advertising and PR, because I want to be a megaphone for the dreamers and the doers.

Currently, I have the opportunity to partner with a group that is all about dreaming and doing. I would like to introduce you to Jua Project.

What is Jua Project? Well, they are an organization that works with a group of 9 women in Kenya. They teach these women to make paper beads that they turn into jewelry to sell on Etsy and back in the US. They pay these women for their time and teach them valuable skills. Their goal is to make these women self sufficient and able to provide for themselves and their children. Not only do they work with these women, but they have a Bible study that has about 100 people attending. Jua Project seeks to provide hope in every sense of the word.

One of the cool things about Jua Project is that they also have a US base. This is the business side of things. The dreaming and planning and fundraising side of what they do that makes the rest of the work possible. This base happens to be in Moorhead, MN – right across the river from where I will be attending school at NDSU.

About a month ago, I was contacted by a facebook friend who spent a good portion of last year in Kenya working with the Jua Project. She said they were looking for someone to help with media. Well, I can’t say no to doing something I love for an amazing organization! I’m so excited to get to volunteer with Jua and be a part of this really life changing and personal work in the lives of these beautiful women.

Why is it so important? Because this work, this work of training women and giving them a source of income is vital to both ending poverty and ending human trafficking. There needs to be ways for women to bring in money for their families since they are often the most vulnerable and most abused in places like the Kenyan slums. The ability to help these women provide for their families means that their children are taken care of and have a chance of breaking the cycles of poverty. Jua Project keeps these women safe from exploitation, homelessness, and starvation.

If you would like to poke your hands into the work going on with Jua, there are several ways to give. Firstly, you can buy some of the jewelry made by these women. It’s beautiful and you’ll feel a special connection knowing that it comes from these beautiful women who are working so hard to get by. You can also sponsor one of the women for $10 a month (or more if you want… no one is arguing!) or give a one time donation. For sure, get to know these women and hear their stories. I’m sure that they will inspired you even if you are unable to give financially at the moment.

{Also, if you are a creative, then please consider entering the t-shirt design contest. We are really excited to be involving more and more people into this journey and are attempting to give everyone more chances to get involved.}

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As you may be able to see, this is a group that I am passionate about and excited to support. The work they are doing is beautiful and meaningful and being able to fix technical glitches and promote contests for them is something that gives me great joy. Ultimately, it comes down to the saying that I’ve been told has become a mantra for Jua, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I Didn’t Want to be a Feminist

Courtesy of Hannah Nicole

“I like to help women help themselves, as that is, in my opinion, the best way to settle the woman question. Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think any one will deny us.” – Louisa May Alcott

 I didn’t want to be a feminist.

Growing up homeschooled, being a “feminist” was a dirty thing. Those were the women who want to burn bras and turn all the fairy tales into woman saving herself. Those were the women who didn’t believe in femininity and wanted to act like men. Those were the women who were ruining our society with over-sexualizing everything.

Then, the strangest thing happened around a year ago – I realized that I was a feminist.

The idea sort of shocked me at first. Not just the idea that I could be in favor of property rights and equal pay – I was never against those things. It was the idea that I was extremely passionate about women’s rights as a whole. I was passionate about the fact that my gender did not make me one ounce lesser of a person in any way than my male counterparts. I was passionate that girls should receive a proper education in every corner of the globe. I was passionate that rape was never a woman’s fault and recognized the horrific double sexual standard that permeates our world. I was passionate about utilizing social entrepreneurship and micro loans to females in order to curb poverty in third world nations. I was passionate about human trafficking victims getting a chance at a new life by not prosecuting them, but the men who sell and buy them from sex.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure I was born a feminist.

I’ve always been a feisty little spit fire, ready to take on the world with as much screaming, kicking, and spitting as I needed to. It’d probably be because you insulted my doll’s “realness” and my maternal instinct just went into overdrive. Please, you can’t blame a kid for having spunk. My catch phrase as a toddler was “Ea do it!” See, I was the type of girl who was obsessed with Jane Eyre at the age of seven. Yes, that amazing piece of nineteenth century feminist overtone literature that involves a plain and penniless governess falling in love with a rich man only to assert her free will to leave him in order to stay true to her morals. Uh huh… that’s what I told people my favourite book was when I was seven. They should have known I’d grow up to be a feminist then and there.

I also really liked hatchets. And chopping down trees. And Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. And worms. And make believe. And fishing. And reading. And crafts. And more reading. And my dolls. And dancing. Even though I was never very good at it. Too much facial expression, not enough coordination. 

It wasn’t just my all-over-the-place-do-what-I-want interests that set me up to be a feminist. It was also what made me passionate, even at the age of six. I was determined at the age of six that I was going to go off to India someday and take care of girls. I was inspired by Amy Carmichael and her story of rescuing temple prostitutes – so I decided then and there that I was going to go do something crazy with my life. My independence ran deep. As did my desire for other girls to live a full life.

