What are the first three things a vast majority of people do when they meet someone new?
1. Introduce themselves 2. Shake hands 3. Sneak a ring check.
People are really into what's up with that left ring finger. Knowing this, I wasn't completely surprised when I got a text from a friend that read, "So, you're almost 25! When are you going to get married?!?" As an almost 25 year old single woman, marriage is an annoyingly popular topic of conversation, especially in my Christian circles. I have friends who have a couple years of wedded bliss under their belts, and friends who have a couple years worth of wedding pins on Pinterest under theirs. But no matter where you lie on the spectrum, it seems like as soon as a young person approaches their early to mid-twenties, all the focus shifts to their love life whether they like it or not. I have nothing at all against marriage. I think it's a beautiful and holy commitment that was gifted for us to honor completely. I've loved watching some of my best friends get married in their early-twenties and continue adventuring with their spouses. But for those of us who are not yet in relationships, or really don't want to be in a relationship, it gets to be a bit much. My friend Annie said it best when she tweeted, "I'd like to have conversations about things more crucial than my relationship status, you know?"
My problem with this particular text message wasn't necessarily the abrupt investigation into my personal life, (although, it's definitely not a topic I think everyone gets an opinion on), but more with the implications that I was approaching a check point I couldn't pass through without flashing a marriage license. What I object to, is the way there seems to be some kind of cut-off on the age that it's acceptable to still be single. I don't believe marriage is a commitment you come by through listening to a clock tick louder and louder as each birthday passes. Do you know what happens when you apply that kind of pressure and ask a twenty-something when they're going to get married every time you see them at major holidays, family gatherings, church picnics, grocery stores, restrooms, and parking lots? It breeds an insane amount of anxiety, self-doubt and hatred, comparison, and pressure. And, it makes them very cranky.
My response to this text was "eeeaasy now, I'm *only* almost 25." I'm not the kind of person who has ever put a ton of weight in getting married. Is it something I'd like to do someday? Maybe. Do I feel like I'm missing out by being single right now? Not even a little bit. I've never spent hours daydreaming about the perfect dress, the color schemes, the first dance song, or even the husband I meet at the end of the aisle. I've never seen my wedding day as a magical destination that will launch the rest of my life into something extraordinary. That's just not me. I have almost always spent my time dreaming about books that I'll write someday. I have a picture in my head of walking through Barnes & Noble and seeing my name on the spines of a row of hardcovers. I've spent long car rides thinking about the talk show I'd love to host, and the vlogs I think I'd like to record. I get chills when I imagine squinting through bright lights as I stand on a stage with a microphone in hand, speaking bold, funny, loving words to big groups of women. In all these dreams marriage simply doesn't come up. And you know what? That's okay. I also know so many people who go just as starry eyed when they're talking about how they want to decorate the reception hall for their perfect day. Women who have sketched their dream dress next to the letters m-r-s, and men who just can't wait to lead a family and see his name behind hers. This is okay, too. Adventuring before marriage is just as awesome as continuing the adventure as a married couple. It's okay that we are prioritizing our goals differently. It's okay that our timelines aren't identical. It's a good thing that we put value in different things because walking the journey that was planned specifically for us is a good thing. Neither of these roads lead to a place of more worth than the other because there isn't a road map that shows exactly what makes you worthy. You just are.
Life doesn't start with a vow and a ring. Life starts with a cry from tiny lungs that declares you are here and you are worthy of being here. From that second and with each second that follows, you are qualified and enough to chase down your dreams, to feel wanted and safe, and to live fully. There's nothing wrong with wanting to focus on pursuing a career before a husband, or learning who you are before a wife. Marriage is a really, really good dream, but it's not a prerequisite to start living your life. A ring does not make you complete.
I'm really thankful to have so many people who are happily married and want me to experience that same love for myself so much that they forget how important being single is too. I'm thankful that I have so many single people in my life that when one of us starts comparing his or her timeline to someone else's and feels panicky, we can surround them with community and remind them they're not alone, too late, or unworthy. I, along with all the other single people in the world, will get married if and when we are ready and wanting to, and not a single day before.
So, let's talk about something else, okay?