Something Good Is Going To Happen (H.O.P.E)

Holding on until the pain ends can be very difficult to do. Having only positive expectations can prove impossible when we are faced with trials and tribulations. The storm is turbulent and the season seems everlasting. The silver lining is not evident and the grim possibility of despair is constantly looming.

The aforementioned was and has been my disposition for the past few years. Due to multiple losses, devastation, trauma, failures and one speed bump after another, I often wondered if I would ever or could ever find my way back to hope. When people experience these inevitable pains that are a natural part of life, it is easy for one to become worn down and overwhelmed with hopelessness.

They say that expectation is the mother of all disappointment. It has also been uttered that happiness is reality minus expectation. And, a few of my past experiences have made these cynical proverbs quite the reality at times. Because I have felt so empty, alone and undeserving; because I have had the habitual proclivity to put others and their needs before my own; because I lacked bravery and courage, I often find myself asking, “Hope, when will I see you again?”

During life’s most difficult and arduous moments, people tend to underestimate how powerful HOPE is. Hope is more than a motivational thought or an evaporating daydream. And it is much more than a temporary fix to what seems to be a permanent problem. Hope calms anxiety and alleviates fear. That is because faith and hope work hand and hand.

It is the awareness of God’s love and faithfulness towards us and the expectation that something good is going to happen. Hope empowers us to maintain our fortitude through various adversities and increases our tolerance to overcome obstacles. It is the constant reminder to live life on purpose, free of fear and with no regrets. Hope gives us the courage to enjoy the journey and embrace the detours.

Many of us make the mistake of having a visceral reaction to every uncomfortable, unplanned and unexplained situation. We make the assumption that because the task ahead seems to be challenging and insurmountable that things in life will remain the same. Hopelessness is subtle, it steals our joy and chips away at the very essence of who we were all created to be. Being hopeless grooms us to grow accustomed to not expecting anything good to happen.

Being cognizant of all the cruelty and evil in and of this world, it is easy to be overcome and downtrodden with hopelessness. And, having and maintaining a positive outlook on life seems useless when we know that perils lie ahead. They say that we should mourn a birth and celebrate a death, but no one ever informed us on what to do in the space in between both ends of that spectrum.

It seems that the only sensible thing to do is to have hope. Hope to live, love and be loved in returned. Have hope in the goodness of people. Hope that tomorrow will bring a brighter, better day. Hope that your messages carry with them all of your good intentions. Hope for an uninterrupted appreciation for life. Hope to be an inspiration and have an impact on and in someone’s life. Hope for longevity and an increase in faith. Hope to make yourself, your parents, your children and your God proud. And, when this life is over, have hope that Christ will say to you, “job well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Remember that you perfectly loved and wonderfully made, and that no one walking this earth can offer the contributions that you have been placed here to fulfill. So, Be Bold, Be Daring, Be Fearless and Be Expectant…., Be Hopeful!

Something good is going to happen…

I hope!

Buckle Up! It’s going to be a Joyeride.

Advertisements

Brown Sugar Baby.

The purported indoctrination allegedly adapted by slave owner Willie Lynch was used divisively to perpetuate the oppression of black people. Sadly, this ideology has been ingrained and imprinted on the minds and in the hearts of our people. I think it is safe to conclude that Willie Lynch accomplished and far surpassed his mission of teaching black people self-hatred. I am certain that most African Americans are familiar with the Black Panther movement and/or other initiatives that fought for our civil rights. I can remember watching an immeasurable number of documentaries, biographies, and movies that demonstrated this struggle. I can also recall the sense of pride that I felt when I would hear my black people proclaim, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” But, are you really?

Is this proclamation a hope or an aspiration? Is it an ideal that we feverishly strive for? I am aware that black people have a history of struggling financially, (i.e., robbing Peter to pay Paul), but the real struggle is self-love and acceptance. Why do black people view it as a compliment when another person from a different ethnic background tells us that we look mixed? And why do black people always try to convince others that they are mixed with Indian, Creole, etc. ? Is your black not beautiful? And why does the word “black” seem to be synonymous with ghetto, hood, poor, ugly, and dirty?

