living without a plan

People around me are getting engaged.  Three whole couples have decided to take their relationships to the next level, and the men have made it official on bended knee. I’m not going to lie to you; a very real part of me remembers kind of hating those people.  Not gouge your eyes hate, but definitely champagne in your face and all over your smug smiles hate.  I was happy for them, sure, and shared in their toasts, the clinking of glasses and the sharing of details.  How it happened.  Did you know it was coming?  Let me see the ring.  Have you set a date?  And a part of me was saddened, thinking I had lost another single friend for Girls Night Out.  No, no, I’d remind myself, it’s not about you.  But it was.  I was unhappy and wanted a serving of their lives for myself. They were making plans, keeping to their plans of happily ever after.  They were on their way, crossing items off their life to-do list.

I had a case of the HADS.  They had what I wanted, and their having it was just a reminder that I didn’t.  And it sucked.  And I felt sorry for myself.  I’d put on a happy face and participate in bachelorette parties and bridal showers at tea salons, but I was not happy.  I was frustrated because I couldn’t make it happen.  I couldn’t control it.  I just had to wait and let it happen, being open to opportunity.  I stopped seeing life as an adventure and began to see it as a race with a clock.  It’s hard not to when you have eggs that expire.  You want to be married for a few years to make sure the marriage will stick before bedding down and making babies (ha!).  You want to travel and enjoy just each other, and since you don’t know how long it will take to get pregnant, you have to factor in at least a year of trying.  I had it all figured out and timed.  With one marriage already behind me though, I was already up to Plan B, and it wasn’t working!  I needed to find someone, for him to find me, and it couldn’t be anyone.  It had to be the right person.  I cried to my Phone Therapist.  "Will I ever meet someone, THE someone?"  I would, she promised, because of how open to love I was.  Which is actually bullshit.  You can be as open as you want to be, but if you aren’t taking risks, if you aren’t extending yourself maybe beyond your natural comfort level, it’s really not much you’re doing.  You’re doing safe.  What you know.  And that’s not growing.  It’s living on a treadmill.  Then there was talk of "it will come when you least expect it" that left me retching.  "When you’re whole."  Then they’d say, "Wait, do that again.  You know, that thing with your eyes.  Wow, I didn’t know you could get them to roll that far back into your head."  I was annoyed with my life.  "Just be patient."
"Just go fuck yourself."

Oh, I was such a nice girl back then.  I was also a dater.  An online dater who booked two, sometimes three, dates in a day.  I would shop for the life I wanted.  I made an effort to go out, even when I felt like staying inside.  I reminded myself "it doesn’t take scores of suitors.  Only one, if he’s the right one."  I watched Little Women too many times (I still do).  I drank too much.  I went to the gym a lot.  I bought more $300 tops than any woman should consider.  I carried a debt of about 15k on my Amex.  I led a mildly extravagant lifestyle (spending $50 for order-in sushi at least four times a week).  I wasn’t jet setting off to Capri.  I was being dragged downtown to Cain and other craptacular spots that thought they were cool because they served you drinks on beds.  It was not cool.  It was work, and especially come weekends when the B&T crowd crowded way too much of Manhattan’s real estate, it was depressing. 

I do not miss that life.  Not that exact one.  I miss my one bedroom, as crowded and claustrophobic as it was. The halls there and letting Linus rip up and down them.  Walking to Riverside Park, even.  And I’m not a park girl.  The proximity of my pad to Fairway.  The buzz of people going places.  The nail salons!  My bedside table.  My green wall.  The way everything was mine.  I miss living near all my friends, watching shows, cooking dinners, meeting almost nightly for our wine at different spots throughout the city.  I don’t miss being single, and I completely understand how it feels to still be looking.  And the only bit of advice I can offer is, try to see your life as an adventure.  Imagine that you’ll be married in less than a year.  What do you want for you right now, knowing that soon your life will never be the same?  Will you ever have the chance to travel alone?  I know it sounds scary or lonesome, but really, you live this life only once.  Why wouldn’t you dare to do something that scares you a little?  What is it that you think you might miss about your life right now, as it is?  Do more of it.  Because chances are, that’s exactly what will happen. I’m not sure it’s ever exactly as we planned.  Thank God.

***This post totally reminds me of one I wrote back in 2004, back when people were trying to replace black with the latest color: black, it’s the new black.  I’m glad people stopped doing that.



  1. I saw a quote recently that goes well with this post. I can't remember it in exact words, but it was something like this:

    "Let go of the life you've planned, so you can have the one that's waiting for you."

