The Jealousy “Career Women” Accidentally Feel.

We’ve all done it. Scrolled down our Facebook news feed, Instagram timeline, or any other social media outlet and felt that pang of guilty jealousy that comes with being a woman of a certain age who’s single (with no prospects) and has no children. I feel it sometimes. As a matter of fact, looking at my friends from the past and present; grow up, get married, buy homes, and have children, brings me unspeakable envy BUT it also brings me an incredible amount of joy.

…looking at my friends from the past and present; grow up, get married, buy homes, and have children, brings me unspeakable envy…

I’m 28, and in the phase of my life that many consider the “window of opportunity.” This is a time in which a woman has the highest chance of meeting her future husband. That window is said to start at age 25 and end at 32. Many women see this time come and go and find themselves single. They take a look around and notice all their friends are married with children and living what looks to be the “white picket fence” life. They find themselves wondering, “Why am I single?” “What’s wrong with me?” and “WTF did I do with my youth?” The answers to these questions aren’t all that simple, but a lot of the time, these women at least have a great career to show for the time they spent not nurturing relationships that could yield a family consisting of a husband, wife and 2.5 children.

Being smack dab in the middle of the “window of opportunity,” I’m not quite there yet, but I do wonder if in the future, I will suffer the consequences of the choices I’ve made that highlight my desire to work on self-improvement and career advancement rather than family life. Career women are a special sort. Day by day they make decisions that propel their career forward while making sacrifices in their personal life. Since childhood, women are groomed to believe that life isn’t full unless they have a family. But, in spite of that coaching, these career oriented women choose to continue not to invest their time and effort into what is deemed “natural.” Five years ago, I made a decision like this without realizing what I was doing. I was engaged to my college sweetheart, but some how I knew I still had more life to live and lessons to learn before I made such a commitment. Him and I discussed my apprehensions, and from there we decided to end our engagement. Shortly after, we ended our relationship. I don’t know if I would be happy, but had I not had these reservations, I would probably be married today with a brand new bouncing baby. And seeing my friends and family with that, sometimes makes me wonder… what if?

In reality, my ex and I are good friends but we both know marriage wasn’t right for us. Instead, I’m currently in a fantastic relationship, with a man that makes me incredibly happy. His name is Ryan and he’s smart, caring, handsome, thoughtful, focused, funny and has a natural talent for putting up with my silly antics. I’m in love, and I believe he loves me too. We sometimes talk about our future together, the type of lifestyle we will have, and jokingly speculate what our children will look like. But, I’m leaving him, and therefore, basically abandoning the idea of him and I getting married and building a life together… what a strange thing to do. It’s not because I’m unsatisfied in our relationship. Building a life with him would be a major blessing and I’d be a very lucky wife. The truth is, with my departing for Ethiopia at the beginning of 2016 it would be incredibly selfish to ask him to wait. (My reasons for moving and the details are outlined in a previous blog installment.) Ryan is so selflessly supportive of my decision to go and he’s incredibly brave, for choosing to love me despite the fact that in a few months I’ll be the sole source of his heartache.

These are the types of decisions women face… Is it best to use your window of opportunity to nurture relationships? Or is it best to spend your youth in self-exploration and development? I think the answer to that question depends on who you ask. Either way you go, you stand the chance of life long regret. Personally, I don’t believe it has to be that way. The idea that we only get to have one or the other produces a lack of effort to strive for both and also gives us a sense of loss. That feeling of loss is what feeds the envy. Even if you don’t end up with both, there is no such thing as loss. It just wasn’t written the cards, and how do you lose something that was never meant for you? The good news is, something else was written there and therefore it’s perfectly possible to have a full life either way. What’s going to matter at the end of your life is whether you stayed true to yourself and your desires. I realized this not too long ago and ever since I have felt free of the envy I felt when I noticed a friend building his or her family.

… it’s perfectly possible to live a full life either way.

If a family is what is meant for me, it will be, in it’s own due time. But for now, I’m sticking to my journey of self-exploration, I trust that the rest will fall into place.