By Ashley Oleszkowicz
Just three years shy of hitting 30 years old, I often find myself reflecting — sitting back, closing my eyes and thinking about how life doesn’t always go according to plan.
It’s that plan that lives in your mind — only occasionally spoken aloud to family members and maybe some friends — detailing the degree you want to earn, the career in which you want to succeed, the house you want to own, maybe in a small town or with a porch overlooking a lake, and the husband or wife and children you hope to share it all with. We try to create structure and plan out at least the milestones of our journeys, sometimes down to the year or the season or the month.
But who can confidently say they’ve achieved those original goals, met those deadlines and actualized those dreams? I certainly haven’t. And I’m sure many of you can relate.
Instead, we’re living lives we never could have imagined.
I am a 27-year-old woman who holds two college degrees (a bachelor’s in advertising and a master’s in journalism), considers herself professionally successful, enjoys challenging adventures, maintains a healthy lifestyle and has incredible friends and family. But there is something missing.
“Who can confidently say they’ve achieved those original goals, met those deadlines and actualized those dreams? I certainly haven’t.”
Part of MY plan was to get married — I always told myself that I wanted to be engaged by 26 and then have my first child by 28. Today, many of my close friends are already married or in relationships that seem destined for wedding bells. Or at least, it feels that way. My best friend in the entire world is married and currently pregnant with her first child. I couldn’t be happier for her.
But where is my soulmate, my best friend?
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Throughout my life, I have dated quite a few characters. Some were better to me than others, but the point is, I dated and realized that these people were meant to be a part of my life for just a short amount of time.
Then, a few years ago, I meant this guy who I made “chase” me for a whole year in order to prove his love for me. I was scared. I was 23, thinking that being single was everything I wanted. However when I look back, he was everything I wanted. I was just terrified to accept that feeling inside my stomach, thinking, “This could be the one.” He had just gotten out of a seven-year relationship, and I had recently been in two relationships back-to-back, so first, I felt like I needed some breathing room.
Finally we decided to be exclusive and change that “Single” status to “In a Relationship” on Facebook. We cared deeply for one another, and for a split second, I envisioned this person being the puzzle piece that fit quite perfectly into my plan. We would sit on the couch and laugh and joke and talk about the next phase in our lives. We both wanted to see each other down the aisle, and we discussed the total number of children we wanted to have together; we lived under the same roof; we ate weekly dinners and weekend breakfasts together. To an outsider looking in, we seemed to have a fairytale relationship — one you read about as a child.
But, as time progressed, our love for one another began to disappear.
I was working full-time by day, 40 or more hours a week, and going to graduate school full-time at night, and I just lost sight of who I was. I would come home daily and yell at him — if a cleaning to-do list had not been completed, I would scream, then sit there and watch him cry, even though I knew in my head I was in the wrong.
It is so hard to explain the feeling to someone who hasn’t felt it, but I was depressed — even if you couldn’t tell at face value. And he was my punching bag, which is by far my biggest regret in life. I look back on stressful nights when I had work and school, and would come home after a 13-hour day and throw his nicely prepared dinner and dessert against the wall because I hated life — and myself. He would say all the right things at the perfect time, but it was always in one ear and out the other. I ruined us, and it’s something I have to live with.
“To an outsider looking in, we seemed to have a fairytale relationship.”
The man I thought would watch me walk down the aisle in a pretty beaded white dress was soon gone for good.
I had planned for him to be a part of my life, through the good and the bad, in sickness and in health. Sure, I cried after we broke up — a lot, actually — but eventually it hit me: That guy who chased me, the guy who would pick me up when I walked through the front door after work and hug me until I decided to let go, the guy who I would fall asleep next to, the guy whose face I used to picture 30 years in our future — he was just another person who I was meant to meet on my journey. He would fill a chapter in my life story that I could look back on — something interesting to reread.
After the whole emotional breakup, I did what the average 20-something does: I started to live that single life. I went shopping and binge-watched hopeless romantic films on Sundays. I ate whatever I felt like eating, drank some bottles of wine and a few 7 and 7s, and, of course, gradually got back to dating and met a few people who I wanted to get to know more.
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I never imagined being single at 27, but I am slowly starting to realize that reality is better than my plan because I am growing. Just because I do not have a flashy diamond ring on my left hand does not mean I have failed. It just means I have more chapters in my story to fill.
I can say that I am a stronger person today because of what I went through a little over a year ago. My schedule continued to stay busy, but I was approaching it with a new perspective — I was putting ME first.
After he left me, I grew in ways I never thought were possible. I had promised to always love him, yet I couldn’t give him the love he deserved because I didn’t love myself.
I have learned to be calmer and to accept that there are some things in life I just can’t control. I have learned to take the bad with the good and still remember that I am worthy. I now know I cannot count on a significant other to be my everything. I have to be my everything.
So what if you are watching many of your peers get married and clicking through their wedding albums on Facebook? That should not burden you. Love yourself, and you’ll find love. Be confident in knowing that there is a person out there who cannot wait to meet you — even if they don’t yet know your name.
Continue planning out your life, but just know that your story will be so much more of an adventure than you bargained for.
Ashley Oleszkowicz grew up in the suburbs of Detroit believing that anything in life can be accomplished by having confidence in yourself and wearing a smile on your face. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, dancing to the sounds of any beat, running marathons and writing in her spare time.