“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.“ – Steve Jobs
When we come to this world, we know nothing. We are all products of the societies that raised us and shaped our belief system with things labeled good or bad, right or wrong, normal or abnormal.
I was raised in an Eastern European culture that led me to believe every single woman on Earth must tick off certain boxes.
During the time I was single, especially once I turned thirty, many people started to wonder “what was wrong with me” and why I couldn’t find that illusionary person that was supposed to be “The One.” The prince on the white horse who was supposed to make me forever happy. I was perceived as smart, healthy, funny, and beautiful, so “why I was single?”
I used to think about my biological clock ticking, and the societal pressure to marry felt high, as if a woman without a romantic partner were unlovable, miserable by default, or incomplete.
I think asking single people when they are getting married is rude and unfair. No one asks married people when they are getting divorced.
I met my husband four years ago, many years after I was expected to marry. At the time, we were two Romanians living and working in Asia, within the same company but in two different countries. I was in China; he was in South Korea.
Our relationship started as a beautiful, genuine friendship. After three dinners in Shanghai and many long telephone conversations that felt like a deep, soulful connection, he proposed. I will never forget that day. It came like thunder. Totally unexpected. Surreal. A miracle of love.
I was thirty-five and very clear on what I wanted from a romantic relationship. My wish was to feel loved, supported, cherished, and appreciated. I wanted a partner—a lover and a friend—not to complete me, because I was already feeling whole and complete. I wanted to spend my precious time with someone I could share new life experiences with while building a solid foundation together.
Once we got married, some people started to ask me about pregnancy plans. Some ask this question without even thinking that some women can’t conceive, or just don’t want to have children. In fact, it’s nobody’s business.
Motherhood is not for everyone, and every woman has the right to her own choices. Having children is not a game to play; it’s the most difficult job in the world, and it has to come as a conscious decision, not an obligation or another box to tick. Some people adopt, and some don’t. Some women make amazing aunts, friends, caregivers, or mentors. There are various ways to give, nurture, and be of service.
I know women who’ve been advised to have a second child right after delivering their first baby, as if a mother should not act “selfish” and “only think of herself.” To some people, part of being a good mom is providing the first born with brothers or sisters.
Why so much pressure? In our lives, who makes the rules?
Someone recently suggested that I hurry up and have a child now, as I’m still young enough to conceive. “What if you end up alone when you’re old?” they asked. “Who’s going to take care of you if you get sick?”
But here’s what I think: I would never decide to have a child out of fear. It’s not a child’s job to complete their parent or make them happy, just as it isn’t our partners’ job. Children are meant to come to life for themselves, not to fill a void or make us feel whole and complete. Happiness is a personal responsibility, with or without children. But not everyone sees it this way.
So many people live their precious years ticking boxes or following norms imposed on them by others, trying to fulfill other people’s requirements and expectations. I find this heartbreaking. Some do not go for their dreams because they feel afraid or guilty. They wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially their dear ones.
In reality, we can’t disappoint anyone. People disappoint themselves with the expectations they set for whom they want us to be, or what they want us to do. People with no agenda cannot get disappointed, nor can they get involved in drama. They accept and love us unconditionally, as we are.
I wouldn’t want anyone to enter co-dependent romantic relationships with someone out of pressure.
I wouldn’t want anyone to do a job they dislike or even hate because that’s what someone in their family wanted for them. Or more precisely, their family member wanted that for themselves.
Descartes was right: by nature, we are all “social animals.” No matter our gender, race, age, or social status, we all have a basic human need to feel seen, heard, liked, appreciated, and loved. Most of us need to belong to particular groups or communities of like-minded people and feel socially accepted. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem occurs when we are not able to satisfy some of our human desires by ourselves, using others as a source of happiness, an instrument for validation, or a means to avoid ourselves.
I’ve been there myself in the past. I can recall many situations when I did things I didn’t really want to do to please others, like going to a movie with someone on a Sunday when my body wanted to stay home and take a good nap.
I was a master of people pleasing and, to be honest, it wasn’t always because I wanted to make everyone happy. The truth is that I wanted people to like and approve of me. I expected them to give me the things I wasn’t giving myself: love, time, care, and attention.
Again, being loved is a human need. However, being needy for love is something different. When we have a harmonic relationship with ourselves, we don’t need to spend time with others to fill a void in ourselves, but rather to feel a sense of connection and belonging. And we don’t need to make choices just to get their approval. We’re able to do what’s right for us, and accept that may or may not approve, and that’s okay.
You are the sum of your choices. Do whatever feels right for you. You don’t owe anyone any explanations for the way you choose to live your precious years, and with whom. Your time is your life, and it’s never coming back.