I have experienced great love in my life. I have the love of my parents, sibling, friends, church mates and most significantly the love of my Father in heaven. But I have never truly been IN love before.
Yes I have had crushes, mild flirtations and unrealistic obsessions (Yes I'm talking to you Derek Ramsey, Sam Milby and Piolo Pascual), but I have never truly been in love with a man before.
Through most of my teens this not being 'in love' thing was totally acceptable. In fact people commended and applauded my total lack of interest in guys and relationships... telling me instead to travel and explore without tying myself down or defining myself through another's eyes.
However by my early twenties the being 'single' thing became a little less desirable and all of a sudden my relationship status morphed into a popular conversational piece for my relatives who asked "If I was being 'too picky?"' or, my Grandma's personal favourite, 'If I was a lesbian?'
But it wasn't until I surpassed 25 and reluctantly entered into my 'late-twenties', that I truly understood what it was to be single. Oh yes being 'single' in, around or even above 30 is something entirely different.
Being single in your late twenties and early thirties is like entering into another world. Suddenly you become weird or pathetic or pitied or even tormented. You become 'single' first and individual or occupation second.
It's as if once your singleness has been declared nothing else matters!!!
Now for quite some time I have rebelled against this pressure and the stereotypes and expectations surrounding single individuals within the church. I have waved my single flag proudly and kind of relished the fact that I didn't rush into or obsess about boyfriends, and relationships and settling down.
But then something changed...it was as if a switch finally turned on or I was struck by one of Cupids misdirected arrows. For suddenly I didn't want to be single anymore.
Of course realising this didn't transform me into a relationship crazed harlot overnight either. Rather at once I was able to truly desire something that I had never before...a partner.
I started to think about having children. I wanted to start building a life with someone who would support, challenge, and encourage me. Someone that would tolerate my love of trashy reality television. And most importantly someone that would love my Father in Heaven above anything or any person, including myself!
For the first time in my life I didn't really want to be single forever! I was now open to the possibility of love.
Even though I'm writing this publicly... I suppose I am still struggling with this feeling that has now settled within me, taking up residence within my heart. And whilst I know that it is exciting, it is also completely unnerving!
This feeling of wanting more can so easily transition into 'desperation' or a 'willingness to settle for anything'; a posture that so many single people succumb to. I've seen people go crazy for love or relationships, chasing them desperately and repeatedly.
I've seen amongst my friends, my family and even my church mates! I realised that chasing love was dangerous. Chasing that feeling, chasing an individual, chasing a relationship. Being open to the possibility of love was not the same as craving or forcing love through relationships.
And now that I was open to something more...I did not want to determine my worth or joy on whether I did or didn't have a boyfriend.
So whilst I have yet to experience the art of being pursued or lavished upon (or even to fall in love), I am beginning to see that my value is not determined by my relationship status or what other people think of me.
Of course sometimes I do question myself, wondering whether I am physically deficient or lacking in some other way because I have not graduated into coupledom when so many of those around me have.
Knowing more about the self
But thankfully my single years (of which there have been many) have taught me much about myself; they taught me to know thy self. To know what I deserve, what I cherish, what I desire and most importantly what I DO NOT want. And because of that, I know that I will never be 'desperate' or 'willing to settle' for anything when it comes to relationships.
Whilst my heart is finally receptive to love (especially to the love of Derek Ramsey... a renowned Filipino actor and heartthrob), I know that patience and wisdom is a virtue with which to abide by, especially in the realm of love. Through demonstrating patience I know that I will never rush into an inadequate or damaging relationship to feel special or worthy. And through seeking wisdom from God, I know that I will never commit myself to an individual that cannot be equally yoked to myself.
So for my single peeps I say this...waiting isn't a curse or a life stage that you need to progress from as soon as you can. Rather I say rejoice and be patient as God wisely and lovingly guides you to a place of contentment...whatever that make look like. Relationships are a blessing, and to be open to the possibility of one does not, and should not, be equated with being desperate.
Alison Barkley is a post graduate student at Deakin University. Alison is currently serving in the Philippines with an aid organisation.
Alison Barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html