“Do you ever think about the parties, the drinking, the small conversations about nothing and wonder—what is the point?” a friend pondered out loud at a recent get-together.
There we were, a group of 20-somethings and 30-somethings, supposedly living the dream. Drinking our beers, enjoying a Saturday evening on the town without a care in the world—no husbands, wives, or kids to monitor or go home to. No obligations forcing us to wake up at a reasonable hour on Sunday morning. And we get to do this nearly every weekend! By society’s standards, we are living in a picture of freedom.
“Travel, party, experience the world. This is what it means to live and discover yourself,” that’s what the world tells us. And yet, there are many of us who are bored. Sure we laugh. We go on fun outings. We get in deep conversations aimed at solving the world’s problems (a few drinks in and late—or rather early into the morning—we’ve come pretty close to solving them all!). Yet, when we come back from our latest exotic trip, when we recover from our Saturday night escapades that go too late into the night, and when we shut off our phones, our emails, and social media accounts, there is a quiet that doesn’t feel right. Because it’s not. We’re made for more.
“He helps me become more of who I am, in places I was unable to on my own,” a friend reflected to me as she discussed her then serious boyfriend now husband. Which reminded me of something another friend said to me, “I’m not sorry life is a struggle, because I’m never bored.” She was talking about being married and being a parent, being part of a family—which constantly “demands” something of her. Her time. Her emotional energy. Her physical presence at 3:00 a.m. for a sick child, or for a spouse who needs support during a difficult season at work, or celebration and praise for a job well done in work or at home.
As my friends and I talked that night about our boredom with life, some of us came to agreement—the “self-discovery” and “freedom” our society trumpets in the single life isn’t enough. What our world perceives as “demands” relationships put on us, actually help us on the road of self-discovery. Loving relationships–especially in marriage and family– unveil parts of our hearts we’ve hidden, forgotten, or perhaps didn’t even know existed. They can make us come alive. Of course, friendship can do this, too—especially if we are intentional and loyal to our friends. But building a life with the other half of the human race encourages us to see the world through a new set of eyes—eyes that recognize that there are ways of thinking and acting that are specific to men and specific to women—though we both are equal. And giving life to and raising a child we co-created gives us insight to how vulnerable, dependent, curious, and formative we all once were when we were little, as we remember the lessons and moments that shaped us to be the persons we are today.
I never intended to be single for as long as I have been. I, like fellow iBiL writer Laura, have known from a young age I want to get married and have a family. But God had other plans for me first, and as it turns out, I’m really grateful for the road I’ve traveled so far. Over the years, I’ve made conscious efforts to seek the self-discovery and gift of self found in these relationships—even though I’m not living in family life. I’ve learned how to be there for friends who need a supportive ear. I’ve worked to find opportunities to offer praise to family and friends, especially when they least expect it or need it most. I’ve aimed to make my little one bedroom apartment a home that my family, friends, and even co-workers feel welcome in for a home-cooked meal or a night of movies and good conversation. And most importantly, I’ve discovered that freedom is less about how much time I have for myself, and instead more about how much I stretch myself to be there for other people. And in that way, as my friend said, I’m never bored…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.