It seems like everyone got married right out of high school. Some got engaged. Some had a baby (or three). Some got divorced.
As someone with a long track record of doing whatever I damn well please, I knew I wouldn’t be married by age 18, nor did I want to be. I didn’t feel ready. The world was too big and I still couldn’t tell my head from my ass.
Going into my freshman year of college, being single didn’t feel so odd. Lots of people came to college looking for a fresh start. I made friends who were equally single and equally disinterested in rushing the whole thing. Pretty soon we were swearing off boys and promising to stay gal pals forever (hint: forever isn’t as long as you think).
But sure enough, people started finding “the One.” Then the next “One” when the previous one didn’t work out. Graduation time came and I swear half the people I went to school with were getting engaged.
My Facebook feed was flooded with pictures of sparkling rings.
I looked at my own hands. One had on a pretty turquoise ring I bought myself for my 21st birthday. The other had some indistinct smudges on it that may have been the remnants of chocolate cheesecake.
While I felt okay being single at age 18 when the first round of wedding bells rang, this second round felt different.
I felt older. I found myself talking about taxes, and buying a blender, and driving through downtown Denver thinking, “One day, when I get a house…”
The last one disturbed me. Is this what aging does to you? Makes you interested in ludicrous concepts like real estate and stability?
I found myself getting a little envious of my engaged and married friends, to be honest.
I wanted a sparkly thing. And someone who would take pictures with me. And someone I could tell people was “my boyfriend” with all the beaming pride that entailed.
Was it just loneliness? Was it the fear of missing out? Was I just greedy and wanted expensive, sparkly things?
No, I don’t think so. I didn’t even want the ring, really.
I just wanted… that. That quintessential experience. The feeling of having someone, having something, hitting a milestone that so many other people were hitting. In a weird way, I wanted to be successful. I didn’t want to be behind, the one person who couldn’t get married because, what, I wasn’t good enough?
I wanted to fit in, and when you’re in your early 20’s it feels like getting married is the thing to do.
But if I really think about it, marriage isn’t what I want.
I’m not ready. I don’t even have someone to get married to, which I’m told is an important part. Even if I did, I still don’t think I’d want to settle down. That’s a huge life decision and I’m not sure I’m ready to make it.
I’m having to accept, once again, that my path might not be the conventional one. I might not be married with 1.9 kids and a white picket fence by the age of 30.
That doesn’t make me broken or unlovable or wrong.
It just means that I’m taking my time. I’m setting my own milestones. I’m focusing my energy on other things that bring me joy, like writing and being a doting succulent mom.
It doesn’t make me a failure to not toe the line. While it’s wonderful that so many other people have decided they’re ready for marriage, it’s okay if I’m not. It’s okay if I haven't found “the One.”
If I’m happy with the life I have, why do I need to hit the milestones other people have set for me?
The pressure to conform is massive. When everyone around you is talking about their next big step, and it looks nothing like your next big step — it’s isolating. We’re social creatures. We like to fit in.
But fitting in isn’t worth forcing yourself into a box.
Take life — especially romance — at your own pace. Don’t put a ring on it just because you think the clock is running out.
Some people don’t get married until they’re 90. Others never do.
Relax. It’s all part of the plan.