3 Reasons I Don’t Regret Choosing My Career Over A Relationship In My 20s

I recently heard through the social media grapevine that an old high school friend is expecting to have her first baby later this year. Meanwhile, I’m retooling my mental list of celebrity crushes and updating it accordingly. Because, priorities.

Milestones often remind me that life is constantly moving, even if you’re too busy to notice. After I graduated college, everyone suddenly seemed to pair up like it was Noah’s Ark; the news of engagements and pregnancies flooded my social media feed, and the list of life’s checkboxes goes on. Now that school was out of the way for myself and my peers, everyone else was gearing up for the next step in this game of life: starting a family. I, on the other hand, picked up multiple freelance positions, and wrote for local newspapers in San Diego after college. The thrill of seeing my name in print gave me butterflies the way a new relationship did for others.

But hearing about my old friend’s pregnancy prompted me to question my past decisions. I reflected on my own unchecked boxes in my dating life, and did the inevitable — comparing my accomplishments to everyone else’s. It isn’t often that I do this, but when I do, a  montage of “what ifs” obnoxiously parade in my mind. What if I spent more time meeting new people, so that I could possibly meet my future husband, instead of spending time working on a project for a client? After all, my biological clock is ticking, or so everyone reminds me.

Consumed by my belated quarter-life crisis, I found myself standing in front of the frozen section of my local grocery store, hoping to find life’s answers in a pint of beloved Ben & Jerry’s. Instead, what I find is self-actualizations (and perhaps a stomachache after polishing off the ice cream).

1. Different strokes for different folks

What I prioritize may not be something someone else will prioritize, and vice versa. At this point in time, I would rather concentrate on advancing in my career instead of focusing on which dating app or latest bar would be the most lucrative for my love life. Besides, I’m still reeling from being laid off late last year, so I spend most of my time plotting the next best move for my career. The idea of putting the effort into finding someone new instead of finding new work seems daunting.

I have friends who work just as hard when it comes to their careers, and then even harder when it comes to finding their very own Prince Charming — and I admire their gusto. They are a rare breed who can have the best of both worlds (I applaud them!), but that’s not always the case for everyone — myself being the prime example.

2. I don’t need to be in a relationship to feel accomplished

Now that I’m a thirty-something, the majority of my friends and family in my age range are being promoted in their personal lives — getting engaged and/or getting married. As a witness to everyone’s love around me, I’ll admit it’s pretty heartwarming to see a relationship blossom from a friendship into a soon-to-be married relationship. My career may not offer the warm embrace a boyfriend would, but it still feels nice to wrap myself up with a new title after a hard-earned promotion.

For the last five years, I’ve been lucky enough to work from home. And, while I’ve relished my independent workspace and freedom, I realize I may have unwittingly given up future opportunities to meet my future partner. Distant relatives (you know, the aunts and uncles you see only around the holidays) have randomly chimed in with concern that I will never meet anyone if all I do is work, especially if I work from home. However, I am contently nestled in my bubble, only coming out of my sanctuary whenever I want to meet with friends for dinner or a musical, run errands, or walk my dogs. Without having to tend to the needs of a romantic relationship, I am able to accomplish a lot more of what I want to do in my professional life. This means checking off boxes on my list of career goals sans distractions.

3. Everyone is on their own timeline

As the great Julissa Loaiza said: “You’re not falling behind, it’s just not your time.” Those words are comforting to remember during short-lived moments of uncertainty. I see others around me progressing into another stage of their lives, and I wonder momentarily if I’ve somehow fallen off track.

I’m not ruling out the idea of ever starting a family, but at this point in time, I am embracing my career-oriented way of life. I’m unable to wrap my mind around steadily dating someone, let alone starting a family. I’m just not there yet. I still have an immeasurable amount of respect for those who marry and start a family (my parents married young and are still together today 42 happy years later). But everyone is working towards their own goals, whatever that may be. Sometimes we may share similar paths, and other times we’re on polar opposites on the spectrum of things. Life isn’t a race, but it certainly is nice to cheer for each other on the sidelines when it’s finally our turn to shine.

