Mostly I feel really good and really happy about how my life (to date) has turned out. I feel like, all things considered, I’ve done well (which as I’ve said speaks to a mixture of hard work and an abundance of privilege). Recently I realized it has been ten (TEN!) years since I graduated college. And I also realized that I am super happy with where I am in life. Ten years ago, I was happy and taking everything in stride, which is totally atypical for me. But there was also a lot of uncertainty at that point in my life and I did feel lost at times. If I could see myself now and where I am at this point in my life, ten years post-graduation, I would be very happy to know how it all turned out.
Mostly this is how I feel. But… sometimes rigid cultural expectations and pressures do bite at my heels and I wonder if maybe I’m behind the eight ball, so to speak. I don’t, at heart, believe life milestones need to be completed by a certain age, or ever depending upon one’s interests. But I did grow up in a culture that pushes certain life milestones in general and that they should be met by a certain age, like marriage, children and buying a home. I think there is a general expectation in the US that people will reach these milestones by the time they reach 30. Maybe not in the part of the US where I live, but in most parts, this seems to be the case. And whether or not, I believe it should be that way and whether or not, most people think it should be that way, it is still there, hanging over us all. And if we don’t achieve these milestones by a certain point, or ever, doubt will creep in for most of us from time to time, even if none of those “milestones” were anything we ever wanted. I didn’t get married or buy a home until I was in my 30s and I still don’t have kids.
Having children was never something I wanted to do in my 20s. Heck, I may not have kids til my mid 30s, we’ll see how things go… But taking steps like marriage and buying a home, I would have done before the age of 30 but it wasn’t the right time. I met my now husband when I’d just turned 27 and we still had three years to date, put a ring on it and wed ourselves up. But I really, really wanted to be sure before taking that major plunge. My husband felt the same way. I watched many of my friends meet their husbands/partners at age 27 or 28 and be married by 30 but for me, I didn’t want to rush it. We waited for two years to move in together and we got engaged and married after being together for several years. And even that timeline felt fast for me. But I knew I was doing the right thing, for me. Still. When friends implied they were making sure their relationships went “to the next level” (whatever that really means!) by thirty, I sometimes questioned myself. Not so much if I was doing the right thing. I knew I was. But I wondered what other people thought of me. Did my friends who made sure they were married by thirty think less of me, or pity me because I wasn’t married at 30? I mean they were so determined to do it that it was clearly important to them, so did I not measure up in their eyes?
Yeah, yeah, I know you’re not supposed to give a damn what other people think. But don’t most of us, at least sometimes, give a damn about it? I can believe at my core that it doesn’t matter what other people think. But that doesn’t mean insecurity doesn’t occasionally sneak up on me and make myself wonder if I am behind. Or if other people think I’m pathetic. Yeah that’s my low self-esteem talking… it’s not always there, but when it is, man, does it know how to kick me when I’m down…
But ultimately, I know I did the right thing. And while I didn’t get married, buy a home or have children, here’s what I did do in my 20s-
I lived abroad in Europe for five months
I recovered from my first major heartbreak
I learned a whole other language, in which I’m still fluent
I had my first own apartment, and then five more after that
I graduated from college
I moved to a new city and got a full-time job
I started an important long-term relationship
I survived trauma and sadness and began to heal
I volunteered in Central America
I began and finished grad school
I found a field and career I was crazy about
I worked the hardest job I’ve ever worked
I got broken up with by the guy who had been so important to me for nearly four years
I mended my re-broken heart
I got to be a single twenty-something, dating in a big city. And y’know what? It was fun!
I landed my dream job
I met my future husband
I traveled the globe
I said goodbye to friends and welcomed them back
I tended old friendships while cultivating new ones
I moved in with my boyfriend/future husband
I felt sadder than ever and happier than ever
I had so much fun
I worked harder than I thought imagineable
I wouldn’t trade these times or change anything for the world.
For me, it was exactly how it was meant to be. I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong if your life path is different from mine, like if you did get married in your 20s or if you didn’t and you also didn’t plunge into a career. Whatever you choose or whatever ends up happening, it’s all good. It doesn’t mean you’re any less or more of an adult. It just means things are different – but are they actually? Different, I mean? If you’re growing and experiencing happiness and sadness and anything else in between and learning, isn’t it all the same? Isn’t that all one and the same of growing up, becoming and being an adult?
I think so. So here is to all the future steps and future anniversaries I, and you all, will accomplish and celebrate. For we will be growing as each of them passes, whether we realize it or not.