I have recently moved to live in Tanzania to take up a teaching position here. Since arriving I have spent most of my time being introduced to new people (and desperately trying to remember everyone’s names), getting to know the city and negotiating my way around in various forms of transport, and getting to know my new colleagues. Without fail, when speaking with my new Tanzanian and Kenyan colleagues, one of the first questions I have been asked is if I have a boyfriend. I have tried to hide my bemused look as best I can and evaded the question, changing the subject to something else. It seems to be a prioritised piece of information that must be known by my new colleagues, and when I say I have only just arrived here and I’m quite happy on my own, I get equally bemused looks and questions from those I am chatting with!
‘Aren’t you lonely?’, ‘Surely you want a boyfriend?’ ,’Wouldn’t you be much happier if you were with someone?’…
Since when was the definition of happiness and being a fully-functioning grown up entirely predicated by our ability to find a mate?
Being single in your early thirties is an absolute minefield. When surrounded by a strange mixture of friends who are either dancing their way happily through the madness that is singleness in your late 20s and early 30s – think tinder dates, eHarmony and Match.com, and the wonderful, yet random bar chat-up line – and then the friends who are newly settled down and negotiating that strange time between socialising every weekend and actually having a family. In one evening a few weeks ago I counted six different television adverts for dating and singles websites within one ad-break. SIX! We feel there is an expectation that we should be with someone, or be looking to be with someone. The expectations aren’t just our own….they are exaggerated by the surrounding media and we are bombarded with them every day.
I recall being asked at Christmas last year by one of my happily coupled up sisters how it felt to be the only ‘single one’ in the family at the time. I remember being somewhat surprised by even being asked such a question and then saying that it really didn’t matter to me and I was more than happy and content to celebrate Christmas surrounded by my family and friends – I didn’t feel that having a partner would have made any difference to how I felt. I didn’t tend to define myself as a ‘we’ at any time. Surely having ‘me’ there should be more than enough….?
Now don’t get me wrong – when the right timing and the right person somehow coincide, I won’t walk away from it. However, I refuse to spend my life chasing a perfect ‘someone’ that I believe will make me happy. Happiness and contentedness should not rely on external influences alone. I truly believe that you yourself have the obligation to be happy within yourself.
If you happen to find someone to share that with – that’s lovely!