While I was in grad school, near graduation time, a fellow female student decided to tell me that she didn’t envy some of her peers. The gist being that she didn’t envy people like me. “I don’t envy all of you single ladies.” She wasn’t a smug married lady. In fact, she is very much, for the most part, down-to-earth married tomboy.  A strong, opinionated woman who rarely saw her husband, since he is enlisted. Regardless, I felt stung.

The irrational side of me wanted to stammer something about being with my boyfriend for almost six years. The rational side of me knew that even a  marriage license or a ring on a finger doesn’t guarantee fidelity, trust, devotion or any of the many amazing facets that life and commitment can bring in a relationship. Her words, over a year later, still stick with me.

She did clarify and said something about “unattached ladies.” She saw the look in my eyes. The haunted bird-look. She’d seen me up, but she’d seen me down a lot in the almost two years she’d known me. On one of those down spring days…she was the only person who found me on a grassy slope before an evening class. I’d attempted conversation with other students, many of whom I really enjoy, but then choose to leave and sit alone. To be one with my thoughts, which meant I was very much in my head and tearing up when she decided to join me. Yet I was grateful for her presence. I didn’t want to be left alone with my internal monologue.

But I’m getting side-tracked. Her emphasis on us “ladies” that day was mostly about what to do post-grad school. What a single person does in a bad economy, with low job rates–the seemingly endless location options one had, if you weren’t significantly coupled up. She had a clear direction in her life–she was leaving upstate New York to move down South. I had no idea what I was doing. I was in a state of panic, but I couldn’t admit to envying her. I’m not even sure I did envy her.

Three months later I was still in a relationship with my long-term boyfriend, but we were physically separated by thousands of miles. By September 2011, after another three months of not knowing what to do, I was no longer in a relationship. It was the worst 3.5 hour phone conversation of my life. I don’t remember my face ever being that swollen. I still didn’t know what I was doing, but I’d attempted a meager step toward figuring out my future.

Over a year since that break up and I still don’t know what I’m doing. Her words are still with me, as are so many others.