"I need to...make plans for a solo future. What do I want the rest of my life to look like? And how soon do I start shaping that future?" -journal entry December 25, 2015
Throughout January and February of this year, I began dreaming about what my ideal single life would look like. Taking a future husband out of the equation entirely: what would a happy, whole life look like for me? What would need to be in place for me to feel I'm living my best life?
While I've gone hard after the life I want, I've never framed my singleness with any particular intentionality either, probably because I thought at some point I'd get married. In more recent years, I've looked for mentors and I've pondered what a good single life would look like but that's as far as it's gone.
And yet the years keep passing by and I'm as single as ever and now I'm firmly in my mid-30s and swiftly approaching my late 30s. So I've been dreaming and taking the time to live some of this out, to see how it felt, to see how it might shape my decisions and my future.
I came up with 5 pillars of my ideal single life. The first two came to mind immediately and by the end of April the other three had locked into place. There could be more but almost every other idea fit into the original five pillars.
I'm curious about what other people would choose for their own pillars. How many similarities would there be and how they might uniquely reflect the person who created them. Is there much variation between men and women? Is there value in encouraging "younger" singles to do this?
It has been incredibly helpful to use these pillars as a filter and a gauge. In fact, it's been freeing. Part of me wishes I'd had them in place a decade ago. I don't think it would have changed any of my big decisions but it might have made the process of deciding easier. Either way, I'm glad they're in place now and I'm excited to see how they continue shaping my life in the coming months and years.
5 Pillars of My Ideal Single Life:
1. Meaningful Career
I want to find work that challenges me and is meaningful. I want room to grow on a career trajectory. I want to feel excited when I arrive at work each day. (Or at least most days.)
I've never been a workaholic but I do love the feeling of accomplishment and knowing I've done my best and made a difference in peoples' lives. Wherever I work, I want to know I'm making a contribution to my team and the organization/company. I've been supporting myself since college and I'm a big fan of a decent paycheck but that's not what motivates me. At the same time, I want to make enough money to support my interests and eventual retirement.
When I started working as a social worker, I figured I'd do it until I got married and had children. Instead, Mr. Right neglected to come calling and I burned out on my chosen profession. It's important for me to have a good work-life balance, no matter what I'm doing. This was a big part of why I retired from social work- the balance was no longer there, no matter what I tried.
It's taken me some time post-social work to figure out the next right career path but I finally have direction and I'm really excited about the possibilities. When I picture myself in this field, I can't help but smile.
2. Committed Diverse Community
It's important to have a strong circle of local friends whom I see regularly. Since my 30s, that particular combination has felt like the Holy Grail at times. I might have really good friends who I saw regularly or acquaintances who I saw regularly but the relationship never grew deeper. Part of that is due to this time in our lives, especially given how many of my friends are raising young kids. It's tricky to find friends with same availability and interests, which makes them worth their weight in gold when you find them.
It's also important to have friends who are different from me, not for the sake of diversity, but because we have so much to learn from one another and that is what makes life interesting.
I also think it would be delightful to be friends with my neighbors to the point where our homes are open to one another for spontaneous meals and movies and hang out time. I haven't really had that since college.
3. Hospitable Home
I love entertaining, whether dinner parties or getting a group together for a show or to go dancing. This is what I was known for through most of my 20s. I still had people over here and there when I lived in Nashville but the way my house was set up wasn't conducive for entertaining. This is a priority for wherever I live next. I want people to feel relaxed and cared for when they come over, whether popping by for tea or eating a meal.
I also want to have a guest room for both short-term and long-term visitors. (It's even on my Life List.) This is even more important to me after the past year of living with dear friends. Their hospitality has changed my life for the better in ways big and small. I would love to be able to bestow that same gift on someone(s) else some day.
4. Safe, Navigable City
As a single woman, I am always aware of my surroundings, even more so now that I use public transportation on an almost daily basis. I can't afford not to be. At the same time, I'm not afraid of walking by myself. I'm simply smart about it. I'm aware.
Some day, Safeher will be in every city and I will rejoice. In the meantime, I do my best to get to where I need to be and I give thanks and praise for areas with a decent amount of parking.
5. Regular Travel
There are still so many places I want to explore and so many places I want to go back to and so many friends I still need to visit. It's been 10 years since I went to Ireland and I cannot believe I haven't been back yet. There are still 20 states I need to check off. Don't even get me started on how many road trips I've dreamed up! I have yet to visit France, Italy, and Germany, even though my major goal in college was to study abroad. Oh, the sadness of dreams deferred! I think that's why regular travel is such a priority for me. I'm still making up for lost time.