  2. Try being the girl who doesn't believe in marriage and never wants to have kids and then all her friends start getting married and talking babies. It's like i'm the person holding the Krispy Kreme box at a Weight Watchers meeting…….They narrow their eyes, get determined looks on their faces, and start circling me. I can't possibly be happy alone. I can't possibly really not want to have children. Why don't I want to be JUST LIKE THEM!? I'm lying about being happy because I don't have a man in my life…..and so on.
    I love doing things on my own. It allows me to not take for granted when I do have someone in my life. But to grin and bear it through another bachelorette party, bridal shower, or baby shower with the people who cannot believe I am genuinely happy for them while feeling no jealousy…….how can I make them understand that my joy comes from the fact that I am thinking "Better you than me…….."?

  3. Good advice.

    A variation on this theme… after my last wretched breakup I sat down and made a list of what was non-negotiable for me in life, even if I never met "the one". My list included- owning a home, having/ raising a child, owning real bone china, eating dinner out at non-chain places, going back to New Orleans once a year, etc. And so, I set about making plans to do all those things (regardless of the dating life).

    A little over a year later I'm engaged to the right person, who wants all those things too. I'm not saying it's magic, but it definitely opened me up to figuring out what I really wanted in life. And I still check the list every now and then, make updates, and revise deadlines. But it's pretty much the same.

  4. Oh, I love this one. It is inspiring and refreshing coming from someone who has been there, done that. You lived the single life, and now you are happily married. What great advice at the end too.
    I really liked this, did I mention that?

  5. This is a great post, not only for itself, but also because of the dialogue it started in the comments! I felt better (not bitter!) after your advice, Stephanie, having just gone through a breakup where I feel I lost "the one." Then reading the comments above mine, I felt even better. I love the 'letting go of a planned life' quote and the advice to make a list of non-negotiable to-do's… see, women need womanly advice in their life! We just know what to tell each other(ok, not every woman is good at this)with or without a sexytime manfriend!

  6. I'm 27 and getting divorced. It seems like all of my friends are getting engaged, married, or having their first child. I REALLY needed to read this today. Thanks.

  7. Amazing. I was literally just emailing with my newly engaged best friend about how much I wish I was in a substantial "going somewhere" relationship. She was quick to point out all of the things about my still single life that she envies and misses.

    The grass is always greener…

  8. I loved this post. Its been said before but I'm saying it again (for lack of ability to come up with a new way of saying it) you describe where I am and where I've been so beautifully (and much better) then I could.

  9. This is my best personal advice and something I had to keep in mind – you never know when you are going to find "the one" and will no longer be single. That could be it for the rest of your life. So ENJOY the time and make the most of it – because there should be no going back.

  10. This post seems to speak about a lot of the advice you give in your book Straight Up and Dirty (which I loved by the way). I just passed it on to a girlfriend going through a breakup. I highlighted so many passages for strength when I was going through a hard time. This is what I love so much about your blog and book. You make me feel stronger. Thank you.

  11. "Just be patient."
    "Just go fuck yourself."

    Stephanie, my thoughts exactly. I feel this way 98% of my day. I don't want to be patient and "open", I want to freaking GO GET WHAT I WANT. All this passive crap that women need to master to close the deal just doesn't work for me. I have to pursue my hobbies when what I really want is a husband? Really? Do I go to to Bloomingdale's for produce? I'm so tired of waiting and/or trying with the wrong ones. I know what I want. Why is there this mind numbing double standard regarding pursuit?

    That being said, somewhere in this post is really strong advice I have a feeling. Will try to employ it asap.

  12. I always thought I`d like to have a general plan of my life, I believed I`d feel more safe with it.
    But often things didn`t work the way I wanted or expected them to do. Thankfully, sometimes things worked much better too than I`ve expected. Could I ever imagine to be married and a mom in less than two years? No, I couldn`t and, voìla, it has happened. There`s a quote I always remember when I find myself making to much plans: "Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans" (Not sure, but I think it`s from John Lennon). Couldn`t said it better.