 That desire never really changed. 

When I was thirteen, I read a book about modern day slavery and I wanted to do something. So I decided to try to get my church to collect loose change through Zach Hunter‘s Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign. During that process, I started digging more and more into the world of human trafficking and especially sex trafficking. Not only did I read up on the dramatic problem in India, I came to realize that sex trafficking was a problem in my own backyard among girls my own age. While to many others, I seemed too young to care about the problem, the fact is, thirteen is the average age of entry into prostitution and if girls my age were enduring this – I certainly wasn’t too young to try to help. I wanted to see other girls, not that different from me, live a better life.

My life has not been perfect thus far. In my family there has been physical illness, job loss, mental illness, and many struggles. Yet I have also been very blessed. I have a loving family, always have had food and shelter, and I have been emotionally cared for and protected. All throughout my life, I think I had a craving to get the most life had to offer – and for others to get that too.

Not too long ago, I heard a trafficking survivor share her story. She was seventeen when she moved to Minneapolis and started selling her body; the same age I am now. It breaks my heart every time I think of how astoundingly full my life has been and how much I wish that every woman could experience what I have.

I am an empowered female. I’m educated, an entrepreneur, confident in my body and sexuality, and among other things am able to be myself and speak my mind without fear.

While it took me many years before I could admit to the label of feminist, I know today that I am a feminist not because it’s the “hip” thing to do, but because I truly believe that all human beings have an innate and equal worth. I want to see each and every one of them live a healthy and whole life. I want to see every man, woman, and child come to a right relationship with God. I believe that God’s design for the genders was to make us different, but still to make us equals. I believe that women are created as beautiful and unique individuals – individuals with rights and ability and a voice.

 At the core of my beliefs, I believe we are each created with an innate worth as well as with a broken heart. We live in a corrupt world and we have corruption in our souls. This life is a fight and a longing for something better than what we have and something better than we have ever seen. This whole feminism thing is not even in fighting for what I deserve, it’s in realizing that I have more than I deserve and I want others to receive more than they deserve. I want more for myself. I want more for the women who stand beside me. I’m not ashamed for wanting more.

Ultimately, the term feminist means so many different things to different people. There’s a spectrum and there are so many different ways of looking at the term, yet this is how I define a feminist: someone who is fighting from their heart outwards for something better for women than what they currently have and have ever had before. 

What I Didn’t Know About Being “Different”

As I clutched the abridged copy of Jane Eyre to my chest, they told me such magical things. They told be that being special and unique was good. They told me that I’d grow up to marry some amazing man and have adorable children without even trying. They told me that the smart people were the ones that would succeed. They told me that kindness was the cornerstone of all relationships with other human beings. They told me that I’d be radiant. That I’d be beautiful. That I’d be smart. That I’d be different and it’d all be wonderful. No one warned be about high school.

 No one warned be about the perils of being a smart girl. No one told me that little girls who hide away reading in their crawlspaces grow up to eat lunch in an abandoned stairwell because they don’t quite fit into the real world. No one told me that I’d be mocked on the internet for contributing to class discussions. No one told me that if I got lazy and careless with my intellect, that I was so capable of failure.
No one warned me about boys. No one told me that smart guys go for dumb girls and dumb guys go for dumb girls and the smart girls are often left twiddling their thumbs. No one told me that the Christian boys would be outnumbered by the Christian girls in every situation. No one told me that a boy could be wonderful, smart, kind, funny, and not have Jesus. No one told me how I was going to watch everyone else fall in love. No one told me how much hormones were going to mess with my heart, my head, and everything that I thought I knew.
 No one told me that the attitude of “I’m going to get out of here and change the world” is not so different and rarely ends with a change. No one told me that if you were actually going to change this ol’ world, it’s really, really hard.
No one told me that being different would sometimes be the last thing I wanted to be. 
 And if they did, I didn’t listen. I brushed it off with a “that wont happen to me” and a little laugh at the world. I never guessed that I would ever have moments of yelling into the universe, “I don’t want to be different! I want to feel pretty and have a boyfriend and go to school dances with a real date and just fit in.”
 Yet a little straight iron to my hair, hollister to my wardrobe, and boy to my side will never satisfy me.
 See, there are moments when it’s all worth it. There are moments of knowing that in that very second you are doing what you were created to do, that which you would not do if you were normal.
 I walked out of a human trafficking awareness event last week and my heart was so full in knowing that THIS is what my soul was destined for. It didn’t matter that I am seen as weird by the majority of my small town. It didn’t matter that people five years younger than me have more experience with romance than I do. I was a part of something bigger than me, than boys, than small towns, than popularity, than whatever else distracts me.
 And while part of me still wants to show my school that I could indeed get a good looking date to a school dance, there’s much bigger things out there. Things that require being different. Things that are worth it all. And I fully intend to pursue them; living up to what I was told as a child, not to what I’ve felt in high school.