What’s even more disheartening is that this ignorance and filth has seeped its way through the cracked foundation of the black community. Colorism has been defined as a prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Sadly, the prevalence of Colorism, specifically in the black community is at an all time high. We unfortunately live in a world where being light-skinned is worn as a badge of honor and where darker melanated skin is viewed as a deformity, disability, or even sub-par.

This same ignorance has made its way in our school systems, seeping into our children’s classrooms. Dark-skinned children are often taunted, being called names like darkie, charcoal bliss, tar baby, etc.. Children and adults deliver these venomous adjectives not fully knowing the lasting emotional damage that the recipients of these insults will suffer for years to come. In fact, a lot of magically melanated men and women reported that they felt invisible growing up. Women reported that they were never liked by the guys in their schools and if they were given attention it was usually because the guy thought that they were “easy.” Dark-skinned men reported that they experienced rejection on a whole other level than the norm. Being around their light-skinned counterparts manifested a level of insecurity that made them feel undeserving. Light-skinned men or “pretty boys” as they have been so affectionately named, had their pick of the litter. They always had the prettiest girlfriends and wives and were always first choice.

Light-skinned women were always synonymous with the word pretty and never really have to do much to be noticed, while some dark-skinned women would receive degrading, half-assed compliments like, “hey, you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” This same self-loathing, disgusting behavior has become an issue in the entertainment industry as well. Wale reported that his complexion hurt his career. He attributed his stunted success to being Nigerian. Other rappers like Drake, Logic, and J. Cole, who all have fair complexions, have experienced significant success. Whether or not it was talent or light skin that catapulted these artists to fame is arguable. But, music executives have admitted that it is easier to market a light-skinned artist as opposed to an artist with a darker complexion. Artists with lighter complexions seem to be more palatable to the world.

The fact of the matter is, Colorism is a real issue within the black community but the question is, what will it take to end it? Given that colorism is a social issue, the first step to healing and ending this hatred is to acknowledge that it is a real problem. No one can end anything unless there is acknowledgement that it exists. Secondly, self-love and affirmations must start at home. Adoration and acceptance must be shown to children of all complexions, not just to those with lighter skin. Such behaviors perpetuate the idea that lighter is better and darker is dirty. Sarah Webb, a contributing author of Colorism Healing said that this issue must be addressed at the community level and not centralized to individual occurrences.

It is going to take a concerted effort of all members in the black community to truly put an end to colorism. Of course this issue will not be resolved overnight but with taking the necessary steps listed above, I am hopeful that this poisonous mentality will become a thing of the past. I think movements like Black Girls Rock and the demonstration of Black Excellence are just remedies to cure this sickness. Black people have had a history of divisiveness and separation. I think it is time for us to all band together and make a change. There is strength in numbers and power in a united front. The time has come for us to embrace the skin that we are in (no matter what shade) and give the world a taste of brown sugar.

The Panic Room

Panic has been described as a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Anxiety has been characterized as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Although different, people often use these terms interchangeably due to them being mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, I have had the misfortune to be a sufferer of both.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been somewhat of a worry wart. I am innately nurturing and protective which has caused me to unofficially sign up to bear the burden of concern for those whom I love. My mind is often consumed with thoughts of everything and anything that could ever go wrong. I constantly go over scenarios in my head (that have not occurred) trying to come up with possible solutions all in attempts to prepare myself for an event that may or may not happen.

As a young child, I can recall experiencing many bouts of nausea, sweaty palms and horrible shakes each time I started a new school year or every time I transferred to a new school. I learned to anticipate a general feeling of being unwell for the first few days of class and then those awful feelings would soon dissipate as the weeks progressed. When I was younger, I didn’t think much of it and didn’t quite know how to label it. But, I do remember wishing that I could approach new beginnings with ease and comfort the way in which my brother seemed to.

As I matured I was hopeful that these symptoms of what I now know to be anxiety would lessen as I settled into adulthood. Often times, anxiety sufferers are those individuals who have an extreme fear of being out of control. If they are not the ones actually steering the wheel- they will almost always feel like they are sailing in troubled waters. Anxiety, panic and worry can also steer from fear of the unknown. Both of the aforementioned is what typically kicks my anxiety and panic into high gear.

