I recently made a trip to my small town Wisconsin home from my current home in NYC and while hanging out with my high school friends, I felt a rift—larger than I’ve felt before.
As we conversed over our Miller Lites, my friends gossiped about their future wedding plans, buying new homes and a few even had a child to gush about. I felt at a complete loss for words as I listened to their conversation because I had not one thing to contribute. I couldn’t relate to wedding details or buying a house.
They seemed concerned that I’m not even dating anyone seriously. I thought I at least had until 30 before people started showing concern about my marital status, but apparently 25 is the new 30.
When did we start setting these unrealistic expectations that we need stages and ages for when things are supposed to happen?
Why do I have to be married in order to relate to my friends?
While I’ve been away, my high school friends have gotten engaged, married and bought houses. This has marked the progress in their lives. Their families and friends have celebrated and congratulated them on each milestone they’ve reached and I agree, these are amazing life events and deserve to be celebrated!
But there wasn’t much celebration when I embarked on a new life event…moving to South Korea after college graduation. Many people were confused and had so many questions, rather than just telling me they were happy and excited for me.
While some friends have measured their progress in life by buying houses or having children, I measured my progress in life by learning a new language, dragging my sister through China (her first experience abroad!) and traveling the world with amazing new people.
Somehow, over time, we have found it difficult to understand the life decisions of one another. Some may think, “How could you be happily unmarried and bouncing from place to place…don’t you want to settle down?”
While perhaps others, like me, have a hard time comprehending how one could be content staying in the same place forever and being settled so soon.
Occasionally I feel glances of…what is it—pity, disappointment, concern?—with the fact that I am unmarried, without even a serious boyfriend to drag along to hang out with my friends and their husbands.
Let me clearly state here, this is not me being anti-marriage or against having children. I believe at some point I will do those things, as well. Yet I feel concern for my friends in the fact that they have made such major life decisions at such a young age without taking the time to experience the world.
I hear so many people say “oh I want to go to [insert any country here].” So many of them will never get the chance to visit that place for more than a quick week, if it all. They will never allow themselves the opportunity to get to truly know another place or another way of life.
Somehow our society has made us believe that marriage, babies and houses are the posts of progress.
At 25 I am nowhere near being married, perhaps not even by 30. But I am an educated, intelligent, well-traveled individual.
And that seems like a hell of a lot more progress than a ring on my finger.
But maybe this is where I need to realize that we don’t need to do what everyone else is doing. We don’t need to get married at 22 because our friends are.
Perhaps this is a small town vs. big city divide. Perhaps this is just that I simply am not wired to be stuck in one place. Nothing ever happened in my small town and that was fine for most people.
But I just never felt that that was going to be fine for me.
We should take the opportunities that are in front of us every single day and make something from them. We should congratulate our friends for their accomplishments and recognize that we all have different milestones in our lives.
For some it is buying a new home. For others it is finally making it to that destination we have been longing to see. And both are equally worth celebrating.
Amy is a former English teacher, dancer and yoga enthusiast who speaks Italian and Korean and has an incurable case of wanderlust. She is currently living in NYC where she finds constant inspiration in the city around her. You can find her at Shmamy.tumblr.com.
Editor: Jamie Morgan
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