Does our society revere independence, or scorn it? To begin, this really isn’t a fair question, because I’m creating a false dichotomy. I’m sure that the overall attitude of ‘society’ towards ‘independence’ is not only moderate, but that individual members of our society view independence differently depending on its circumstances.
However, the reason I’ve been thinking about this recently is that I am a 24-year-old, single, independent woman. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I have no immediate family on which I could rely, so familial independence is not a choice. However, I have always decided, whether directly or indirectly, not to rely on a man to provide for me. I use the word provide here in generalized terms to indicate support in all realms – emotional, financial, social, etc. I can’t put my finger on exactly why it never seems to click (though sometimes it’s not for lack of trying on my end), but I can make the observation that because I’ve been single (except for 2 relationships) most of my life, I have learned not to rely on anyone other than myself.
The truth is that I’m not sure I like that quality about myself. Admittedly, it comes in handy given my circumstances. However, I worry that the tools I’ve forged to protect myself will prove to be an insurmountable barrier to letting anyone else into my life. I think that despite how well-prepared I am to live independently, I ultimately want to share my life with someone else. I just don’t quite know how.
But I do know one thing: my deep-seated desire for a husband and a family is partially seated in societal expectations. How can it not be? At a certain point, societal events only have room for couples, and singles are pushed to the fringes. I perceive it as an exclusive couples-only club, and singles are left wandering the grounds in the dark, hoping for refuge. Sure, I’m not that worried about being ‘single forever’ right now, but I was LESS worried two years ago, which leads me to believe that I’ll be even more worried two years from now.
So many of my friends are joining the couples club and getting engrossed in their relationship with their significant other, and while I am ultimately happy for them, a small part of me feels self-pity. But why? What’s so pitiable about being a single, independent woman? Without a spouse, am I less of a person? I know that when I was 15, society was fine that I was single, but at 25 the tune inevitably changes. The way I see it, successful singles have an expiration date. The time limit may vary culturally, but it is an inescapable fact that society judges those individuals (I think women especially) who are still single after a certain age.
So how can I be proud of my independence as I approach my societal expiration date? I feel that it’s important to be proud because like it or not, this is who I am. And this is who I’ll be until, if ever, I meet someone. One thing I know for sure is that self-pity isn’t going to get me anywhere. I guess the one remaining question I have is this: Is marriage and family my ultimate goal in life? Will I consider myself to have failed if I don’t find it? If it is, then I better start taking some drastic steps in that direction. And if it’s not, then what am I worried about? I could spend my whole life trying to swim against the current of society, or I could swim to the edge, get out, and walk my own path. But would I regret it if I did?