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Note to Self: All of Your Friends Are Married with Kids but That Doesn’t Mean You Failed

Editor’s Note: This January, in the spirit of the You, First special series, we asked our contributors to write letters to their younger selves. In doing so, they are sharing with their former selves — and us — how to stay true. That is, how to stay true to their desires, to their worth, and to their hopes and dreams in the face of different challenges and experiences.

Dear Jen,

Lately you’ve realized you’ve grown apart from 85 percent of your longtime female friends. The problem, however, is that you haven’t come to fully accept that it’s okay. So, I’m here to remind you that wherever you are in life is a perfectly fine place to be. In fact, you’re allowed to enjoy it. 

It’s okay to compare and contrast your life with your married, child-having friends, as long as you don’t do it to punish yourself. (Alert: You’ve officially veered into unhealthy territory when you become inconsolable whilst clicking through your friend’s wedding album, wallowing in how very alone you are in that very moment.)

It’s alright to be told of your friend’s baby’s first word and not be able to muster up what feels like an energetic enough response. It’s perfectly fine that what qualifies as a major moment in your life is more like getting a 3 percent raise and an extra vacation day. Your accomplishments are not less worthy than those of others with spouse and spawn.

You must remember that being alone does not mean you have failed in some way. Spending Friday night on your couch, binge watching a Netflix show with a badass female protagonist, and baking a roll of cookies entirely for yourself is okay. In fact, you’re allowed to like it.

So what that you’re almost 30? So what that you’ve been on more first dates than anyone you’ve ever met before? So what that you almost forked over $10,000 to freeze your eggs in a panic? So what that you’ve been “always a bridesmaid, never the bride” more than a dozen times? So what that you haven’t “settled down”? So what that your life seems all over the place compared to traditional standards? Who is holding this critical measuring stick in place?

Answer: It’s you.

Instead of relentlessly examining all the things you don’t have, didn’t do, or can’t relate to your friends about, it’s imperative you start clapping your hands in celebration of the things you have done instead.

You’ve started a business, written two books, moved across the country, then back home to your parent’s house, then back across the country, then back home again, then back across the country one last time. That takes resilience.

You’ve had exceptional bosses who reminded you of your strengths and awarded you with opportunities that took you out of the cubicle. You’ve dated some of the most interesting guys (and some of the strangest, too), and you’ve spent a lot of time learning how to thrive on your own.

You’ve done a lot. And maybe it’s different than anyone else you know, but it’s your adventure, your life, and your series of accomplishments.

So you don’t have a partner to kiss and a little mouth to feed, but what you do fully possess is the woman you’ve become. The kind of woman with stories to tell, mistakes to share, and the incredible, heart-thumping experiences that have taught you what you want out of life.

So, Jen, please stop spending so much time on Facebook, studying your friend’s lives so you can mimic some sort of blueprint that guarantees a happy ending. Instead, find joy in all that you’ve designed for yourself so far — and all that you will continue to create in this lifetime.

By Jen Glantz