  13. stephanie i've been away from the blog lately, but this post was JUST what i needed today! i have now past the 'weddings' session of my friends and am now in the 'babies' session bc lately so many women rush rush rush to have babies right away instead of the nice plan to chill and like GETTING TO KNOW your husband before you get pregnant and devote your life 20 yrs + to someone else and lose yourselves as a couple and as a person. I don't get it, but I am in there with certain friends, during pregnancies and the ups and downs, as much as it will happen to me many many hears from now (god-willing) and their kids will all be ten yrs old. All i have to say is, those girls better ALL be there for me when i go through all the wedding and then baby $hit they have all gone through. Because if not, that's my deal-breaker to no-longer-friends. that's it.
    but overall, i have to be inspired by this post and really take it to heart. thank god i did my knitting class and now pottery. So great!
    And traveling alone (internationally) is something every young woman in the states should do.
    much love to the pipsqueaks!

  14. I really connected with this post.

    I'm 26. I want to get married someday, have babies, all that good stuff. But at this point in my life, the idea of settling down and committing to someone is terrifying for me. I'm sure that's because I simply don't have a person in mind with whom I can connect the idea of committment. Right now, I love being single and just can't imagine sharing my house, my stuff, my bed, my bod with someone 24/7.

    I often feel like Stepheney above – all of my friends are older than me, and the single ones scold me about how "when you get to be our age, you'll wish you'd done more to settle down earlier, it's so hard to find a man when you're older…" Which may be true, but does that mean I should settle down with someone just for the sake of settling down?? Just the idea of that makes me antsy and miserable.

    I'm still on the hunt for someone who'll make me want to, though. :)

  15. Well I can relate to this post, but I'm also someone who will be permanently single. I'm sick, chronically, progessively, sick, and after my last long-term relationship I knew that no one deserved the "burden" of me. It's really just too hard. So for all the single and hating it women, just be glad you aren't 28 and living with your parents and stuck with them for the long haul.

    The only thing that REALLY stinks about all my friends' marriages, and now children is that they don't want to hang out with single people, at least in my small town. I know some think I'm jealous, but I knew long before I couldn't have kids, that I would never pass my DNA on to an innocent child, so I'm not jealous of kids at all, they are just facts of life that weren't dealt in my hand of cards. I must find joy in the smallest things in life, such as Stephanie Klein, otherwise there's no point, and I think even "normal" people would benefit from that outlook somedays.

    I am thrilled for my friends' lives, it's just extremely hard being the girl who can't grow up, as I was sick at 20, and feel I'll always be that age because of my reliance on others. I'm not looking for any pity, I am sure I love my dogs more than any human I've ever met!

    But if you're single, and healthy, I suggest even if you hate being single, you make your life what YOU want now instead of waiting for someone else to make it perfect. Buy a house of your own, cook the gourmet meals for yourself that take all day, because there are others who would kill for a life of independence.

  16. I love the comment you made about asking yourself what you'd want to do if you knew that this was the last year you'd be single. I've been in and out of relationships for the past year — when one ended, it was always less than 3 months before another began. I broke up with the last one in January and decided, "I'm done". I'm not looking anymore. Instead, I'm trying new restaurants, joined a local wine tasting group and met some great new people, booked a trip to Napa with 16 people I barely know, & booked a cruise for just me and my sons in July. I'm enjoying unattached. There's something very freeing about letting go. I have more time to do the things I want to do, now that I've decided to stop looking for HIM and letting HIM find ME.

  17. It's like you can read my mind…I am the single one of all my friends (10 weddings in two years) and just recently having gone through a breakup (which idiot me thought was The One), I hear the 'tick, tick, tick' inside me like I'm not moving fast enough to find him! This opened my eyes though…I've been waiting to find that person to start my life, when my life is happening right now!! I need to take the weekend trips to NYC to window shop or sit reading a book in Central Park…go to Ireland and Europe alone (as not fun as that sounds, I'm sure I'd have a better time than if I dragged someone with me!!) Thank you for the post…it's absolutely what I needed today.

    And I hate the 'it'll happen when you least expect it' bullshit! Yeah, yeah, yeah…blah, blah, blah!

  18. OMG! I could have written that, but thank you for putting my words into yours ^^
    I just HATE this. All this weddings…like the whole mankind is living for nothing else than choosing the perfect paper for the invitations.
    And I HATE the things that happen to my best friends. It´s always the same. Telling me that nothing would change. "We can do the same things like before" But it changed. Always.
    When the "I" turns into "we" it´s over. O.V.E.R.

  19. i decided to stop making plans. ill be 30 in june, and after two failed engagements, and the painfull break up with my ex, i said im done. im just living as life happens. i have work, friends, and i nice guy im dating. coming out bisexual helped alot too. i dont need plans anymore.

  20. With a break-up three weeks behind me and a thirty third birthday coming up this weekend, I really needed this today. Thank you! And hear hear to being a single female traveller. I've got Central America booked for this Spring and couldn't be more excited!

