There I was surrounded by screaming kids running in and out of the house, chasing each other. “Stop running in the house. You’re going to break something,” someone yelled. There were kids everywhere. To the left of me was a mother wiping her son’s nose. Directly in front of me was a mother changing her newborn’s diaper. And to the right of me was my nephew. His little 2-year-old self was stretching his arm with his entire might to reach for a cupcake on the counter.

As I sat at a table watching Moms and Dads interact with each other and their kids, I asked myself, “Why am I here? None of these kids are mine.” I was at my 5-year-old cousin Daniel’s birthday party. And even though I was surrounded by family, I felt completely alone and out-of-place. I was the only person at the party without a husband or child. It was like I was an outsider within my own family.

The majority of my cousins are all married and have kids, and I couldn’t help but think I had missed the boat. With each child’s birthday party I attended, I noticed this lonely feeling was becoming all too frequent. In order to protect my feelings, I promised myself I would no longer attend any children’s parties. It seemed pointless for me to be there without a child of my own.

This particular birthday party seemed like it lagged on and on. I did my best to go with the flow and mask my insecurities. But there was nothing for me to do there. So I wandered around and made small talk, but I always made my way back to my seat at that same table. As that was where I was most content.

Watching all the kids play games for prizes, and then watching Daniel open gifts while the adults clapped, was not something I was into. So I was all too happy when my mom told me she was ready to go home.

That night after the party I realized that the common thread in the family was now children. I couldn’t expect my cousins to focus on anything else. Their lives were different now and I would have to adjust accordingly. Times had definitely changed.  I couldn’t be mad at them for being able to relate to each other on a different level, a level that I was not on yet.

As I continued thinking about the day, I thought about the different conversations I had with my cousins. A few of them mentioned that they heard about my pending move out-of-state. Each of them said the same thing to me, “If I wasn’t married and did not have any kids, I would do the same thing. You’re so lucky to be able to just pick up and move away.” Remembering this helped me feel a little better. Not that I needed validation for my life, but it just felt good to hear. Especially since I spent the whole time at the party feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t where they are in life. In actuality, they wanted to be where I was.

This situation will always be a reminder that I needed to continue to stay true to who I am and stay focused on my own life. Making myself feel like an outcast within my own family was crazy, and understanding that I did not miss the boat is important. My time for marriage and children will come. Love will happen when it happens and I cannot control it. I would rather wait for it than rush into a situation just so I can fit in with everyone else.

I have since made a new promise to myself. I will not stay away from my family because I feel uncomfortable. There will be many more times in my life when I feel out-of-place. So I will take it in stride and continue to stick to my own life’s timeline.

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