There’s a post making its rounds on Facebook that is grating me the wrong way: “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23.”
I want to preface this post by saying that yes, I did get engaged before 23. I was 19 when he officially popped the question with a ring and everything–but I was sixteen when we decided that was what was right for us. I was 22 when we got married, and it’s been over a year since then.
I’m 23 now. Have I done everything on that author’s list? No. Not because I didn’t have time or am now incapable of such things now that I’m married–it’s because I have no desire to complete most of them, because that list isn’t me. It also isn’t, I don’t think, a list for many of the people reposting it on my Facebook newsfeed, nor even a list meant for the majority of pre-23-year-olds. It is a list that works for the author and perhaps a handful of others–or, if I’m misjudging, maybe hundreds or thousands of others. And that’s fine, too.
What bothers me is the author’s tone. The post reads like this list is the only option, and that anyone who chooses otherwise is deserving of the world’s judgement as they watch with baited breath as your relationship crumbles before you turn 30, you statistic you. Perhaps that isn’t what the author intended, but the post does come across as extremely judgmental, like those who do choose to get married before the age of 23 are worth nothing, have done nothing, and will do nothing with their lives. They have imprisoned themselves barefoot and pregnant in that dark kitchen of isolation, marriage.
The thing is, that’s not true. It is possible to see the world before you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to see the world after you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to not want to see the world before you get married in your early 20s, and it is possible to not want to see the world after you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to see the world with a baby on your back or a toddler in tow, and it is possible to see the world in them from the comfort of your backyard. And yes, it is possible to see the world without being married at all–or not to want to do so.
My point is, it is 2014, my friends. Women (and men) mostly have the option to do whatever they like, however they like, whenever they’d like. And if someone chooses to get married at 23 rather than “dating two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face” because that’s what works for them, then that’s fine. If someone wants to date two people at once, “start a band,” “build something with your hands,” and “be selfish” before getting married because that’s what works for them, that’s fine. If someone doesn’t want to get married at all, THAT’s fine. (If someone can’t get married–well, that’s another argument entirely, and that isn’t fine. Something to work on, yes?)
Rather than judging other people for the decisions they’ve made with the lives they’ve been given, perhaps what we should be focusing on is doing what is right for ourselves and making the best choices that we can to make ourselves the happiest that we can be.
In saying that, here is a list of things I did before I got married, and what I plan to do after. This list has made ME happy, and I share it to provide inspiration, though not to tell you what to do with your life. Do what is best for you, and don’t let others tell you what that is!
22 Things I Did Before I Got Married at 22
- Got a passport.
- Traveled. To Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, the UK, Ireland, Hungary, and Italy.
- Read more books than I can count.
- Swam in the Atlantic Ocean. And the Pacific.
- Went to college four states away from home.
- Skipped class and hiked up a mountain wearing a tutu and fairy wings. Four times.
- Strip-teased to “I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt” with my best friends in front of a crowd of hundreds.
- Rocked out to “Don’t Stop Believin'” with a crowd of hundreds.
- Lived, studied, and worked at a publishing house in London.
- Researched and wrote a 57-page history thesis about Australian bushrangers.
- Completed NaNoWriMo seven out of eight times.
- Tried vegemite. Decided it was not for me.
- Finished writing a novel.
- Learned what career paths were NOT right for me. Trial and error.
- Gave my full name and phone number to someone I met online.
- Maintained a long distance relationship. Over 9160 miles. For six and a half years.
- Learned that airports are a place of happy reunions and heart-wrenching goodbyes.
- Graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree in something I love that will likely never make me a lot of money.
- Moved to Australia with little intention of going back to the US for anything more than a visit.
- Started a blog.
- Slammed more than a few Tim Tams.
- Danced in the rain.
What I Have Done/Plan To Do Now That I’m Married
- Traveled to New Zealand. Saw Rivendell, wore elf ears, and traveled by cable car to the top of a mountain.
- Moved to a new house.
- Adopted a kitten.
- Suffered through unemployment. Lived off savings.
- Bought frivolous things like chocolate anyway.
- Got a job doing what I love: writing.
- Finished NaNoWriMo two more times.
- Celebrated one year of close-distance.
- Celebrated one year of marriage.
- Continue to read more books than I can count.
- Finish more novels.
- Get one published.
- Take a six-week long backpacking holiday through Europe.
- Swim in the Mediterranean.
- Find a career that is right for me.
- Buy a house.
- Raise a family.
- Keep traveling.
- Reunite with my best friends.
- Never forget how fun crazy is.
- Go on a cruise.
- Never miss a chance to keep dancing in the rain.
What does YOUR list look like? Pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-30s, pre-college or high school graduation… Pick a goal, and tell me what you want to accomplish before then. Tell me what choices make YOU happy in the comments below.