“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

–Alfred D’Souza

Maybe it’s that introspective haze I find myself in each year near my birthday, but I’ve noticed lately the delicate balance between taking control of your life and realizing that you don’t really have any control.

So many singles seem to focus on the obstacles in their lives rather than appreciate what it is they have.

Rather than enjoy the benefits of singledom – freedom, independence, more time to spend with friends and do things they love – they lament their single status and let it overwhelm them.

I understand that, but at the same time I’m realizing that life’s too short to wait around for something to happen (i.e. the “right” person to walk into it). It’s still important to be open to love, but at the same time, you can’t put your life on hold waiting for it.

Sometimes when I hear a college freshman recite her future plans – including details from academic major and career to the age she’ll start having children – I have to refrain from insulting her idealism.

I prefer to think of myself as an optimistic person, but a few doses of reality and dashes of difficult experiences tend to dilute idealism.

A few minutes of the evening news send reminders that a life could change in any given second, such as stories about flash floods or fatal car accidents.

Because my generation has faced more open doors than any other when it comes to choices in life, I think in some ways it has had a detrimental effect on other aspects of our lives, including the dating scene.

We’ve been taught that we can be whatever we want, accomplish anything we want – get whatever we want. So when it comes to dating, why should we expect anything less?

Because you can customize your car, your CDs and your body parts, it’s easy to fall into the trap of always expecting to get what you want out of life and out of other people.

But is that realistic?

Life is complicated. Every situation provides an opportunity for you to decide how to react, but you can’t necessarily control the situation itself or avoid the obstacles in your path. Of course, it’s still important to make the best decisions you can in life because every decision does have some sort of impact on your future.

At times the obstacles are what make life more memorable – they are catalysts for improvement. You hear stories about it all the time: A man’s flight is delayed and he ends up missing out on a big business deal, then meets his future wife at the airport the next morning.

A woman gets into a fender bender and meets her future husband at the coffee shop across from the auto repair shop.

Two people who have given up on love meet at an all-night diner, each having just left from a terrible blind date.

Hey, these things could happen.

Or maybe I just still have a little bit of idealism left.

This article first appeared in the Aug. 8, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.