The aftermath of “26, unmarried, and childless”

So, apparently I struck a chord with my article “26, unmarried, and childless”. A really, really loud chord. Within a few hours of the article going live, it exploded. And it kept exploding for days.

Quite literally a million views later, here I sit, dumbfounded. I am grateful and humbled that you read the words I wrote. It’s a completely absurd situation that makes me giggle nervously.

Thank you. I cannot say that enough. Thank you for sharing and for liking and for commenting. I’m slowly making my way through the comments, messages, tweets, and Facebook posts that you’ve written me. So many of you took the time to contact me, and I appreciate it.

Everything has happened so quickly, and I’m only now beginning to gather my thoughts. Here are the ones that stand out:

1. This post wasn’t about singleness. While it resonated with so many of you single folk, that wasn’t what this was about. This was about those questions — well meaning or otherwise — that sting because you don’t have any answers, or at least the “right” ones. This post was about my friends who deal with infertility. This post was about my friend who can’t get a break when it comes to a job in her field. This was about learning to live life when it hasn’t gone the way you expected, and dealing with the prickly questions that go along with it. Yes, you singles responded to it the loudest, but this wasn’t about singleness.

2. Telling me (or others) that I’m “too young” to have felt this way isn’t helpful. That’s another prickly assumption you’ve made. You don’t know the circumstances or series of events that have led me (or others) to this point in life. My experiences, thoughts and feelings are valid, regardless of my age.

3. Stop trying to set me up with your brothers. I’m sure they’re all very lovely, but no.

4. Don’t be so quick accuse those in another life stage of not “living life to the fullest”. Go spend some time with someone who has a boatload of kids. I’m an Auntie to six children under the age of four. It’s crazy. It’s amazing. And let me tell you, everyone in our family is living life to the very fullest. We’re all in different stages, and no one stage is superior to another. Very few of my friends are in my same stage, and I feel I’m richer for it.

5. Keep moving forward. When I suggest that others shouldn’t ask “what’s next” it doesn’t mean we don’t ask ourselves what’s next; it doesn’t mean we throw away our goals or ambition for the future. Yes, be content with the now, but don’t become stagnant. Go out, volunteer, serve others, work hard, listen to their stories, seek new opportunities, DO something. Focusing on “what’s now” does not mean we get to stop moving forward. Pursue the things you want to pursue. It may not look like what you expected it to, but forward motion is still necessary. Make the “now” something worth talking about.

In every message I’ve read, no matter the story or circumstance, the similarities are overwhelming. We’re all yelling, “Hey, me too!” Yes! Hooray! Finally we meet!

We’re all hurting. We’re all trying to figure this out. We’ve all experienced those painful, prodding questions. We’re all looking for someone to validate what we’re experiencing. If these past few days have taught me anything, it is this:

I am not alone, and neither are you.

Flickr photo (cc) by fidanovska

has this secret ambition to be the world’s first ever sit-down comedian. For now, she teaches tiny children and writes on the side. Check out more of her musings at mandimarie.com or follow her on Twitter @mandiemariebee.