*****

These are the choices that I’ve happily made, and I’m grateful for the life I already have. It’s hard to pine for something that I don’t necessarily miss. Are there moments where I wish I was in a relationship, though? Sure; it happens every now and then, although it’s fleeting, and it is pretty much only instigated whenever I’m at a wedding. That’s the countless romcoms I’ve seen seeping into real life, I guess.

I have a strong relationship with my family, a solid group of lifelong friends, and two awesome dogs. My heart bursts at the seams every time I think of how fortunate I am to be surrounded by incredible people. I may not be heading down the aisle any time soon, and I’m okay with that.

As a digital marketing professional, MK utilizes engagement strategies to contribute growth along social media platforms for her clients. When she isn’t working, MK can be found reading and spending time with her two dogs, Pepper and Lulu.

Image via Unsplash

In-Post Social Banners-04
  • Totally with you on this one! My closest friends are all married & having babies, which makes me simultaneously wonder if I’m missing out AND grateful for the way my life has turned out. Although I’ve been with my partner for 3+ years & we live together, marriage & kids is not in our plan. That’s yet another explanation for inquiring minds! I toast you in solidarity with my (dairy-free) pint of Ben & Jerry’s 🙂

    • MK

      Your life already sounds amazing as is, Jenn. Thank you for taking the time to chime in! I raise a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s to you. 🙂

  • Phoebe Prentice Terry

    I chose a very stable, very cushy and rewarding job that gives me absolutely zero bragging rights and I’m (common law) married to my best friend who I live with and love more dearly than I’ve ever realised possible. I really didn’t think I’d like being in a relationship as much as I do, my parents divorced when I was three, I love hanging out by myself and I’m a huge introvert. I say darling enjoy being single, if I hadn’t fallen in love with a silly, bearded Kiwi who is two centremeters shorter than me and makes excellent beer I’d be doing the same thing as all you single ladies and loving it, I’m a little bit jealous of you all if I’m honest!

    • MK

      Introverts unite! I’m happy you have love in your life, Phoebe. Here’s to you and your “silly, bearded Kiwi.” 🙂

  • Why either or

    I am thinking about this – why are we all buying this “relations/family-oriented” vs. “career-oriented” crap of life-divide. I am as well in the beginning of the thirties and single as well. Yes, I do have a demanding career and I focused on my work and profession a lot in last years (even when not being single!). But I do not see my life as career-oriented as long as I do not have a relationship / marriage / family. My life is so much more then my work – there are my friends and their families, my extended family, my hobbies, my art, travels, my pets, my volunteering for the cause I care about …

    • MK

      It’s wonderful you’ve got a lot to be grateful for, I’m happy for you! I also appreciate you sharing your perspective on the life-divide, too. It’s a nice aha moment for me: why can’t we just have it all? Until then, my life’s balancing act is still a work in progress. 🙂

      • Why either or

        Of course I do agree with your premise that we are always making choices and how”let’s have it all” in practice rarely works out in each and every specific moment of our lives. But I still think there is quite awful gender divide in regard to this topic. Relationships vs. career is an either – or choice for women but not for men. Since it is somehow expected that their partners and families support their career and professional choices. How many times have I heard that I am “too driven” to have a partner and family from men who are as driven as me. But of course, they are men, so they do not have to make a choice 🙂

  • AN

    “being promoted in their personal lives” is such an interesting phrase. Marriage and children aren’t accomplishments. They /can/ be if you make the right match overcome some kind of adversity, but otherwise they’re things almost anyone can do for any reason. I love a wedding or a baby shower as much as the next gal, but it’s so odd (and kind of unhealthy?) to think of these things as empty squares on a proverbial checklist that everyone needs to do, like a list of chores, whether it’s on their own timetable or not. You’re right, life isn’t a race. It’s good to see more people questioning and dismantling the stigma around single womanhood.