Credit: Pexel – Luis Quintero
By: Escher Walcott

Growing up on the Disney Renaissance and early 2000s’ romcoms, where ‘true love’ was the goal met by the end of the movie, I’d become brainwashed with the idea that finding my marriage partner was what I should strive for in life. Saturated with images of the perfect union involving a man and a woman once led me to believe that this would be the conclusion to my story, leading me to absolute happiness. That’s where I saw myself at 30. I had a plan, which of course is not a plan at all.

In my past experiences, meeting someone you connect with occurs often through an unpredictable chance of conveniences so really, how can one strive for something they have no control over achieving? This is a question I’ve only recently been able to come to terms with asking myself.

I’ll never forget the Friends episode ‘The One Where Rachel Turns 30’ in which Rachel is dissatisfied with how her life looks now compared to how she visualized it. It was funny when I was younger watching her go through her mental checklist of what she had wanted to achieve by the age of 30, only to find it so relatable years later and naturally, less amusing. The fact that I haven’t settled down or started a family yet only intensified the mental scrambles I was experiencing leading up to my own landmark birthday.

While finding love in a partner would no doubt bring me happiness, as a 20-year-old, I depended on this notion to bring me to a place of full contentment and validation. The truth is back then, I truly did not accept or appreciate myself fully. I was traumatized by mistreatment and discrimination against me for years as a woman with dark skin. Lacking in confidence, I ventured out to nightclubs with friends, I found affirmation in male attention. This attention was also met with genuine disappointment if I didn’t receive any.

At that age, it feels like everyone wants to be noticed on some level as we’re all trying to stamp our way into adulthood. I can recall countless times I’d take a bathroom break on a night out. While reapplying my lipstick in the mirror, I’d wonder where on the scale I appeared compared to the rest of the girls around me. What was my appeal factor?

My early twenties were riddled with questions like these when it came to the opposite sex, still consumed by the idea that finding contentment with myself centered in validation from another male. 

The gears started to change when I reached 25. Somehow, I felt different. I had slightly more life experience and was developing as an individual. I consciously acted in making decisions for the bettering of myself, dissociating from old friendships that weren’t enriching me, and moving towards relationships that genuinely made me happy. These independent movements assured my sense of self giving me a newfound state of bliss. I still grappled with issues of doubt and stress over work like any other millennial, but my personal life was thriving for the first time in a long time, all thanks to elevating myself. Looking back, I feel like I certainly turned a corner in my mid-twenties when it came to how I thought about myself. I cared about nurturing and supporting who I was through acknowledgment of my mental health, whether I was feeling great or not, my physical wellbeing, and social stimulation. I’ve continued to move in this way and I can tell you its made a difference in how I’ve been able to come to terms with who I am now as a 30-year-old woman.

“I must love myself first in order to find love in others.”

Leading up to my ‘big birthday’ in February, I kept running through a mental checklist similar to Rachel’s. Like her, I’d wanted to have already found ‘the one’ and embark on starting a family. My mom at 30 was already married and pregnant with me, her first child. As a result, I’ve always set this age as a benchmark for my own life as a new chapter. The reality is, I have not found my lifelong partner yet and I’m not going to lie. I have felt pangs of failure about this, however, I continue to remind myself to give myself a break.

My mom is also a GP and never let having a family deter her from her passion for helping people. Growing up watching her doing what she loves, unwavering at the pressures of the job, sparked me from a young age to build a foundation for myself. Figure out my own passions and take the time to work on becoming skilled at these. Do more for myself because that’s where the foundation upon which I can construct a contented life can start to form. That is what I’ve been working on these past few years, as I’ve realized I must take care of myself in order to be happy. I must love myself first in order to find love in others and I’m satisfied with this notion. 

Although finding the right man to build a foundation with would be lovely, I know that I don’t need one to feel validated.

I’ve accomplished so much in my life and had great (and not so great) experiences that each has taught me. I’ve learned so much about myself and each lesson has fulfilled me in many different ways which I’m grateful for. It might have taken a few long years, but I can honestly say now that my love and validation comes from within and I’m excited for what the future brings, whatever it may look like.

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