I've made big strides, but now I'm alone
My life has changed dramatically in the last year. I recently got a way better job that pays nearly double what I was making just a few months ago, which has allowed me to rent a bigger, better, safer, nicer apartment. Today, I went to see a financial planner to figure out a way to start saving money for retirement, building an emergency fund, and paying off my student loans. That felt pretty good. I have made so many life improvements. I have a plan now, and I believe I can stick to it. The problem is, it’s just for me. The plan doesn’t factor in the possibility of another person. And I understand that. I get that I should be self-sufficient. But somehow it makes me sad.
I got a divorce about a year ago — not because anything “happened,” but because things just weren’t right. I didn’t feel right. We both felt we could do better. And my ex-husband has already moved on and found someone great. All but one of my closest friends have found their partners or gotten married or pregnant in the past year or so, all while I was sleeping on an air mattress in an empty dorm-style apartment working two jobs. I did things the opposite way. Got married young and got a divorce when everyone else was settling down. I’m bordering on being in my mid-30s, and I’m still rebuilding.
Some days, maybe twice a week, being single feels pretty great. But the rest of the time, I’m either ambivalent or sad. It’s more than feeling left out. It’s that I want some of the things that my friends and peers have, even though I’m not exactly sure what they are. Obviously, I can identify the physical and social aspects of their lives that I admire, but the feelings they get to experience, through being in love or loving someone or having kids or stability or a plan to share with someone — I want that, even though I am unsure what that might feel like. How can it be that I want this thing that I can’t even understand?
What if I don’t find what I’m looking for? What if I never get the relationship I want? Will I stop wanting it? Will I resign at some point? Am I too picky? There are a few men lingering about. But I don’t want them. They don’t have the things I want. I don’t have feelings for them. I didn’t get out of the marriage I was in to settle for something less. And if it’s the case that I’m supposed to be patient, what do I do with this sadness in the meantime?
Up in the Air
Dear Up in the Air,
It sounds like you cleared some space for new things to happen, and they began to happen. Your new job is one of those new things. Your new apartment is another. You made space for new things and they are happening. They can’t all happen at the same time.
What do you do with the sadness in the meantime? You feel it. It is normal.
It’s natural to be sad. You lost a marriage. You lost a loved one. You’re lonely. That’s plenty to be sad about. You should be sad. It’s also normal to be a little sad if you are lonely. You’ve started a new job. It makes sense that you would be lonely.
The realm these feelings attach themselves to is something else. That is, as you look around and compare your situation with your friends, you add a layer. But the root thing is your sadness.
So go with the sadness. Deal with it in the moment. If you are sad and lonely, reach out to your friends.
There is only one thing to do with feelings, and that’s to feel them. Perhaps that sounds simplistic, but try thinking of it this way: Food is for eating. Air is for breathing. Sadness is for feeling.
- Send me a letter! Ask for advice! Letter writers please note: By sending a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, you are giving Salon permission to publish it. Once you submit it, it may not be possible to rescind it. So be sure.
More Related Stories
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11