I married my best friend when we were both twenty-one years old as we were approaching the end of our college careers. I remember getting engaged and once the excitement settled a bit, I wondered if anyone (outside of our families) would think we were too young, and then wondered if I cared.
I was nineteen and a sophomore in college at that point and knew we would have a long engagement and were planning to wait until after we graduated to get married. At that time, I fell into a routine of announcing my engagement but making sure to add a disclaimer: “…but we’re waiting until after college to get married.” I think I added this because I felt it got rid of some of the stigmas of being engaged young.
Spoiler alert. As my first sentence stated, we didn’t end up waiting until after college. Honestly, we both got to the point where it didn’t make sense anymore to wait to start out life together and we decided to set the date and the rest is history. Looking back, I realize how often throughout our relationship I felt the need to add a disclaimer to our decisions. I guess it was my way of providing a preemptive reasoning before anyone could form their own opinion of the timing we chose to do things.
I used to think that getting married at the younger end of the spectrum was the reason behind the unsolicited advice my husband and I would get from people over the years. We’d hear things like, “You won’t graduate college if you get married first,” “Renting is a waste of money, you should really buy a house already,” and let’s not forget about the ever popular “Are you going to have kids soon? You don’t want to wait too long,” comments people love to offer up.
Remember that sing-song children’s rhyme? “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” It’s almost as though the sequence of our lives was already being engrained in us. Of course, it’s just a silly rhyme but I believe there is a sneaky similarity to the timelines many women are taught they should follow. People love to give opinions on the “right” timing to do things in a relationship, as a parent, in a career, at retirement – the list goes on. No stage of life is sacred.
I can say with honesty, that I trusted in every life choice my husband and I made together, even when they didn’t seem to follow the timeline of others around us. We were happy not to rush into every new stage and still have so much to look forward to. Yet, every now and then I did question our choices of timing and let myself fall into that comparison trap that we all find ourselves in time and again. It’s that little voice that pops into our head. You know the one? It’s sneaky and will say things like, “Maybe you should be at (fill in the blank) stage of life by now.” It makes you stop and question how the timeline of your own life measures up to those around you.
As a wise-old-married-lady of only twenty-eight, here is some advice. Don’t listen to that voice. Stop being worried about what’s next and enjoy each segment, despite what strangers or loved ones may offer as the assumed next step in life. You never get a phase of your life back, so leave comparison at the door while you’re at it and embrace where you are. If you’re dating, try not to worry about how long it should be before you’re living together or engaged. Instead, enjoy that excitement of still being picked up for a date. If the rest of your social circle is retiring and you aren’t ready to let go of your career yet – don’t!
It may be the confidence that only comes with getting older, but I try to no longer provide disclaimers with my life choices, because nobody needs to know why we choose to live our lives the way we do. I know now that choosing our own timeline is what led my husband and me to have the incredible marriage we have. (That and God’s sheer grace.) Life goes so quickly on its own without getting caught up in the timing of it all. We just have to trust that everything in life will happen exactly when it’s supposed to.