Instead of Falling in Love // Single Summers

 

 I can’t decide if listening to Taylor Swift may help this. If settling down with tea, popcorn, and my trustedjournal while blaring songs that are about that lil’ ol’ topic called love will be a cure. See, I have “Trouble” and “I Would Walk 500 Miles” in my spotify playlist right next to the tunes of Ingrid and Regina. They hum to me with dedication and admiration. One part Taylor Swift’s girl perspective – one part males crooning about their beaut’. This is probably not the best recipe for a single girl’s summer playlist.

 

 It seems that summer amplifies my own desire for romance.
 Can you blame me?

 

 My friends are off on dates at every turn. Even more friends are giddily saying, “we’re just best friends” in the midst of texts, talks, walks, letters, and eyes all telling a different story. The summer romcoms beckon and call. Camps are the perfect place for everyone to find a summer fling the Christian way which involves facebooking post camp until school rolls around. The air is sickly sweet with the smell of weddings, engagements, and googly eyed couples all making me smile politely while holding a bit of my heart back.

 

 There’s that part of my heart – maybe you’ve felt it too – that wants to have that boyfriend or that best friend with a bit more that everyone can see and you know that they are secretly planning their wedding.

 

 But that’s just not me. It breaks my heart at times, but it isn’t. God has said, “nope, this isn’t my plan for you. Not yet at least.” So here I am. Being me. Without a guy adoring me. And that’s okay. I can say that out loud, but truthfully, my heart is being a bit more stubborn.

 

 “So where’s your boyfriend?” asked a friend’s father as this very topic came up in conversation. I leaned on the picnic table, adding in a famous eye roll for dramatic effect. “He’s invisible. Or just hasn’t shown up yet.” Then I proceeded to tell the boys about my imaginary husband from childhood. His name was Pablo. We had a few hundred children. And the more I think about it, it’s okay that he hasn’t shown up yet saying “as you wish” with a British accent.

 

 See, instead of falling in love this summer, this is what I’m going to do:
  • Take an online Math class. Alg II to be exact.
  • Work lots and lots at VI. Maybe save up a bit.
  • Drive an hour to drink tea in Babbitt.
  • Attend camp with some of my dearest friends.
  • Read the Harry Potter series for the first time.
  • Re-read many of my favorite books.
  • Get tan. Ish.
  • Go camping in the boundary waters for the first time.
  • Get my PCA license for future use.
  • Counsel a gaggle of junior high girls and hopefully impact them to not fall for guys that say “swaggie”
  • Spend time with my sister and all her cute little friends. Tea parties y’all!
  • Dance like a maniac with my cousins at the wedding of the summer.
  • Road trip to Fargo and Minneapolis.
  • Go to the Not For Sale training in the cities.
  • See beautiful friends. Hopefully including a few blog friends.
  • Have “dates” with my single gal pals.
  • Listen to songs like “I Don’t Need a Soul” and “Gonna Get Over You” for moral support.
  • Not fall in love. And that’s okay.

Stop The Comparisons – We’re all Hot Messes

Source: elembee.com viaOlivia on Pinterest

 

 She’s gorgeous. She’s kind and compassionate. She’s talented. She’s a good friend. She’s basically perfect. And of course – she’s with the guy of your dreams.As one day, my mind drifted to this girl that I know, a girl I’ve compared myself to far too often over the last few years, I had a question that became an epiphany.

“What if she thinks the same thing about me?”

This blew me away. As women, we have this tendency to compare ourselves to others. We’re not as naturally beautiful as Beyonce post pregnancy and we’re not as holy as Mother Teresa. We aren’t a cultural icon that exudes confidence, beauty, and poise like Michelle Obama or Jackie Onassis Kennedy. We don’t work out as much as our neighbor. Our picture on facebook doesn’t get as many likes or as many males drooling in the comments as the girl in the bikini. We aren’t getting a 4.0 while also putting in 50 hours of volunteering per month.

“We aren’t, but they are,” we tell ourselves, “and they have everything together in the meantime.”

Yet we don’t know the lives of these women that we compare ourselves to. I very rarely compare myself to people when I know all their cobwebs in their hearts and dead bodies in the closet. There’s still a bit of, “Oh gosh, why is her hair always perfect when mine looks like a frizz ball?” but there’s a whole lot less of, “she’s perfect and I suck.” No one can keep up a perfect life. Everyone will have areas where they will succeed and everyone will have areas where they fail – focusing on either of those extremes leaves us jealous, angry, and in the pain of comparison.

When we as women get so focused on “she is and we aren’t” comparisons, we find ourselves losing our joy. In addition to that, we also find that it brings a lot of girl hate to the party. The last thing that we need is to build walls that separate ourselves from the rest of our gender – there are too many walls up between us already. So for heaven’s sake, stop comparing yourself to someone who is not you and never can be you. Embrace the fact that you aren’t perfect – and neither is the person you think is perfect.


We’re all a bit of a hot mess.