Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an opinion article from Issue 2: Contentment
Staff Writer | Hailey Gomez
When I was younger I figured that my love life would magically pan out like a movie once I got to high school. More specifically, it would run along the lines of “A Cinderella Story.”
I would meet my quarterback, fall in love and then go off to some college together conquering the world side by side. Well, high school is behind me and while I wait to graduate from college this spring, I’m still waiting for my Austin Ames.
When the word “singleness is brought up, it is often associated with emptiness.
Our culture teaches us to praise the girl who lands the great guy because she is no longer alone. We are taught to idolize the “ideal” relationship based on how it looks and not what’s underneath.
Praising the single, hard-working women and men of the world is now an afterthought. It’s been replaced with the lie that people need to be in a relationship to be pleased with their lives.
Is it possible for people to be happy being single on a campus that creates a ‘ring by spring’ culture?
I spent my high school years at a small Christian school similar to Azusa Pacific, and even in high school I found myself surrounded by friends who were always in relationships.
When crushes fell through or ‘talking’ never progressed to defining the relationship, I told myself that my ideal guy would be awaiting my arrival in college.
But as I grew older, and somewhat wiser, I realized that relationships were more complicated than I expected.
While being single in high school was somewhat accepted, college turned singleness into something along the lines of a horror movie. The pressure to date increased not only from my friends, but from my family as well.
In a recent study called “Beyond the ‘Ring by Spring’ Culture,” Dr. Stacy Keogh George found that Christian colleges’ perspectives about marriage and relationships immensely affects the way women view singleness.
APU student Marlee Wallace, graduating December 2017, coined the term “perpetually single” after joking that she has been stuck in a cycle of singleness since high school.
“I think being at APU, surrounded by a bunch of romantically-lonely 20-somethings, puts pressure on being in a relationship … I think there have been times when I feel more sad about being single. That vulnerability led me to crave a relationship,” Wallace said.
It’s the craving for a relationship that drives students to feel the pressure of the ‘ring by spring’ phenomenon. One might argue that there is more pressure to find a soul mate before they graduate than there is to succeed within their chosen careers.
As a freshman attending a small Christian college for her undergraduate degree, Dr. George said, “Hearing the chattering of other young women on my floor about who they pegged as their future husband at the nearby all-male dorm, I was immediately aware that my success in college would be measured not only by achieving a college degree, but also by whether I had an engagement ring on my finger by the time I graduated.”
When I first arrived on campus, the talk about finding a future husband was not far from what Dr. George experienced. The first thing I remember hearing was the ratio of girls to guys constantly repeated in classes and in conversations on Cougar Walk. What it communicated to me was that if there’s a slim chance to be in a relationship, I must always take it.
Where is the peace in all of this chaos? Can students find contentment with being single on campus?
This peace comes through embracing. The act of embracing something that is so against culture allows for a counter-culture to grow. Being single does not have to be associated with being empty or lonely. Instead, being single can come with freedom and adventure.
“Honestly, if being at APU has taught me anything, it’s God has his timing and it seems to always conflict with my own. Now I realize that’s okay because I’m graduating early and I probably couldn’t have done that with another person deserving of my time,” Wallace said.
According to a Pew Research study “As U.S. marriage rate hovers at 50%, education gap in marital status widens” by Kim Parker and Renee Steepler, recent statistics show that marriage among young adults is on the decline.
The study said,“In 2016, the median age for a first marriage was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men – roughly seven years more than the median ages in 1960.”
Ages have gone up due to factors commonly perceived as those that are integral to successful marriages. Whether that be having a degree, being able to be financially stable or even just finding the ‘right’ person – young adults are waiting it out.
Relationships are about more than just the ring. It’s about the interests, the chemistry and what is best for both people. Waiting within a ‘ring by spring’ culture doesn’t have to be something that is stressful. It can be a time get to know yourself and find some inner peace.
So, while I like to joke that I am “perpetually single,” I have found contentment in the wait for my Austin Ames. Like Wallace, it gives me peace knowing that whatever is in store is in God’s timing and not my own.