Aside from the mental discomfort and distress that these disorders can bring, they are also incredibly debilitating. It is a well-known fact that nothing happens in the body that doesn’t happen in the mind first. In saying such, those uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts soon manifest into physical symptoms as well. From shortness of breath to chest tightness to numb tingling arms; I frequently feel as if I am having a heart attack several days out of the month.

I am at my wits end and am swiftly approaching the end of my rapidly fraying rope. I have literally tried everything to combat these dreadful thoughts and mental anguish all in efforts to get off of this emotional rollercoaster that I call my life. There always seems to be a war going on inside of my head battling between what I know to be true and thoughts of horrible things that might possibly come true.

I have always had the propensity to jump to conclusions, thinking of the worst case scenario anytime a life event occurred. I figured that by doing this I could somehow brace myself in the event of receiving earth shattering or devastating news. Living with fear and anxiety is like taking a deep breath in and never exhaling. It is a highly uncomfortable feeling that can also be very discouraging. Many who suffer from anxiety are often afraid to face the next day out of fear that those unwanted feelings will flare up as they attempt to be productive.

Fortunately, my anxiety was never too intense where it interfered with tasks that I’d planned to execute the next day. That is, until my fears were realized when I lost my mother suddenly to cancer in 2014. Experiencing a traumatic life event of that magnitude catapulted my fear, panic, worry and anxiety to new heights. Since that point, my anxiety has been at an all-time high and I do find great difficulty in facing the days ahead. Not only am I worried that those horrible feelings of anxiety and dread are going to make their daily debut, but I am also anxious for what could possibly be lurking around the corner.

The prevalence of worry, panic and anxiety are significant; but they are not well understood. Individuals who are ignorant to these disorders believe that controlling your thoughts and emotions is as simple as flipping an on/off switch. Before I was able to properly identify and label what I experience to be anxiety, I too believed that the aforementioned was an easy and reasonable task. Sadly, living this type of existence is anything but reasonable. There are also many individuals (specifically in the black community) who suffer in silence. There is insignificant mental health awareness and a huge stigma placed upon those who struggle through these setbacks.

For many years now, I have been in search of what I like to call a panic room (safe room). It is so important for those who suffer from panic and anxiety to have a sanctuary to openly express and face their fears. I have tried counseling and therapy and I personally did not find these tools to be the most helpful. Many therapists that I have spoken too always try to prescribe me pills such as Xanax and paxil. Although slightly effective, I often view measures like medication as being a temporary fix. It is my belief that if you really want to overcome fear and anxiety- one must discover the cause and pluck it up by the root. Medication is only useful at smothering the symptoms that accompany these disorders.

However, if you are an individual who finds the use of medication therapy beneficial, I encourage you to continue. But these days, I find my peace and sanctuary through prayer and meditation. I am a highly spiritual person and find much solace and relief through the power of prayer. My war room has literally become my panic room and I battle against the grappling chains of fear and anxiety daily. Since faith requires you to speak things as though they were, I am confident in saying that this war has already been won. And, even though it is still a constant fight in the physical realm, my spirit triumphs in the victory that is soon to come.

To anyone who is suffering from anxiety, you do not have to suffer alone. It is okay to say it, see it, and then seek help for it. The essence of worry stems from obsessing about the past and being fearful about the future. Life is not designed for us to walk through it holding our breath. So I encourage you to be hopeful, stay present, and just BREATHE. You really can conquer anything.

Crave The Curve

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 17 years old, standing at 5’9, and weighed 125 pounds. I was a perfect size 4, and fit most suitably into the American standard of beauty and acceptance. I was on a serious journey to becoming the next African American top high fashion, runway model.

Most of my genetic makeup was strictly hereditary. I had always been a skinny kid and never had to do very much to maintain my thin frame. My limbs were long, slim and regal and I would strut around like a gazelle elegantly grazing through life. I was so sure of myself, fully confident, and quite frankly, just incredibly grateful that I had been blessed with what I thought the rest of the world envied.

Unfortunately, my confidence was conditional. It was only evident as long as I maintained a certain look. A vast majority of us have societal norms and expectations to thank for that. Women are socialized early on to adopt the need and desire to achieve and maintain specific body dimensions.

The various images that are shown on TV and in magazines will almost always have lots of women subscribing to unrealistic and unachievable ideologies. The media and certain social settings have the ability to make a “curvy girl” feel out of place 95% of the time. Even with the evolution of multiple plastic surgery procedures, young girls still tend to believe that their favorite stars or celebrities have just been gifted with “natural beauty”.

