To date or not to date, that is the question.
If you’re *still* single in your late twenties or thirties, people constantly ask why you’re not married or attempting to find a partner. However, if you get married in your early twenties, people accuse you of accelerating your life before you know what you want.
As a late-bloomer to dating myself, I’d be rich if I had a dollar every time someone said, “Why don’t you try Tinder?”, “How will you know what you want in life if you don’t date when you’re young?” or “Do you even want to get married?”.
The negative backlash from my “alternative” lifestyle made me even more hesitant to put myself out there. I studied music in university for seven years. During this time, I was focused on practicing my instrument for several hours each day, making professional connections, attending summer music programs, and taking orchestral auditions.
Essentially, I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t imagine the idea of factoring in another person. I wanted the freedom of travelling or moving wherever I needed to study or work. Of course, many musicians make long-distance relationships work or have supportive partners who move with them, but I didn’t want to actively seek a relationship.
I knew that I never owed anyone an explanation for my non-dating life, but it was hard to ignore the societal pressures. Many people think that going on frequent dates in your early twenties is how you learn about yourself and discover what you look for in a partner.
I’ve always been the type of person who never saw the thrill in one-night stands or casual flings. I thought it was completely pointless to pursue a relationship with someone if you couldn’t envision a decades-long commitment with them.
As you may have guessed, people kept telling me to stop overthinking things and go on Tinder.
I don’t know what it was, but the idea of downloading a dating app and putting myself out there was terrifying and overwhelming. Every time I thought, “This is it, I’m finally going to create a dating profile,” I’d get busy, or something would come up, and I’d chicken out.
By the time I’d get back to a place where I could think about trying dating again, I got into the “I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be living in this city, so it’s not worth starting a relationship” zone.
When I was 21, I had a friend of the same age who was going through a romantic rut of her own. She was frustrated that she hadn’t yet had a successful long-term relationship in her adult life and harshly comparing herself to other people who were in relationships.
I was finishing up my fourth year of undergrad and anticipating moving to a different province to pursue my graduate studies. I had no interest in seeking a relationship until I met Jared (not his real name), who happened to live in the city where I was moving for graduate studies. Please refer to “Lessons I Learned from My Long-Distance Crush” for the full story about Jared.
The TL;DR summary is I had met Jared at a summer music program and saw him again when I visited his school for my graduate school auditions. Our interactions implied that there was a possibility of romantic interest, but it was unclear. We texted back and forth sporadically for about six months before I saw him in person again, at which point I realized that nothing romantic was going to happen.
When I told my friend about Jared, she insisted that I do whatever it took to make sure it worked out. I didn’t want to force anything and was okay being friends with Jared if things didn’t work out. However, my friend still insisted that I make this work, and it was “time” for me to be in a relationship. In hindsight, she was projecting her dating frustrations onto me.
Honestly, the main reason I hesitated to disambiguate things with Jared was because of the pressure imposed on me. The longer I kept things up in the air, the longer I could feel as though I was working toward something. I didn’t have to tell people I was single and hopeless; I had a potential crush.
Coincidentally, or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, my friend suddenly had a long-distance crush too. She’d gotten in touch with a friend of a friend, and they started talking on the phone every night. He was planning to visit our city, and naturally, she was wondering what may happen.
Don’t believe everything your friends tell you.
I won’t say too much about my friend’s situation as it’s not my story to tell. Basically, I didn’t get a vibe that they were a good match. I didn’t want to be rude or sound bitter about my own situation, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
My friend is a more outgoing and upfront person than I am, so she pushed it toward a relationship the moment he came to visit. Part of me felt like she was doing this in spite of my indecision with my Jared situation. She was the type of person who enjoyed being a “teacher” and “educating” people on living their lives when she’s not necessarily better or more knowledgeable than other people her age.
Their relationship lasted only about 3 months, which didn’t come as a surprise to me. In fact, it turned out I was quite generous in my assessment as I predicted they would fall apart at 5 or 6 months. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dating someone for a short amount of time and breaking up when it’s not working; however, it’s interesting when someone who strives so hard to teach others can’t even follow through on her own advice.
My correspondence with Jared was still ongoing. My friend still pressured me to have the “what are we?” discussion, but the more she insisted, the more it made me not want to do it. I knew that I would see Jared before the school year began, and I really felt it was best to have a conversation of this nature in person and not via texting, phone call, or video chat.
Fast forward to my young professional life.
I finished my graduate studies in spring 2019 and began work in a symphony orchestra the following fall.
At this point, the Jared situation was still the only “dating experience” I’d ever had. I was 25 years old and never been in a serious relationship.
As I mentioned, music school kept me extremely busy, and my three years of graduate studies were probably my busiest years. Outside of my music studies and professional commitments, I took some extra-credit French courses and volunteered at a thrift store on campus. I had plenty of projects on the go, so I didn’t need a relationship to keep me happy and fulfilled.
Once I entered the real world and didn’t have to deal with the monotonous nature of weekly lessons, lectures, and other school-related commitments, I was overwhelmed by all this “free time.” Obviously, I was still busy with symphony rehearsals and concerts, but being out of the university environment gave me much freedom in terms of what I could do with my spare time.
For the first time, I genuinely felt that I was ready to share my life with someone.
I won the lottery with online dating apps and met my boyfriend relatively quickly. We have been together for 15 months and counting. For me, 25 was the magic age to begin dating, and I’m glad I didn’t force myself to date before I was ready.
So, what is the right age to begin dating?
I’m not advocating that everyone waits until they’re 25 to find a partner, but that’s what worked for me. Everyone has their own path in life. Some people enjoy casual dating and going out with many people, while others prefer to hold out for a long-term commitment. When I finished university and wasn’t around judgemental people every day, I felt more confident about my non-dating choices in my young life.
Don’t date because your friend has a boyfriend or because your family is anxious to see you get married; date when you’re open to welcoming another person into your life.
As difficult as it was to deal with other’s opinions, I’m glad I listened to myself and didn’t download online dating apps before I was ready. I would have wasted my time swiping right and going out with people that I didn’t really care about just to fit in with my peers.
Thank you for reading! I typically write about my experience as a professional musician and how the pandemic has impacted my career. If that interests you, check out my publication, Alto Clef Diaries, where I publish every Tuesday at 2:00 pm Eastern Time.
Previously Published on medium
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