During my thirty-something years, I’ve noticed people
like to love to school each other. I’m not entirely sure why. But when people embark on a new phase of my life, there’s always someone in their lives who will offer ye old unsolicited advice.
I’m not a fan of it. Wait, is anyone? Probably not. So why do we do it? I know when I was younger, I loved to tell my less-experienced in dating friends all about boyfriends. Looking back, I think part of me was well-intentioned. I wanted to feel less clueless, perhaps more empowered, when their times came. But is my know-it-all dating advice actually empowering to anyone but me? And if I’m totally honest, I can admit that part of me liked feeling more knowledgeable and like I had something to offer that they did not. I wouldn’t have said I’m superior and yet, wasn’t that kind of exactly what I was saying, just not in those words?
And now I am someone who is a “late bloomer” (kinda) in terms of commitment. I didn’t buy a house or get married until I was 30. My boyfriend (now husband) and I didn’t move in together until I was almost 30. I still don’t have any children and kids aren’t in my too near future. And suddenly the tables have turned. Now I’m the one with “less” experience (whatever that means). Well now that I’m a married homeowner (and more importantly, cat owner!), I guess I’m considered more “on par” with many of my friends. Again, whatever that means. Because in reality, I don’t feel like I know that much more than my friends who aren’t married, or whatever. And more importantly, I don’t know now nor will I ever know what their experiences are/will be.
Because that’s what is most frustrating about the “oh you’ll see” advice, said with a knowing
smirk smile. We only know our own experiences, not those of others, especially not their future experiences.
When my husband and I were dating and decided to move in together, several of my friends decided to tell me what I’d “see” about living together. “You’ll probably fight all the time,” one said. Another said, “It’s so different and kinda hard… you’ll see.” And not only did this “advice” annoy me, it also scared me. I thought, ‘What? What’s going to happen? And if it’s so hard, why do so many people choose to do it?’
Then we moved in together. And really, not much changed. Another friend of mine had moved in with her boyfriend a year earlier and told me, “I kept waiting for things to change and feel really different, but they never did, it just was like we didn’t live together and then one day, we did.” And that was the best insight I got into cohabitation before I actually tried it. There was not this sudden change. Over time, there was a change but seriously, it was only for the better. I got to know him as my boyfriend and my roommate and it was really nice, becoming and being more of a team. And perhaps why it seemed so easy was because I’d been living with three roommates for five years before my husband and I moved in together. I mean, four women and one bathroom? That’s hard – and none of us were even that (stereotypically) girly. But seriously, moving in with a chill, awesome, respectful boyfriend was a piece of cake after years of not being able to go to the bathroom when I needed to, or finding that my coffee mugs had been transformed into pots for plants, without my permission.
And let me just clarify that I am not trying to say if you find cohabitation, or marriage, or home ownership, or grad school, or roommates, or a new job or move or whatever to be really hard that there’s anything wrong with your situation. My point is that life experiences are different for everyone. Someone’s difficult experience moving to a new city may be the exact opposite for their best friend. As I go through life now, I do listen to other people’s experiences – especially when they’re sharing with me just to share with me, rather than teach me. But I also recognize that any experience is not necessarily going to be for me as it was for anyone else who had it before me. I mean, heck, I know parenting is going to be tough but it maybe it won’t be as terribly challenging as I fear (oh I just totally screwed myself by writing that!). Or maybe it will. But I have a friend who had a baby in April and she is pretty darn relaxed. I don’t think she’d say being a mom is easy. But. She has said that for her work is more tiring, and she has a similar-ish job to me. So maybe there’s a slight possibility that it won’t be the hardest thing ever for me. Or maybe it will be. But I won’t know until I know, y’know?
So just enjoy life. Decide what is right for you and do it, to the best of your ability. And all I can say is that when I, or anyone, tells you to take it from them – don’t take it from them. Just take life and know your experience with it is unique to you. You’ll see. But not necessarily what you expect to see.