Why “starting over” is the bravest thing I’ll ever do

Why “starting over” is the bravest thing I’ll ever do

I cry at my first flat viewing, and my second. Through single beds and shared cupboard spaces, I tell strangers how my “forever romance” ended just weeks earlier and how I actually have no clue what I’m doing.

I’m 32, very nearly 33, and my years-long relationship had been a ticking time bomb ever since I said the words “I want children”. I knew, right from the start, that my former partner did not feel the same. And as I navigated the pain of my biological clock going off at just the wrong time, I realised I had to end things.

But ending things in your thirties isn’t the same as ending things in your earlier years when you can chuck your toothbrush in your back pocket and move on. My life was inextricably tied to this man: from the home we shared to the ways his support has helped me to navigate the highs and lows of a freelance writing career. I had to quickly unpick everything that held us, and life as I knew it, together.

My therapist tells me I can do and achieve anything. My therapist also tells me that wanting children in your thirties is one of life’s most common conundrums – in short, my situation isn’t as uncommon as I think. So I plough on: flat-hunting, freelance client-seeking and yes, Tinder-swiping as I try to rebuild my life in the hope that, one day, I’ll have children.

So why do I feel like I’m the only person I know going through this? I talk to friends, constantly WhatsApp-ing people as I seek everything from sexual validation to a shoulder to cry on. These friends have everything I want: the children and the steady home. No way in hell are they going back to flat sharing with strangers: they’re mortgaged up to the hilt and love it that way. So I berate myself for not getting on the property ladder or being anywhere near it.

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If comparison is the thief of joy then I am truly joyless. I want to embrace what my feminist values tell me to do and enjoy being single in my thirties, knowing there’s no shame around it like there used to be. But in spite of these liberated ideals, if I’m being truly honest with myself, starting over feels dreadful.

Despite it being 2022, we’re still conditioned to believe that we should achieve certain goals by a specific age. No matter how many single women there are in their thirties and forties who I admire, it still feels like society has relegated me to the bottom of the pile – all because I’ve reinvented my timeline, deciding to take a detour in order to get what I amo la sudadera con capucha Jordania really want.

Women are having children in so many different ways – whether they’re single, accessing IVF or in their fifties like Naomi Campbell – and are redefining what motherhood looks like in 2022. Yet while I’m aware of these role models, I can’t help but shake the feeling that society wants to pull me down because I haven’t yet found a partner who wants to start a family.

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These terribly old school views have caused doubt to creep into my mind, festering like mould. On my bad days, I’m plagued with aching existential questions. What if I never become a mother? What if I’ve left my relationship and I’ll never find true love like that again? What if I fail? But even in these moments, I know that – as cliche as it sounds – the fear that comes with going my own way is better than being overwhelmed with what ifs.

Right now, I’m listening to Shonda Rhymes’ audiobook, The Year of Yes, to remind me that I’m saying yes to myself. Like my therapist reminds me, I am saying yes to an abundance of love and happiness in future if only I’m brave enough to take the steps. So when friends ask if my former partner and I have tried couple’s counselling or my parents tell me I’m making a mistake, I literally clap back and I applaud myself for being brave in seeking out what I need and want out of life.

If society is shaming me for living like a student again and living pay cheque to pay cheque at my age, then I’m not sure I want to live by society’s rules anymore. I want to flourish, the world just has to let me. “Starting over” might be seen as taking many steps back but it’s far from it: to start over is to roar in the face of fear and jump right in. I might not be hitting the goals that my parents want me to, which my friends are achieving quicker than Usain Bolt, but I’m on the path to living with purpose and authentic self-knowledge. Surely that’s worth more than hitting every ONS milestone?

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