BY ERIN CARPENTER
August, 2016

This weekend I walked into an Ikea showroom, and it felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. I have never yearned for something so much. It wasn’t the furniture or the room, it was the way it was all set up to feel like someone–a couple–lived there. The shoes and work clothes hung in a half-opened closet. The TV was on, the bed was made. I imagined sharing a space like it with someone, together, sharing a mundane routine. Falling asleep next to each other, waking up, running errands. Depending on one another; needing one another.

I walked from showroom to showroom and it was almost haunting, all the lives that exist like this every day and I have never known it. I ached for it in that moment like never before, and I left feeling like I was missing something. My heart was heavy the rest of the night. 

But yesterday, I was driving down the windy everlasting country roads on the way to town, and I got the urge to lift my left hand off the steering wheel to look at my bare finger. And in that moment, I thought that someday, I’ll have rings on it, and I will remember the Saturday morning when I couldn’t imagine life any other way but by myself. These years are delicious and free. I love being able to do whatever and go wherever I please. I belong only to myself. 

What a treasure it is to heal, to drive alone with the windows down, to leave my friends at brunch and go off to have whatever Sunday I please. 

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Dear Younger Me,

Today, we have rings on our finger. Two of them. There’s an engagement ring he slipped on your finger on a park bench in Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve. And there is a wedding band, exchanged with him by a river on a June afternoon.

But there will be so many times you look at your bare ring finger in the years to come (yes, it will be years. Don’t panic). It becomes like a pact with yourself, to acknowledge your singleness and ringless-ness, but not be ashamed of it. You will begin to embrace it; to view your bare finger as a sign of freedom you have chosen.

You have chosen not to stay with the men who weren’t right for you. You have chosen to believe that there will be a man who you love to spend your life with. You have chosen to trust that your bare finger is not because of something wrong. It’s because the plan for your life has a bit more adventure on the front end of marriage, and that is good. These years will not be marked with shame of waiting. These years will be marked with growth, becoming, and yes–contentment. It’s contentment that looks different than you thought it would. You thought it would only come on the day you finally arrived: when you were chosen by someone. That day of “arriving” never comes, because it doesn’t exist. You already have. You are walking in your purpose, right now, bare finger and all. You are free to find contentment in what life looks like in this moment.

And right now, it looks like sitting on the counter at midnight while your roommates make quesadillas. It looks like waking up early, pulling your car off a mountain overlook, and sitting in your trunk with coffee and your journal. It looks like throwing yourself into your career, into your art, and having time to keep getting better at it. It’s talking about what’s really going on in your heart with people you trust. It’s time: time to learn about who you are. What makes you sad, what makes you mad, what makes you feel the most at home.

Because someday, when you do share a space with a man, and his clothes are hung in the closet beside yours, you’ll be so very glad you took that time. You will wake up in the morning, stretch in the sunlight, and you’ll feel at peace. And it’s not because you’re married. It’s because of those years you dug deep within yourself and chose to learn. Those years of learning helped you understand, helped you know without doubts, your purpose. It’s why you were created, it’s a spark that keeps you running towards life no matter your status.

And today, years ahead, you get to run towards it with the person you love. But until he walks into your life, keep looking and learning and praying and running and waking up early (and sleeping in late). These are the things that make life rich. You have a purpose He created you for, and it’s going to be good.

Love,

Future Me.

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