My journey to becoming a top “regular sized” model continued throughout the remainder of my teenage years. I had gone to several different modeling agencies in a few different cities where I was met with criticism about everything that was not quite right. As the years progressed and I continued to mature, I noticed that my body started to take on a completely different shape. Suddenly, my once thin frame began to become more full, voluptuous and curvy.

These days, the aforementioned would sound like a blessing in disguise. Thanks to celebs such as Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and almost the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan, fuller figures and voluptuous frames are more widely accepted than ever before. But still, my 22-year-old mind could not fathom something as small or as big as a ‘curve” throwing a monkey wrench in my master plan.

I, like many, had bought into the belief that if I wanted to acquire fame and fortune specifically in the realms of media, print, and fashion that I must starve the curve. After all, it has been quite rare historically to see a full-figured woman reach the pinnacle of success similar to her slimmer counterparts. There was an immense lack of appreciation on my part in regards to my bowed hips, large bosom, thick thighs, and round derriere.

It simply was not permissible. As a result of my woman’s frame taking on its full shape, I tried everything to counteract Mother Nature and all laws of biology. I was literally on a different diet every other month. First it was the Subway diet- which was actually pretty effective. That is, until I learned that I was consuming harmful nitrates and nitrites which soon prompted me to abort that mission very quickly. But then the diets became more sophisticated; this included the Atkins diet, Cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, the Military diet, Ketogenics, the Paleo diet and finally, starvation!

Image result for young black woman dieting dieting

Unfortunately, all of my efforts proved to be in vain and soon I found myself stuck in an endless cycle of my weight constantly fluctuating and my happiness, self-confidence, and self-love swiftly dwindling away. It was almost as if I didn’t know who I was if I was not a specific weight and didn’t look a certain way. All of the values that are supposed to steer from within were all of a sudden contingent upon me seeing three stupid digits on a scale. What had my life become? And, who had I become?

It seemed as though I had abruptly fallen down this rabbit hole and began to become obsessed with being perfect and fitting into societal norms. I struggled with accepting the fact that my body was never going to go back to the way that it was. I literally went from Olive Oil to straight up Jessica Rabbit almost overnight. I had conditioned my mind to starve the curve so much that I never actually developed an appetite for it. This way of thinking had become my reality for a few years until one day, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a department store window and I loved what I saw.

My mother always taught me to love and appreciate who I was on the inside. Doing so would allow that same love and appreciation to permeate on the outside. If you lack love for oneself, then others will never be able to love you in the proper way. I was reminded of this little nugget of wisdom when I began to crave the curve and embrace this bountiful shape that God has blessed me with.

What I found is that when I started to love and accept myself others started to do so as well. What I had originally thought was the end of my dreams, was essentially only the beginning. The shape that my body took on as a young adult began to be admired, desired, and purchased- lol. As a result, I have now become a freelance curvy model and have landed a few important projects with companies and brands that highlight, empower, and encourage curvy, plus size women.

As a curvy girl it can be quite difficult at times to have a positive body image and maintain self-confidence. It is so easy for your mind to revert back to trying to maintain the traditional status quo. But, it is equally encouraging to see plus size, curvy girls such as Ashley Graham and Tabria Majors who have made enormous strides in paving the way for other curvies in industries that were once dominated by “regular sized” models.

At the core of it all I believe that self-love proves to be paramount in being the catalyst for any woman curvy or slim in accomplishing their dreams, goals or desires. The takeaway here is to never let anyone or anything put you into a box. Vigorously go after what you want and show the world why the curve is what you crave.

Smoke and Mirrors…..

I know that things in life are not perfect but this whole time I thought you were. People spend a good chunk of their lives searching for those individuals whom they can trust, confide in, lean on, and rest in complete confidence that this chosen person is 100% genuine and has their best interest at heart.

In a world of smoke and mirrors, finding a loyal, loving, trustworthy friend, lover, or confidant can prove to be quite impossible at times. It is a fact that people come into your life for a reason, season, or lifetime; and these seasons may feel joyous; but sadly not everyone who is a part of your journey is genuinely there for you. Lots of individuals enter into friendships and relationships with ulterior motives.

