It turned out to be a busy weekend, between a full day of work on Saturday and a shopping trip to the big city on Sunday. Between being alone and being in the car, I had some time to parse my hyperbolic assertions of Friday night.
When I look at my life here, a frisson of terror crawls up my spine. That probably seems a bit excessive but I think it captures the actual response. My self-diagnosed abandonment issues don’t help matters any; the men I love have a very bad habit of leaving me (and I’m way past boyfriends with that statement; you don’t want me to catalog the deaths I’ve endured) and that happening will always reduce me to the little girl who doesn’t understand why they went away.
I don’t want to become a caricature and I’m so afraid that’s what I’ll be if I stay here. Why I think a change of location will make such a difference, I’m not sure, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is it. What I have now is what I will have a year from now, five years from now, when I retire. Maybe that’s true, but I want to choose that or at least feel that I’ve had a chance to make it end differently.
I’d like to think I’ll be ready to date again at some point in the future. I don’t see how that will happen here, though. I’m serious when I say there is a dearth of eligible men in this town. This isn’t an area for single people; we have a hard time retaining single academics, for obvious reasons; and most of the men I see in my age range are married. I’m a social person, fairly vivacious when I’m out with friends, but I haven’t attracted attention from men since I was in college. It doesn’t make for a positive outlook in my mind.
I wonder if my friends are part of how I see my problem, which sounds like an awful thing to say, I know. Two of my closest friends here are also single; they have been ever since I’ve known them (about nine and seven years, respectively). We do a lot together, given our similar schedules and availabilities, and we talk a lot, about many things. We don’t talk about relationships very much, though. They joke about not having been on a date in ages, they mention that they should probably try internet dating “again” but it doesn’t often go much deeper than that.
You would think this would be a comfort: look at these fantastic single women who have great lives! But what I see isn’t really comforting. They’ve settled into life here, going along with the flow, not kicking up a fuss; it’s like they’re existing in this strange complacent calm, not quite happy but not quite sad. One is continuously upset about something with her family; she’s too far away from them and she hates it. One frequently mentions that she hasn’t ruled out having kids; perhaps she hasn’t but biology almost assuredly has. They both agree when I laughingly offer to set up dating profiles for them but they never actually take me up on it. I’m not trying to analyze them; I don’t know what’s roiling beneath the surface when it comes to past relationships and current issues. And it isn’t simply that they’re single.
What gives me pause is wondering if this is all I get. Will this version of my life be enough for the next 20, 30, 40 years? Interacting with my colleagues, teaching my students, having dinner with my friends, traveling as often as possible – will this satisfy me? Will the calm and individualism and lack of romance create a life for me that I’ll enjoy?
I want a crystal ball, I suppose. I want to know that I’ll be happy with where I am, who I am, what I’m doing if I keep to the path I’m on.
At the same time, I have to figure out my path. I don’t want to exist; I don’t want to drift. I want something to look forward to; I want hope. But my mind is practically blank when it comes to seeing any sort of direction in my life.
So, it’s easy to point to my single status as the root of all despair. It’s not, though. I was wandering even before SG left (and that probably contributed to the downward spiral), even if I didn’t quite realize it at the time. SG was my goal, though; he was where I was going to end up, however I got there. Now, I’m not sure of my direction, much less my goal, so I focus on the one thing that clearly shows up empty: my love life.