I was born and raised in Middle America. A smallish city in Minnesota about an hour west of anything truly civilized. A suburb on ineffective steroids, if you will.
Most people I grew up with still live there, or near there—and to each their own. I on the other hand couldn’t run away fast enough and started heading east at 18, then continued moving that direction city by city until I landed in New York. I love my friends from back home, and I keep in touch with a handful of them, but there is something I have come to realize about my place of birth that it, and seemingly most of small town America have in common, the immediate need for wedlock.
Before I dive into this, I want to say I am by no means against marriage. I think it’s wonderful and I fully intend on tying the knot one day. What I am against, however, is tying it prematurely.
Marrying your high school sweetheart sounds nice, and may have been the storyline of your favorite 90’s movie, but is it really a great idea to let your 17 year old self map out your entire existence? I know 17 year old me would have fucked everything up royally.
I’ve lived an interesting life. One that maybe not everyone would want to live, but I can count my experiences from along the way and regurgitate a little bit of information I’ve picked up as I’ve gone.
First, you can’t truly know yourself until you’re by yourself. Having someone as a crutch to lean on is great, and you should consider yourself lucky to have people who care about you in your life. But being alone, truly alone, teaches you more than any book or pep talk ever will. Moving away from home, far away from home, like plane ticket is the only option away from home, gets you out of your comfort zone. It reteaches you how to make friends like when you were a kid, and to how pick up activities and hobbies you otherwise may not have ever considered. It helps you find yourself without being part of a pack. And maybe even helps you find a new pack who you’ll later realize is far more inline with you than the friends you simply had due to proximity.
Next, dating multiple people is not only a good thing it is a great thing! Maybe your first girlfriend or boyfriend really is the one you’re meant to be with, but if that’s the truth don’t you think you’ll find each other again someday? Get out there and meet people who are different from you, and bring a small piece of each one of them to your next relationship. By the time you find the right one, your experiences will only help you to know you’re finally in the right place instead of leaving you to wonder if there is more.
Believe it or not, your parents don’t know everything. Parents can serve as a great guide to the future, but you shouldn’t simply exist to try and repeat their footsteps. Our parents getting married early in life and following their parents are what lead to a 53% divorce rate in the US in 2014. Being single at 30 doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it means you aren’t desperate and that you have the ability to wait patiently until the time is right. Meaning when all those divorces are popping up for everyone else you’ll still be alimony free while your friend is a broke, blubbering mess.
Lastly, there are no rules. I know so many women (and a few men) who stress because society dictates when they should have slowed down and partnered up. That is complete and utter bullshit. You create your own timeline; no one makes it for you. You want to be married at 19? Your call, but don’t expect another gift from the registry during your second time around. I want to be married at 35? My call, and I don’t need to hear you chirping in my ear for 10 years leading up to it about how it’s time to make the leap.
At the end of the day we all need to stop stressing over “when is it going to happen?” and just live our lives. Do what you love to do day in and day out and eventually you’ll find someone who’s on your page. If you don’t find them until you’re 40, that just means you had more time to get to know yourself before trying to explain it to someone else. If you found someone when you’re 21 consider yourself lucky, but stop looking down on others, ya ass.