The Plight of the Singleton

This isn’t a Bridget Jones-esque complaint about when Mum will stop asking if I’ve got a boyfriend yet and smug marrieds setting me up. Although if it netted me Colin Firth, I’d be willing to put up with it. No, this is about the challenges of being really independent.

America is all about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” Physical impossibilities aside, no one ever really does it alone. I know. I’ve tried. I have this independent streak that makes me want to do it myself. Just me! I don’t need help! But if I’m honest, I get help anyway. Of course my family fed, clothed, and sheltered me. But I was also encouraged to explore and try new things. Like horseback riding. It will never be anything but a financial drain- er- wonderful hobby- for me, but it has given me skills with practical applications. Like absolutely no fear of horse manure. I have friends that have done everything from shelter a horse I really couldn’t afford to teach me people skills. There is give and take in every relationship, but I didn’t do any of those things alone.

Now I find myself in a place where I don’t have the ties of family or years of shared history and it’s really highlighting that I can’t do this alone. I need support of some sort. I am meeting some wonderful people and slowly developing that web that everyone needs. We are, after all, a social creature. I am, however, a long way from what I am finding I crave. I hesitate to use the word family, as it’s not the biological ties that I’m after, but it has that feel. People that I know inside out. People that really know me. People with complementary abilities. The kind of deep, intimate ties that aren’t encouraged in a world that is based on your number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

As a single person living alone, all the chores fall on me. I go to work to pay the rent and then come home to cook and clean. If I want to buy a house, it’s my credit score that determines the interest and my income that has to cover the mortgage. We all know the stories of the one that stays in a miserable job to support their significant other that is going to school or starting a business. What I should be doing right now is getting a job with the professionals already in the field that I want to join. Unfortunately, I don’t have a husband that can sign me onto his health insurance and make sure that we have at least some income all 12 months of the year. I have to stick with the field that does offer these things.

Once upon a time, it was understood that each helped in their own way, and being a single person living totally on your own was very unusual. This is not modern-day specialization where all I know how to do is one tiny part of the process. I could chip in to help with anything, but since each has their own strengths, I tend to do the things that cater to them. One was domestic, taking care of the house and cooking. Historically, this was the wife, but more and more husbands are taking on this role in one-income households. One was the income-earner as farmer or laborer or merchant. If you look at history, it’s amazing how many widows went on to take over their late husband’s business, whatever it was. Even the children had jobs- assigning the antsy little boy to swatting flies away from the food on the kitchen table. These days that has turned into asking the kid to fix the computer problem.

This went beyond the family. Once upon a time, each village had a blacksmith and a baker and a cobbler (if anyone even knows what that is anymore). It may not have been advertised, but you knew which women made the best preserves and which men could mend harness like new. Even the weird woman that lived half in the woods had a talent. She was probably the one that you went to when a fever wouldn’t break or a beau wouldn’t propose.

So what does this have to do with homesteading? As much as my independent streak wants me to learn it all and do it all, it’s really not practical. I happen to me mechanically disinclined. When my truck breaks down, I could learn how to fix it. Or I could know someone who is in fact mechanically inclined. If I’m lucky, that person will happen to need some help with their vegetable garden.

Networking is a buzzword that annoys me. Mostly because I’m bad at it. Showing up at a “networking function” to pass out business cards and meet people that might be able to help me in the future just isn’t something I’m good at. However, I’ve been discovering that , it’s noting more than the family and village of yesteryear that could provide what I cannot. In fact, I have started developing a network purely by accident. I’ve offered skills that I have and discovered that others have simply offered theirs in return. Logically speaking, it makes more sense for us to be lifting each other up by our bootstraps rather than ourselves.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I think that developing a good network – of friends, but even of plumbers and electricians and doctors that you trust – is both one of the most important and one of the hardest things to do each time we move. (And we have moved 11 times in 35 years of marriage.) Kudos to you for recognizing the importance and good luck with establishing a functional one for yourself in this relatively new locale.

    Reply

    • 11 times? I think that makes you an expert! I do need to start looking into the professional side of it. Doctor hunting- always fun. You’re right, though, good service people are a great find and I do need to start looking for them!

      Reply

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