  21. I'm almost 35 years old and I still remain positive that I will find my guy. Most of the people I know (not friends, but co-workers, and some family members) keep telling me that I'm "gettin' up there" and if I don't meet someone soon I should give up on ever having kids. Ouch, it really hurts when they say that. Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I still think I have a good 10 years to get pregnant, God willing. Why is 35 considered old? 40? 45? It's not…

  22. OK, I BEYOND needed to read this today. 32, living a life of crazy stress with my job, traveling all over the place and (trying to) keep it all in perspective. Then I read Stephanie's (above poster's) post and ALL of you – if you haven't read it, go back on up and read it. I don't even know you, but you're a blessing and never a burden. You may be living with your parents but I'll be everything under the sun that your parents' lives are so much more enriched because you are there to share every day with them.

    Now back to Ms. Klein – that line of "just go f–k yourself" – amen, sister.


  23. Stephanie,

    When I read your book, I didn't get a lot of the vibe that the men you dated were through the internet. I'm excited to hear more about what it was like booking internet dates and meeting different kinds of people, almost blindly. I hope you post on this topic more in the future.


  24. Enjoyed the post.

    As someone who just called off her wedding less than two weeks out, I can tell you that there are far worse things than being single. I'm going to revel in my singlehood this time!

  25. I love that "it'll happen when you're not expecting it" crap. When exactly ARE you expecting it? "Oh, it's Thursday April 5, I expect this'll be the day…better blow out the hair and wear clean underwear." Really. Of course it happens when you're not expecting it. Unless it happens at some sort of speed dating event. Then you may have had some expectations.

  26. Blogger Stephanie: Great post.

    Commenter Stephanie: You seem like a selfless, wonderful person and a great writer, and honestly, it sucks that something bad happened to someone like you instead of someone, well, bad. If only I were in charge…

  27. This so hit home for me today…i am 43 divorced w/2 kids and living in the burbs in CT. Internet dating is a lot of work, and I barely have the time to meet someone local nevermind in another state! I just picked up a book that i read about on MSNBC called "On My Own"-The Art of Being A Woman Alone by Florence Falk-It seems to tie in with all the comments above…..

  28. Brilliant. I need to re-read the last paragraph daily.

    Am nearly 26. Great start in a career I love. Most the friends are already married or engaged to be so (try about 15 weddings in 3 yrs). Recently got out of a 3+ year relationship, yet now I couldn't be more excited and nervous about what lies ahead. I know I'm young, but the attempt to find the balance in all that is life, work, love, family, scares me. Thanks for challenging all us single gals to live life to its fullest each day!

  29. I have a rock/paperweight on which a calligrapher wrote:

    "Don't miss the good times, while looking for the best of times".

    ….. I was going to elaborate on this, but I think I will let it stand on its own.

  30. LOVED this post, Stephanie! Everybody should make their to-do list for life. I did so about a year ago when I and my boyfriend started to seriously think about having kids and wanted to have no regrets and "should have done"s afterwards. I am happy to say I can put checkmarks behind most of the points – ready to practice for the babies now :-)

  31. To Stephanie the commenter above:

    I am really sorry for the position you're in. It must have taken a lot of courage to be as accepting as you are. Thank you for putting things in perspective and many good wishes to you.

  32. Huge Fan-
    I think the quote you are thinking of is: 'We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us' -Joseph Campbell.

    I also loved this post and I will be turning 40 in September. I am the token single girl in my circle of friends. It's taken along time but I think I have come to peace with the fact that I might not get married and I might not have a child. But, I will still have an amazing and fabulous life!

  33. I am so "here" right now in my life. 35, not married, no kids, but in a longterm relationship – and completely fine/happy with all of that. I like my life right now. However, feeling the societal/friends who-are-married-w/kids pressure all the time. Not to mention, I do realize that eggs do perish after some time. I soooo wish they didn't. That, to me, is THE biggest factor here. Anyway, this blog felt heaven sent to me. Thank you…I needed to hear what you had to say.

  34. I’ve been feeling that way about trying to get pregnant – everything feels on hold (other areas of my life included). Great reminder for me to live in the now. Actually, more like suck the life out of the now.

  35. Thank you. A classic case of the greener grass, but you described the life i want to be living right now.

  36. I don't want to go off-topic on Stephanie's blog, but I wanted to say a Thank You to those who really "heard" what I had to say. The worst thing about being young and sick is that I've really lost having a voice that matters in this world.

