Single and Introverted in your 30s

About halfway into hanging my poster-sized mirror, a task made difficult by the heft and lack of natural light in the room, I found myself in an emotional malaise. Piecing together the look of my new bachelor pad should have been fun, the perfect storm of several events unimaginable about 3 months ago. But the increasingly annoying job of entrusting more than 20 pounds of glass and plywood to two nails, I was, well, annoyed. And I recognized that feeling.

It’s a feeling that I’ve had on and off since childhood. Feelings of loneliness, anger, withdrawal and confusion that have plagued my teen years until now, ebbing and flowing with whatever friends entered, lingered and left my life. The reasons were just as varied as the circumstances: the teen years, suffered by a lack of transportation beyond two wheels, gaining four wheels only to lose good friends and trust; returning from college to reestablish and forge bonds, adrift on an island of uncertainty; wandering to the desert and planting roots, only to see some of those connections stretched further and tighter. I know that I’ve felt that longing for connections for the longest, and it is an effort to create relationships — friendships or otherwise. 

"We just love watching The Big Bang Theory. We TiVo that on Thursday nights and watch Survivor, then we watch Big Bang the next night before wine time with Ann and Richard! And then..."

Age tends to alter the strength and amount of those links, with that bringing an increased sense of powerlessness as things unfold. (Admitting that you can’t control everything is a first step for a worrier like myself.) The natural order of adulthood brings relationships, marriage and/or kids and moving to new surroundings, and many of these changes happen in your 20s-30s — a relatively short period of time. And an accustomed — purposely or accidental — reaction is to close ranks to those closest to you, pruning the remnants of your past to keep a clean, manageable house. 

But what happens to the clipped, pared down and docked? The pieces that are often of single, childless status? Media paints them as either whoring it up on the dating circuit, dragging their crying bodies along the same circuit, or training/dressing their cats for a reenactment of Glee‘s “Don’t Stop Believing.” They occasionally make appearances at company and friend’s parties as couple-less stragglers, third wheels for breakfast/lunch/brunch/coffee outings or as the overly-eager one at a class/meet-up for interests given new importance to break up the monotonous work week.

This fisherman has the song "Nobody Wants to be Lonely" on repeat.

Basically, being a single person among a circle of coupled/married friends/associates is sometimes lonely, awkward and irritating. Diving into a couple for the sake of booking the schedule with dinner parties, couples-only events and having someone to hold up a mirror end seems appealing, if only to avoid the effort of sewing red-colored costumes for 15 cats. (Replicating Kurt’s ruffles would be a bitch.) And there are ways to deal — like those dating, activity and cat-hoarding activities I mentioned.

I do believe that there should be a common understanding and acceptance, both on the individual’s and friend’s ends. Accepting the passage of time and the changes it brings is good for everyone, along with the anxieties and hurt feelings that come with it. Finding things to do with these so-called friends that won’t make you want to get back together with your horrid ex will take effort, and good friends will be willing to find that common ground. Making new friends with similar plights is a great idea and worth stretching your comfort zone.

The best thing that can come from these challenges is to understand and embrace those that care about you the most, those best friends and family members that will always make time and room for you. A great support system will lessen the worries of aging, getting you through those awkward 30s into the potentially creepy 40s. (Just in time for the midlife crisis!) I will let you know how that goes.

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