The ones that call themselves your friends can hurt you worse than any foe or adversary who plots and schemes for your demise. You essentially waste a significant amount of time preparing for their evil and overt attacks when the actual war that you are obliviously fighting is in your own backyard. It is difficult and quite lonely to have to navigate through life without a hype man or a cheerleader in your corner. The older I get and the more I mature, I am finding that reciprocity is becoming less and less common than what has previously been demonstrated. Unfortunately, in rare scenarios you do not always get out what you put in.

I am an individual who loves to see people prosper. I am so overjoyed anytime my friends, family, or loved ones succeed and fulfill their purpose in life. I am also the type of friend who will support, pray, intercede, vouch for, affirm, and ask on the behalf of others if it can in any way, shape, form, or fashion contribute to a positive outcome or result for them.

I too have also had the pleasure of having a couple of individuals as the ones described in the aforementioned text be apart of my life. I’ve had people in my life who appeared to be there to uplift, encourage, and support me. I was fully convinced that I had found a sisterhood, friendship, and companion who would be there cheering me on with the same vigor that they were met with when the tables were turned.

But sadly, to my surprise and dismay, this was not the case at all. It is incredibly exhausting to have to live a life where you constantly have your guard up. And it is equally tragic to never have the comfort in knowing that someone, somewhere has you covered. Irregardless of your shortcomings, flaws, imperfections, fears, and doubts- it is reassuring to have someone there who will always have your back.

It can be very disappointing to discover that those closest to you have secretly been exploiting your weaknesses and feeding into your frustrations. Their parasitic behavior habitually magnifies things and instances that are of small nature. They encourage your disdain of people that they secretly wish to align themselves with. Their constant deception is glaring yet your love for them keeps you blinded to their intentions.

Speaking from personal experience it has now become much too common for things to not be the way that they seem. I was certain that I had moved away from this reality years ago after I’d taken self-inventory and reassessed those whom I allowed in my space and life in efforts to avoid what has historically been the norm.

I read something once on a “Peace Within” post that said, “It’s sad when best friends turn into just friends, and just friends turn into people you know, and people you know turn into someone that you don’t know at all.” Although heartbreaking, no truer words have ever been spoken. Unfortunately, this route has seemingly become the road of least resistance. Instead of addressing a deteriorating situation head on, it is almost easier to just wash your hands of someone and be done with it.

I often pride myself on being a transparent individual. I am purposeful and deliberate in my actions and speech. I remain cognizant of self and ensure that my behavior is congruent with my words. I always want my intentions to be clear. My disposition is made obvious with each friendship or relationship that I choose to foster. I refrain from exhibiting or conjuring a character, personality, or behavior that I feel someone needs to see or hear. I expose my true, authentic self because I want to be sure that the people in my life are there for me! For Joye! Not a figment of their imagination or a fantasy that I’ve created. However, this exhibition of organic behavior opens the door to vulnerability.

Vulnerability can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it shows a more human side putting others at ease and encourages them to be free to reveal their authentic selves. On the contrary, exhibiting vulnerability creates a grand opportunity for your shortcomings to be exposed and capitalized on while simultaneously opening yourself up to be fooled, mistreated, and taken advantage of.

When consideration becomes complacent, when sisterhood becomes secrecy, and loyalty becomes an afterthought; the beginning of the end is sure to follow. All of a sudden your friendship and/or relationship as you know it is in full breakdown mode. And what had become so familiar, so comfortable, so comforting has now evaporated into thin air as if it were a delicate puff of smoke.

Embellishment of the truth can make one feel quite secure. Exposing the entire truth can break your heart. While it is never too soon to learn the truth, it is often too soon to be received. The fact of the matter is that we are all just gluttons for punishment. We constantly purchase the “dream” as long as it is up for sale. Smoke and mirrors is the greatest magic trick ever achieved in life. And, we are life’s greatest magicians.

Ultimately, it is our individual responsibility to either accept or reject these illusions. If you suspect that something is a facade, do not fall for the oke doke. Remember, the story is to be told, not sold.

Love is more than just a 4 letter word

Love, there’s so many things that I have to tell. But, are you down to listen? In today’s society, the word love is touted around like a prized pig as if it were the last girl who is left in the bar ready to go. Or like a moose’s head that a skilled hunter has so deliberately collected to mount above the mantelpiece in his log cabin.

