23 Things

Have you seen this yet?

23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged When You’re 23

Well you’re welcome, and sorry I’m not (very) sorry.

I linked to this blog post on my own Facebook for a couple of personal, disjointed reasons, and as the discussion has developed I’ve had time to think through my initial position. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Why I identified with this blogger:

Ugh, getting married at 23. Again, friends who did, then or before: I’M NOT JUDGING YOU. We’ll get into your totally valid points a little later. For now, let me walk you through where I was at 23:

Triple-fisting beer and booze at my friend Erin’s house, considering myself so effing lucky to have a friend who owned her own house and liked me enough to host my birthday party. (Love you girl!)

I graduated at 21-almost-22. I turned down a Master’s program at my dream school in D.C. and did 2 months in a Ph.D. program at Kent State that made me pretty much hate my life. Still paying for that mistake, by the way.

I spent three months working two jobs, one I hated and one I loved and that both ended abruptly. I went from living with my mom to the worst six months of cohabitation of my life thus far (and I’ve lived in dorms) and back to my mom’s, this time with no job and no idea what I even wanted to do with my life.

Oh, and in the meantime I was nowhere close to boarding the forever train. The closest thing I had was a ticket for a day trip with a smooth-talking Russian guy whose ego choked his conscience and ran it over with his Honda Civic. So each time I saw that one of my friends (or, of course, my 21-year-old brother) was getting engaged or married a part of me just wondered when my life was going to start working out.

It isn’t that marriage was the goal (or the only one); it was just a single sign of a life with meaning. That’s why Vanessa’s list of other things to do was appealing at first glance – of course you should pursue other activities and interests, and if some of her suggestions come across as tongue-in-cheek they at least indicate that the search for meaning is a different animal for each of us.

The useful message I found in Vanessa’s rant to fellow Millennials is to take chances for fun and self-discovery wherever they arise in your life, and to focus on where you are rather than worrying on where you aren’t.

And here’s where she gets it wrong:

Vanessa guessed, correctly if she was friends with my friends, that her Millennial musings would piss off many in her cohort. Whoo, the vehemence on “The Facebook” was flowing freely today.

And rightly so. 

She undermined nearly every good point she could have made by reveling in the superiority of not getting “knocked up and fat” sentences after wondering whether she was even worth consideration without a ticket to the forever train. (I take offense, Vanessa: I was fat before I was knocked up.)

Also, as is the habit of those in their early 20s (which I can say with the benefit of hindsight), she ascribes her own characteristics and those of a certain number of her age group to the group as a whole. You can’t pin the success or failure of any relationship, any undertaking, on anything other than the personal dedication and preparedness of those embarking on the journey.

I have friends who took the journey sooner than perhaps they should have. I have others for whom marriage the weekend after college was the perfect decision and was the next step in relationships that have continued to thrive for more than five years.

Most importantly, as a very wise Facebook friend pointed out (who, incidentally, married at 22), marriage isn’t supposed to be the end of self-discovery – no matter how old you are when you say “I do.”

The Takeaway

Do what feels right to you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, even if it means jumping on the forever train a stop or three too soon. Finally, don’t think that your decisions put you any further ahead – or any further behind – anybody else. Your journey is your own.

Most importantly…there is always room for Nutella cake.

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