Expectations for a happy life

By Makia Ariela Elisabeth Jørgensen

As an aromantic asexual, the endless flood of amatonormative expectations put forth by peers, family, friends, society – and myself – was once the force that crippled me. That is no longer the case.

My heart was racing. I was drawing breaths faster than I could count, deeper, louder. The sound of my heavy kicks echoed in the beautiful, hostile landscape where the silence was loud, as I plunged my boots into the steep, ice-clad mountainside with full force. Almost there. The sun had risen only hours ago and having climbed through the cold, black night, it was a relief to now watch it shine on the object of my long-time desire.

With a single, determined push I cried out and swung my ice axe, burying the blade in the gleaming white snow one last time. Tears of joy rushed to my eyes. My limbs were shaking from fatigue and the overwhelming euphoria. Finally, after four years of training, learning, preparing, dreaming, obsessing, it was mine: The summit of Kyajo Ri – a rarely climbed peak that lies tucked between two valleys in the backyard of the busiest region of Nepal’s Himalayan mountains.

When Dreams and Expectations Collide

Dreams come in many shapes and sizes. As an aromantic asexual, someone who feels neither romantic nor sexual attraction to others, my own dreams lay long buried under the pile of expectations and assumptions that had been thrown at me since I was very young.

As a pre-teen, I remember reading articles in young girls’ magazines about how to get boys to like you. I remember teachers saying we would all soon be swooning over our opposite-sex peers, as our sexuality would blossom and turn our brains into goo (their words, not mine). The message in all of this was clear: feeling sexual and romantic attraction is part of being human; wanting sexual relationships is essential to our mental and physical well-being; forming romantic (and exclusive) relationships is the key to a happy future. Without a doubt, we would all grow up to do exactly this.

I remember buying into all of it. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Sex and romance were everywhere. From magazines to television to advertisement to general discourse, it dominated every word I ever heard about life and happiness. Truthfully, as a young person, it never once occurred to me to question if this package deal really was a one-size-fits-all recipe to a fulfilling life, because I never heard anyone anywhere suggest otherwise.

Since the norms were all I could see, I followed them. Or I tried to. I failed miserably, of course, at this task of forcing myself into situations unnatural to me to fulfil a dream it took me years to realize wasn’t my own. Instead, what plagued my thoughts was the fear of what was to come: Surely, I would be lonely. Miserable, in fact – everyone said so! In the midst of it, I overlooked the biggest clue of them all: I wasn’t lonely. I wasn’t missing sex. I wasn’t missing a romantic partner.

Finding Answers

I was 25 when the wondrous world that is Google lifted the heavy burden off my shoulders and provided the answers I had unknowingly needed: I am asexual and aromantic, I am not broken, there are many others like me – and I will not be miserable, unhappy, or lonely because of it.

Very recently, while sitting at a Copenhagen coffee shop, I turned the first page of a random women’s magazine lying on the table. The first article was, if you were to believe the headline, about how to achieve your dream. Think hard…what kind of wedding do you really want? The dice were cast. I read on: a long speech in favor of abandoning traditional, boring ceremonies, and personalizing your wedding. Never a single word that marriage might not be every woman’s die-hard dream. It wasn’t a wedding magazine, mind you.

Fortunately, my journey toward my dreams had started years earlier. Come my 20’s, I began to travel the world on my own. I volunteered at a wildlife farm in Africa and fell asleep not with a lover, but with lions and cheetahs in my arms. I had dived below the surface of the ocean and explored the magical world underneath. I walked the most beautiful trails on the planet and developed an overshadowing passion for high altitude mountaineering. I made friends all over the world.

I don’t claim that any of these adventures are out of reach to people who naturally desire sexual and romantic relationships. But today, I genuinely do believe that not feeling these needs and thus no longer spending time, energy and resources pursuing them, including having to consider the wants and needs of a significant other, has allowed me to pursue adventures unhindered, unproblematically, and a lot more frequently.

Dreams come in many shapes and sizes. As do distractions. I will no longer be distracted while living my dream.

Makia Ariela Elisabeth Jørgensen is a web editor, travel writer, and mountaineer with a passion for adventure and LGBTQIA+ issues. She is a member of the Asexual Association Denmark and has been an active figure in the association since it was founded.

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