Don’t Be in a Rush to Find Love
Posted by Madeleine Harrington for BounceBack.com
The race to find a significant other begins at an alarmingly young age. It starts when we first begin to glamorize the image of a wedding, dressing up as brides, fantasizing about locations and the size of our bouquet. We then grow into shy and anxious teenagers, attending dances, shutting our eyes through first kisses, dating before we even understand the word, exposing our vulnerability to someone else before we’ve even looked in the mirror and showed it to ourselves.
Dating, the embarking on a relationship, has always been closely intertwined with the concept of growing up. When our bodies develop, we are inevitably sexualized and romanticized, believing that the only light at the end of the tunnel is to embark on girlfriend-hood, wifehood, and of course, motherhood. We are ready to be touched, to be taken care of, to become one half of something larger. At least this is what we believe.
The truth is that 99 percent of the time, we are certainly, significantly, not ready. While we may look like adults, and claim to feel like adults, the fact is that the human brain doesn’t finish developing until we are twenty-one, for some people longer, and even then, our struggle to discover who we are has only just begun.
Most of us look back on our high school or college careers and can pinpoint, with a lingering sense of nostalgia, our “firsts”: first relationships, first sexual encounters, first heartbreak, first time that dangerous four-letter word was so ambitiously emitted from our lips. However, there are the rare exceptions: a good friend of mine is twenty-one, has never had a boyfriend, and has yet to sleep with someone. When she chooses to open up about this, she’ll refer to her lack of romantic experience as “missing out.” Yet in my opinion, it is she who has been a part of something incredible, and the rest of us who have been completely unaware.
My friend knows how to meditate without getting antsy. She majored in photography and loves to hike in and around her hometown in upstate New York. She recently came home from a five week trip to India. She has an impressively large number of friends, a solid group of people that she cares for immensely. She also has the remarkable and rare ability to be completely selfless: when interacting with others, she gives you her full attention, her whole self. I find it completely ironic that she regrets not yet having a boyfriend, feeling frustrated that she is already how old she is and has yet to fulfill this accomplishment, because all I can think about is how much she has accomplished considering she is only how old she is.
My friend has made these remarkable self-reflective strides, stages most people won’t go through for another decade or so, some never reaching, because she has had the opportunity of uninterrupted self-discovery, to grow into herself without the irrelevant presence of another body. We claim to embark on relationships because we feel we are “ready. But this “readiness” is almost always because we are lonely, and fear that we are incapable of going through life alone. However, what we don’t realize is that we can’t rid ourselves of this loneliness through romantic relationships, if anything it only lingers and worsens like an untreated wound, an insecurity we have always neglected.
So when is the right time to start dating? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer. Some people can be ready, although the case is rare, by college, or even high school. Some by their twenties, for others it will be somewhere during their thirties. For some people, the answer might be never. However, the process leading up to it is the same for everyone.
We need to find what we like to do, what makes us happy, what makes us whole. We need to commit ourselves to our friends, our family, and to photography, or meditating, or any other activity that we might not have had the time or dedication for had we been conducting our lives as one half of two. And I promise you that, when you are fully engaged in one of these tasks and completely happy while doing so, you will find it. You will know that you’re ready. You will find the opposite of loneliness.