Today, we live in a world where love does not and is not expected to conquer all. Tragically, love or the idea of it has been reduced and lessened to a casual exchange of just a four (4) letter word between two people who are just trying to appease one another in the moment. Many individuals neglect to acknowledge the heavy responsibility of what that word represents and the actions that are expected to soon follow.

I do however believe that women get tuck with the brunt of the responsibility. While in relationship, we are expected to remain fiercely loyal throughout any situation that may arise. Be it high peaks or low valleys most men anticipate their woman’s strength and faith to be unwavering through whatever obstacle that he or the relationship might take her through. Women are always just expected to BE THERE!

Often times many people and many couples lose sight of what love represents. Love is a gift, not an obligation. Love renders hope and erases fear. Love is an action word and it never fails. And, love will never require what it does not give in return. Unfortunately, a lot of relationships or situation-ships these days lack reciprocity. And the love given or received is often lopsided. Most women tend to put up with this type of behavior and live this kind of existence out of fear of being alone. Even though they are technically alone in their relationship.

Speaking from personal experience, I too have been guilty of staying in a relationship where I was constantly the giver of any emotional support or stimulation and my significant other was the receiver. My outward expression of love and affection didn’t make “my boo” love on me any more than I had originally hoped. At best all of my efforts just made him more greedy and more expectant of the behavior that I exhibited throughout our time together. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that the harder I tried or the more selfless I became than eventually the love that I had been so freely giving away would find its way back to me. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Love needs no encouragement. It doesn’t need a pat on the back. It is not the little engine that could. Either it is or it isn’t. And, I am saddened that it took me so long to come to that conclusion. Some people would argue that it is human nature to be selfish. As long as something is personally benefiting someone than why change it? Of course the aforementioned is everything that love does not represent. Sadly most things that were historically sacred and revered have been reduced to being casual, typical and not that big of a deal.

No longer is love honored, appreciated or protected. It has now become robotic, systematic and just par for the course. We live in a world today where unconditional love has become a dying species. I guess the million dollar question would be, how can love be renewed and restored in such a way that it can be embodied and personified and representative of a healthy relationship?

My advice to both men and women alike would be to allow things to flow naturally and organically. Whatever develops between two individuals be it a friendship or relationship is always best when it comes from a place of authenticity. I believe that when things are forced then one runs the risk of whatever relationship they find themselves in as fraudulent. Men are notorious for telling women things that they think they want or need to hear. And you don’t want to be the woman whose man professes his “fake love” to you just because he knows that you are thirsty to hear it.

I am a huge advocate of self-love. Self-love is the most important love. When people notice that you lack love for yourself, then they will never be able to love you in a proper way. And no woman or man wants to be anyone’s charity case. Finding love or being in a loving relationship can sometimes feel like Utopia. But the good news is that true love actually does exist.

We all know that love is the most powerful drug known to man. It will make you do some pretty outlandish things. So the next time you feel like taking a chance to roll the dice and overdose on love, just make sure that it hasn’t been stepped on. Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby,….ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Image result for overdose on love images
Photo Credit: Relic Bandcamp

Hope Floats. 30+ And Single.

May 21st, 2018 | By Joye D. Epps

There is a tremendous amount of pressure on thirty-something-year-old women who find themselves unmarried and without children passed the age of societal expectations. Historically, in earlier generations, women had a marriage, mortgage, kids and a minivan by the age of 25. And, by age 30, most of the women in my moms generation were celebrating their wooden year of marriage at the culmination of five years.

But, the women of today, (specifically millennials) subscribe to a different way of thinking. Growing up, I was one of those girls who thought I would be married by 22, have my first child by 25 and close on my first home by 28. To say the least, my plans didn’t exactly work out the way I had always imagined.

Personally speaking, as a 34-year old woman, who is unmarried with no children finds it quite insulting at the strange looks that I receive when my response to questions such as; “are you married”, or, “do you have children” is no. I am literally looked down upon as if I have recently contracted the “Black Plague.” Often times, most people are left in utter shock and disbelief. How could this be? One might ask. Men tend to think that something must be wrong with you or, they make assumptions and draw conclusions about how crazy you must be if you are still single and childless.

