I recently read this article titled, “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23″. Normally, I don’t read these as they are usually written in an in-your-face-I-can-do-what-I-want tone. For whatever reason, I read this article, perhaps because I am 24 and not married and I was curious as to why 23 was the magic number. Unfortunately, the article is pretty much the same, lame advice for twenty-somethings, written by twenty-somethings whose sum total of advice is “17. Eat a Jar of Nutella is one sitting.” I didn’t think much about it until I saw at least 3 people repost it on Facebook.
I don’t know about you, but if the highlight of my life (outside of marriage???) before I’m 23 is to eat a jar of Nutella or “22. Be selfish” then I think marriage to anyone sounds pretty good.
My goal for life as a single or married should not be “22. Be selfish,” “2. Find your ‘thing’,” or “10. Cut your hair.” If any of those are my goals for an hour, day, or a year then my life is going to be very empty. However, the emptiness is not because I don’t have anyone to “cuddle and talk about my feelings” or “18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.” With or without a partner, my life has greater meaning than this entire list.
I am created to worship. I will worship, whether I worship marriage, a boyfriend, Nutella, or the Creator of the Universe is up to me. Instead of purposing myself to “16. Watch GiRLS. Over and over again” maybe the secret to happiness with or without someone is to die to myself. Over and over again. Maybe instead of “11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.” I can sponsor 2 orphaned children so they’re not separated from their families. Instead of “20. Hangout naked in front of a window.” I can hang out for an hour a week mentoring an at-risk child.
I think this author has a point that some people get married because it’s the thing to do, societal expectations, or whatever crazy reason:
It is a way for young people to hide behind a significant other instead of dealing with life’s highs and lows on their own. It’s a safety blanket. It’s an admission that the world is just too big and scary to deal with it on your own; thus, you now have someone that is legally obligated to support you till one of you dies or files for divorce.
Yes, the world is big and scary. Yes, it is nice to have someone to share your dreams, fears, and life. Yes, it is wrong to get married only because you’re afraid of being single. But the (opposite?) healthy response is not to become an expert on all things GIRLS or to belittle those who choose to marry young – their journey will be different, but no less in need of purpose than the person who remains single. Married or single, we all need a life of purpose outside of ourselves.
The crux of the argument centers on the idea that “you owe it to yourself”…to find yourself, make out with a stranger, not ruin the sanctity of marriage by marrying young, to do whatever you want because you want to do it. I don’t know where we got the idea that we owe ourselves anything. We literally did nothing to be on this earth. For the first years of our lives we were completely helpless. In fact, we’re still pretty helpless and dependent on others for life or even just to breathe. Case in point, let’s all give a shout-out to the Ozone for remaining in tact (mostly) so we don’t fry to death today. Also, does anyone else get annoyed with constantly reminding your heart to keep beating? I mean, really, 100,000 beats per day – too bad our hearts don’t beat without us thinking about it. Oh wait.
Instead of finding ourselves, thinking that “Millennials deserve the opportunity to develop ourselves, alone,” perhaps we should think and develop outside of ourselves and ponder deep questions – like who created us and this world we live in. What privilege do we have that we can take time to find ourselves while 12 year old girls in Afghanistan are being forced to marry middle age men and find themselves enduring a lifetime of abuse and suffering?
I understand the impulse to have fun, enjoy life while free of many responsibilities that occur in a relationship, but fun can and should be had after marriage too. Responsibility can and should occur in all of life. Unfortunately, you cannot compare a lifetime covenant of marriage to “13. Accomplish a Pintrerest project.” You can, however, live a fulfilling, purposeful, fun life in any stage of life.
Instead, I propose my own list of 24 Things to do Instead of Getting Married by 24…
1. Sponsor a Child for a year
2. Read at least 3 NY Times articles every week
3. Take your parents out for a fancy (non-fast food) meal
4. Work hard at a job – any job
5. Travel to a new country
6. Travel to a new state
7. Read a classical fiction novel
8. Teach someone a new skill you have already mastered
9. Learn a new skill
10. Learn a new language
11. Pay off debt
12. Read the Bible in a year
13. Be selfless
14. Join a sports league, art club, orchestra, whatever you’re interested in.
15. Write a letter to a friend
16. Learn how to properly set a table
17. Stop taking bathroom selfies
18. Vote – local, state, or national election
19. Embark on a goal that will take at least 10 years to accomplish
20. Hand write a thank-you note
21. Buy a nice dress or tux/suit for weddings and funerals
22. Re-read a favorite book
23. Spend a day in the mountains alone
and last, but not least…
24. Make a friend and share a jar of Nutella with them – one sitting or otherwise