What happens while you're making other plans

By Jennifer Joyner

I remember my mother’s 32nd birthday pretty well. This is partly because she — sweet lady that she is — kept the birthday card my brother and I made her hanging on her bedroom wall for several years.
It was a large card, made with poster board instead of paper.
It featured a picture I drew of my mother with a humongous cake.
The only parts of her that were visible in the drawing were her legs behind the huge cake, and there was a little caption bubble that read: “Who turned out the lights???”
The idea was that we needed an enormous cake in order to fit all 32 candles.
Of course, we were only teasing her about getting older.
Still, to me — at age 9 — 32 did seem really, really old. I thought 30 was middle-aged.
By 40, you might as well retire.
Obviously, I have gained some perspective on things since then.
“The big 3-0” is no longer a distant abstraction that I don’t think I will experience for a long, long time.
It will be my reality very soon, and it doesn’t feel like a big deal at all.
It does, however, make me take a look at where I am in life, and I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be.
I think we all as little girls assumed we would grow up, meet the man of our dreams and start a family that would be together forever.
This was something that just automatically happened at — oh, say … 23 or 24.
There wasn’t any other future I envisioned.
Everything seemed in line with the plan a few years ago. I had “the one” — or so I thought — and we were on track for an idyllic life together.
But things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, even after several years, issues and fundamental differences begin to surface.
Some unions are just not meant to be. And when a relationship is not right, no matter how long you have been in it, the end is not nearly as devastating as you think it’s going to be.
Nobody plans to be divorced or still single at my age, but it’s not that bad. It is what it is.
Of course, although expectations have evolved somewhat from generations past, it still feels like, particularly in the South, you’re supposed to have a husband and a home at my age.
And if you don’t, then what’s the issue?
Sometimes, it seems like being single is seen as a chronic problem that must be solved.
Although I can understand why a romantic relationship is the most important thing in many people’s lives, for me, it is no longer the life-defining element it once was.
I look forward to meeting the right person, but I’m also content without it.
Like I said, my life is nothing like I expected it to be.
In some ways, it’s better.
I never, ever could have imagined the love and joy my wonderful 3-year-old son brings to my life.
Here is a prime example: the other day, I was sitting on the floor playing with him, when I caught him staring up at me.
Wondering if he was examining something on my face or that he asked a question I had not answered, I said, “What?”
And he looked at me with that sweet face and simply said, “Mommy, you’re the best,” and gave me a big hug.
If that’s not a dream man, I don’t know what is.

Jennifer Joyner is a reporter for The Saline Courier. Her column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at jjoyner@bentoncourier.com.