I began to get that itch for marriage somewhere around age 29. In addition to the marital itch, my biological clock started to tick ferociously by age 32. When I was younger, I never could’ve imagined that I would be single, motherless, and childless at the age of 30.  And, I certainly didn’t think that this drought would continue with each year that has passed. Typically, some women tend to become more self-conscious if at least one of the aforementioned does not occur by that pivotal age.

Women have been socialized early on to believe that this heavy expectation is a realistic possibility. If you are a woman who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, then yes, it would make sense to fall in love, get married, and have children at a fairly young age. This is because most of the ground work for success has been laid already. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most women. Now-a-days, a lot of us have to lay the foundation, and build the home which puts us almost a decade behind what is expected.

I often feel ashamed, embarrassed, and less-than that I still have to check the “single” box, when I do anything as menial as filling out an application for a job, school, or even a doctor’s appointment. And, I absolutely despise the fact that I put my roommate down as an emergency contact when I have to stay overnight in the ER. Most of my friends were lucky enough to find love soon after we graduated from college.

With the exception of two girlfriends, all of my fellow cohorts are now married with children, or engaged. As much as some TV shows try to glamorize the idea of a single woman in her thirties still in the “dating game”, I often feel like I am trapped in a bad episode of “Sex And The City” – which is a shame because that show was nothing short of amazing. But still, that was fiction, and this is my real life.

Image result for sex and the city tv show restaurant scene
Photo Credit: Marie Claire

While things in my professional life have taken an awesome turn, things in my personal life seem to be withering away like a dozen of two-week old roses. The hopeful and exhilarating conversations that I once had with friends, family, and colleagues about my exciting plans for the future, have now become hopeless, defeated, and lack luster. Anytime that I engage in a conversation about children, and how I desire to have three or four, I am often met with insensitive responses like, “Oh, well you better hurry,” or, “You know after 35 your pregnancy will be considered geriatric.” How could anyone find those two statements encouraging?

And, of course we all have that one girlfriend who tries to convince us that the reason for our singleness is because we are way too picky. She urges you to lower your standards and “dumb yourself down” to ensure that love will eventually find its way. Being single in your thirties is frequently met with a lot of negativity and pity from those in married life. And while being in the minority isn’t the best feeling in the world, it often comes with copious benefits.

At this point in my life as a single woman I have had the luxury to truly get to know myself on a much deeper level than most women my age can attest to. I know exactly what my boundary lines and deal breakers are. I have had plenty of time to adjust and reset my tolerance level and can now approach situations from a varied perspective.

I get the opportunity to spend an unlimited amount of time with my friends and family while also doing the things that I love the most. The whole idea of compromise is obsolete because the only person that I have to please is myself. I have the opportunity to really pour myself into my work and have a real shot at climbing the corporate ladder.

I also have a “front row” seat to the show that is my friends marriages which allows me to absorb a few pointers of “do’s” and “dont’s” for my own future marriage. While still being single in your thirties can sometimes feel like the end of the world, I assure you that there is still hope.

Women should never be made to feel guilty for putting their desire to have a successful career before their desire to become a wife and mother. At best, it is one of the most selfless and responsible things that a woman can do. I believe that rushing to the altar too soon has been the genesis of many failed marriages. In fact, a couple of studies have been conducted stating that the younger a couple is getting married the likelihood of divorce is increased. Many experts believe that older couples share more likes and dislikes with each other as opposed to younger couples who are still getting to know themselves.

Paul Amato, a sociologist at Pennsylvania State University, says, “Older marriages (30s versus 20s) were more cohesive in the sense that they did things together more often as a couple.” So, it turns out that waiting an extra five years or so does have it’s perks. While I am not advocating that couples wait until they are past 30 to get hitched, I am encouraging women who find themselves still single after 30 to remain hopeful because all is not lost!

Women who find themselves in this position should welcome this grand opportunity with open arms and embrace all of the wonderful possibilities. I encourage you to take this time to learn and develop yourself in weakened areas. Continue to plan, continue to trust, and continue to grow. Avoid comparing yourself to your peers and their accomplishments; and never allow someone else to project their thoughts, fears, and opinions onto you. Live your best life, meet your higher self, and become the best version of you.