For most of my 20’s I lived in a world filled with, “What ifs” regarding many of the choices I made in my life . It seems so foreign to me now, but my Disney Princess mentality was REAL. I would hesitate to make larger purchases or decisions because in my mind I wanted to do that with my husband. What If after we got married we wanted to move for a fresh start, or what if we had a growing family… what type of car would we need, you know things like that.Don’t get me wrong, I lived, travelled and enjoyed life, family and friends, but there was always this looming feeling, or as I view it, pressure. The pressure was to have myself established professionally and to be found by a good man who would have me as his wife and the mother of his children.
Around 26, I had been in two long-term relationships that allowed me to learn a lot about me, but ended poorly. To be completely transparent, the first ended because I walked in on him in bed with another woman and the second ended because I discovered he was married after we had lived together for two years. I’ve been asked, how could you not know or at least see the signs. I honestly was blinded by an unhealthy level of love and trust I created.
I grew up in a two-parent household that was filled with so much love and respect. My parents held the union between a man and a woman in high regard, but these streets…these streets taught me something different. I needed to be a ride or die type of woman who would hold down her man. One who would fight for her man and push through whatever came our way no matter what. You know how much bulllllllshit I put up with because I believed that. Serval failed situationships where I gave my all into someone that honestly was not capable of giving me back what I was giving them. Putting unrealistic expectations on situations hoping that they would one day turn into something great because I nurtured it the best way I knew how.
To add to my journey in this crazy thing called life, around 28, my gynaecologist discovered that I had fertility issues and suggested that I begin to think of my options should things continue to progress health wise. Talk about pressure!!! My family started asking about grandchildren, my dating life and if I was happy living and being single. This was from the most loving place, but man oh man, I started feeling the pressure. I wanted to make them proud.
I defined a solid relationship and children to the, “Job well done”, I longed to hear from them. They would have loved me regardless, but would my life be content? Would I be enough? I mean I had time so the pressure was heavier less days than most.
One day I looked up and boom I was about to be thirty-six. Living alone, super single aka no relationship on the horizon and no children. It feels like I was just 26 yesterday. I felt all types of pressure.
I even had a panic attack on my 36th birthday because I was overcome with so many emotions. If you were to put all my stats on paper, but I were a man, I’d be so desirable. But as a woman, I felt like I passed the quizzes, but failed the test.
An array of things have been said to me over the past few years from both people I know and complete strangers: What is wrong with her? Why is she single? Is she crazy? Does she even like men? You don’t have a lot of time left! You need to hurry up! Your standards are too high! You need to date older. You need to date younger. You need to just be open to any man that shows you interest regardless of anything so that you can get married and have children. Marry for love. Marry for money. You should date outside of your race more. You’re beautiful, but maybe you should straighten and grow your hair long again. You should lose weight. You should do a dating site. I will set you up on a blind date with so and so. You’re so sweet and nice. God will bring you a man and a family right on time. Any man would be lucky to have you. You have yourself so put together. Imma pray for you…AHHHHHHHHH!!!
Being 36 is a journey in and of itself. I am in a good place in my life, but I do feel pressure when it comes to relationships and having children. It’s mostly the pressure of time. I feel like I am at the crux of being able to engage with my children with vigour. The older I become, the more I realise what I want to be surrounded by. I don’t want the situationship drama, conflict or stress!
I’ve reflected on my life holistically. Having those real conversations with myself and using my quiet moments not to make excuses, but to understand exactly what my truth is, both good and not so good. I’ve gone to therapy and I’ve identified what I need to do for me and how to block out things that have previously pressured me. I have talked through the thought of not having children and the notion that I may not get married. Those were very very hard days filled with tears. Romantic Comedy movies and junk food, but it was needed. I had to reflect and redefine how I measured my worth. I prayed a lot and asked for God to help not harden my heart and live in his purpose.
I still have days where I see a beautiful baby and my uterus does a little 3 second dance. I sometimes see couples and have glimpses of being in a healthy relationship. If it does or doesn’t happen for me, I’ve made peace with that. Would I love it, no, but I will be okay. I do not feel conflicted or overwhelmed with pressure. I am open to take in each moment good or bad and understand that my life is not solely defined by me being a wife and or mother. I know there will still be moments or days I will not feel the best about it, but that’s life.
Joi Campbell is a social worker who resides in New York City.