    The words are nice that I'm no burden, but the reality is I am, but I am fortunate to have a family that is willing to take care of me, no matter how much sleep they lose. Last year I weighed 78 lbs. at 5'8" because the more complicated your case gets, the less doctors care, and the only truly wonderful specialist I have, had cancer and wasn't working.

    I am in a healthier place this year (though nowhere close to "normal"), thanks to this specialist, physical therapy, and medications, but now the gov't wants to stop paying for those medications, that cost 6 times more per month than they give me to live. I went from a very fortunate "have everything girl", to a "have not woman" in a matter of years. The only good thing being that I'm not my parents financial burden anymore. But being kicked out of private insurance is a situation I pray no one has to go through.

    My story can, and does, happen to so many other undeserving people, so I really want to get the message out that if you have your health, live your life to the fullest, even if you're single, because it can all disappear in a moment. I am living a worse nightmare than I could've ever imagined for myself, but I keep a positive attitude because life is too short to be sick AND bitter.

    So again, Thank You to those that heard me, and didn't pity me. I appreciate it. And thanks to Stephanie for hearing me, letting me take over her post, and sharing her life with all of us, because it's great to step into someone else's shoes, and her book (and now the blog) was/is one of the biggest escapes I have to the reality I deal with daily. French fries help too! :-)

  37. Thanks for giving me the courage to live just the way I am….And to keep dreaming for what I want….

  38. I've been on what feels like 500 online dates, have no real prospects on the horizon, four friends getting married in the same month, and a bunch of friends who are either pregnant or have kids….It IS hard to feel like you're continually watching other people pass you by in the life you want. And you're right, it's not about NOT being genuinely happy for them. It's that it's another reminder of where you're not. And I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to air punch the person who either said I was being too picky and or not open. Hello?! I just put my picture(s) on the internet and regularly meet people I don't really know (aka strangers) for coffee/drink!

    Strangely enough, I just picked up Straight Up and Dirty a night or two before this post was put up and went to the part where you make a list of the things that make you happy/have made you happy. I'm still working on my list, but thanks for the post. It gives me a little more to think about.

  39. As I read your book (currently the second time through), I'm so often caught off guard at how similar your thought patterns were to mine given similar stages of life. This post is another example when you wrote, "I stopped seeing life as an adventure and began to see it as a race with a clock."

  40. god, i so feel this way right now. (me and everyone else, apparently) as in, i already got married..but now i'm divorced and alone. not that i mind alone but somewhere i started to hear the clock tick. that clock i swore never existed. i'll be 28 this year and most of my friends are married and buying homes for the first time or having babies and what do i do? i go to work and out for dinner and drinks. ugh! let me scream and then get over it! i'm thinking about finally doing the travel-nurse thing and what better of a time to do it, right? i'm unattached. i'm young. there's so many places i want to see…its just so damn scary to leave comfortable and routine especially when you enjoy the people here. ok. sorry for the gripe. pressing onward! the question posted in the blog about what i would do if i was getting married in a year…travel! its all i've ever really wanted to do. its the one thing i want to do before i settle down…so i guess, i best get on it! ;) why am i surprised there are so many of us on here that "needed to read this!?"

  41. I loved your post. especially the advice. i want the life you have right now, but i know i will miss what you also described.. my flat, my walks, my nights-out, my girl friends, all the mys…but then of course all those mys would have become something else. I am still childless (the first time I'm even writing that word down!), not in a long-term relationship and just turned 37. There's deep longing inside for that life i've always envisioned for myself… and find too in a more recent post of yours 'an appointment with dis' another echo of these expectations. I cry inside, sometimes, asking why things don't work out. I've done most of the things I've wanted to do except, yes, the depth and comfort of being in a togetherness thing locked and sealed. then yes, what would I really want to do or have right now? It's the one thing I can only let happen.

  42. I come back to this blog every few months and each time I promise myself to never leave again! You always know exactly what to say, and it is always eerily in line with what is happening in my life.

    Two years ago, after my last breakup with the man I was convinced I would spend my life with, I was devastated and deeply depressed. I recently learned he and his new wife had a baby, and for a while, all the old pain revisited me. But reading your post reminded me of how we have to make everyday an adventure regardless of whether or not a significant other is joining us on our journey. How lucky we all are to chart our own course and make our dreams reality. It is shameful how we let the abscence of one person take away the joy we already have in our lives.

    So thank you, Stephanie Klein. Thank you for reminding me how quickly life can change, particularly for the better.

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