I’ve gone and done it. I went to an LDS mid-singles event on purpose.
(You see, I did accidentally go to a mid-singles fireside some four or five years ago. It scared me. I needed to face my fear.)
But a week ago, several mid-singles LDS wards in the valley hosted a conference with about 1200 participants. And I went. For those of you who don’t know, Utah has mid-singles wards for those ages 31-45. I know I’m not 31 yet, but I will be next month, and I needed to see what my new playing field was going to be. When I first tried to sign up, the group was actually super strict about the age requirement and they made you swear that you were in that age group to be able to go. I could not in good conscience just say I was. So I emailed the organizers, and let them know I’d be 31 soon and didn’t want to lie on the registration since I’m still technically 30. They met about it and changed it so anyone turning 31 by the end of the year could come. See? Asking questions can change the world!
It probably only affected me because who in their right mind WANTS to go to these events early?
There’s a lot of stigma about the mid-singles wards. The most common name I hear is “the island of misfit toys”, which isn’t fair, and isn’t kind. Yes, for those of us from the outside looking in, it’s scary and intimidating. And for someone who’s been the “older” person in the ward since I turned like 24 and was still single, it’s a shift to be the very youngest of the crowd.
So what is a mid-singles conference like? Normal. Like pretty darn normal. And… I actually liked it.
The conference began with a dinner and outdoor concert on Friday night. I had several friends who were going and most of us were dubious about the conference and also terrified to be with so many people we don’t know. Social anxiety is real for a lot more people than you think it would be. Even us semi-gregarious people. I think Friday was just to warm us up and help us feel like there was nothing scary about the conference because, well, there was not really anything scary about the conference. I had lots of friends there. And those who I don’t know yet are nice, normal people who are just trying to live lives of faith. What could be bad about that? Really, I tell you, nothing.
The highlight was the Saturday portion. This consisted of Sister Elaine S. Dalton (former YW general president) speaking to us, followed by several workshops we could choose from. Sister Dalton’s talk was inspiring and enlightening. My key takeaway from her talk is that I need to have a fixed determination to do what is right and keep the faith. Our weapon against the adversary is our testimony and our faith. And those are pretty strong weapons, as long as we use them.
The next two workshops I went to were not about dating, marriage, or relationships. They were about listening to the Spirit and taking personal accountability for my own life. As presenter Roger Connors explained, if we are stuck, we are stuck on an escalator. See video below (I can’t find the original, but this will give you the idea).
We can easily just walk right off that escalator and keep going. If we don’t, it’s because we are playing the blame game and using ideas or believing things such as “I’ll wait and see”, “tell me what to do and I’ll do it”, “it’s not my job”, ignoring/denying my accountability, finger pointing, and covering my tail. Human nature leads us into the blame game, but accountability leads us to a “See it> Own it> Solve it> Do it” attitude.
Now, as I said, no dating/relationship classes for me. Yes, they did have those. But that’s why I went to professional counseling last year, haha. So instead, I was motivated and taught to see that I need to set my goals, not about things I need to DO, but instead about ways I need to think. And I did gain some personal insights: instead of setting a goal to get married, I need to set a goal to actually believe that there is someone out there that I would want to marry. And believe that marriages can be happy. If I can change my belief, it will lead me to a different action. “Form new beliefs, not new actions, to change things” (Roger Connors).
And this, from Dave McCann‘s workshop: “Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out” (John Wooden).
Skipping along, I met a lot of new people, cried through a presentation by T.C. Christensen about the making of “The Cokeville Miracle” and had a good afternoon. I especially enjoyed our service project because I tied a fleece blanket on my lap while listening to a presentation and was therefore kept warm in the notoriously cold Church buildings. The evening activities were add-ons that I didn’t participate in. I needed a little space to think about things. Side note: I was intrigued by some girls I met from out of state who told me they thought it was cool I’m working in a non-traditional LDS female occupation (aka web content management). I was surprised since my direct team is all women at the moment. The times, we be a changin’ them.
The conference ended Sunday night with a devotional by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and his wife Kristen Oaks. The most inspiring thing to me was being in a room filled with faithful and devoted Latter-day Saints. I just looked around and felt inspired by those who were choosing to follow Christ, despite the pressures of the world. The faith of that group, not their marital status, was what stood out to me. We’re all just trying to do our best and seeking light and truth along the way. I don’t think being single is awesome. I don’t think being single is awful. It doesn’t define who I am, it’s just a temporary place in my life (with an unknown definition for “temporary”).
How were the Oaks’s talks? Well, they tag-teamed and it was quite unlike most devotionals I’ve been to. Humor, fun, and a general authority couple in a little bit lighter setting than we normally see them. They spoke a lot about not being victims of what happens in our lives (cue the escalator video?) and finding out what my shackles are that hold me back in my life. There was, perhaps, a bit too much about marriage and dating in the talk. But what can they do? That’s what we should be focusing on because families are really the most important thing. For reals, for reals.
They must have had some influence because, while I didn’t really meet many new guys at the conference (the 20:1 girl to guy ratio was only part of it, I was also stuck on an escalator during the conference), the next morning I woke up and said, “Liz, you really aren’t doing everything you should be or could be doing to work toward marriage.” So I did what any normal person would do to get rid of those guilty feelings. Online dating, I’m back. Thanks, Bumble.