Who says societal norms have to be our goal for happiness?
Spinster. Old Maid. Unfortunate Woman. These may seem like an archaic way to describe an unmarried woman in her 30s, but our pop culture still tells us marriage is at the end of the road to happiness. Love songs bombard us on the radio. Movies tell us happily-ever-after happens with marriage. (Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good rom-com.) Our relatives ask us “When are you going to settle down?” And my favorite from my grandmother, “You are not going to find a man hiking in the middle of nowhere.”
But hiking in the middle of nowhere is what makes me happy, and happiness should be our life goal not marriage.
In my 20s I mistakenly listened to the sirens singing that marriage and a family was the way to happiness. I thought if I was married I wouldn’t be lonely. It doesn’t help that I live in the South where the median age for marriage and motherhood is younger than the national average. So now, at 34 some might consider me a spinster, but I see it another way. I see that I am fortunate to travel and spend ample time in the wilderness. If I was married with small children, I could still do these things, but not as freely as I can now.
Unfortunately, I wasted my 20s pining for a life I did not have. I waited for someone to go hiking with instead of just going by myself. I wanted a husband, so I would always have someone to go with. But when I had a serious boyfriend, I was still lonely. He was deeply religious and would not hike on Sunday, which happened to be the only day off we had together.
We broke up a month before my 31st birthday. It didn’t help that I was already overrun with information stating a woman’s chance of having children greatly decreases after 30. And he was my first serious boyfriend. I thought, “It took me 27 years to find him, how much longer would I have to wait for the next one. I am never going to get married and have children.”
Instead of moping around, I poured my energy into my career, travel, and trying new things. I finally went backpacking, something I had wanted to do all my life. I went camping alone and found I loved the peace and solitude. Camping and hiking alone let me breath nature without anyone to distract me, and the view belong to me and no one else.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and mother. They are both very noble professions, but I don’t believe it should be a measure of success. I believe they are blessings not accomplishments. When I was 29, a friend, not knowing my age, said to me “I really want to have children before I’m 27,” as if after 27 we were too old to start a family. My situation had not provided me with that opportunity then and still hasn’t. Although I’ve had a strong desire to be married, I’ve never really had a strong desire to have a baby. So maybe children aren’t in my future, but they might be, who knows. I’m not going to spend my time worrying about it, but simply have faith that God knows what’s best. My happiness does not depend on that.
I’ve heard you need to have a five-year plan, set goals for where you want to be in five years and work towards them. But five years ago my goals were to get married and start a family. Well, neither of those happened, but what I have done in those five years is hike to 13,000 feet on the highest mountain in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, ran two half marathons, learned to snow ski, taken a 27-hour road trip to Glacier National Park, hiked to see a glacier in Olympic National Park, backpacked my first thru-hike in my home state of Arkansas, started a blog, taken a road trip by myself, and learned not to just be content but love my life situation.
So do I think of myself as a spinster, old maid, or unfortunate woman? Absolutely not. I think of myself as adventurous, independent, and lover of life.