As is often the case a blog crossed my Facebook feed and sparked inspiration into my caffeine-fueled writing gland. The post (23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged) is filled with a glorious rant about how today’s generation approaches long-term relationships and a fun little list of alternatives. While I’m not much of a list maker I am a strong advocate of people forgoing lifelong commitments until they know themselves as individuals first.
So, here is a quick rundown of my past so you know where I am coming from…
- I’m 32 years old (I know! I’m old, but damn I still look good)
- I walked into an Army recruiter office on September 11, 2001 and became a paratrooper. I was 19 years old.
- I was stationed in North Carolina, served for four years, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan
- During my enlistment I got engaged to a girl from South Carolina
- I started college in 2005 and my engagement broke up in 2006
- I received a BS in Economics in 2009 from the College of Charleston in South Carolina
- Moved to DC and worked at a couple of non-profits for three years
- Got sick of DC, sold everything I owned and rode my bicycle across the country to Los Angeles
- While in LA I got into a relationship with my current partner
- After two years in LA my partner and I are going to start a 2-year bicycle ride around the continent
I provided that list because I want people to recognize how much different my life would have been if I got married in 2006 like I originally thought. At that time I was 25 and still didn’t really know who I was. My religion was different, my view on family and life, I was aligned different politically… I had not experienced enough life to find me. I needed time to be independent and have adventures, explore the world, and challenge myself to find happiness.
Human brains are not fully developed even into the early 20’s, the idea that we are mature or ready to commit to a lifetime with someone when we don’t know ourselves is insane. Sure, it works out sometimes (I think mostly due to social and religious pressure than happiness) but as the article pointed out, the divorce rate among those who marry young is twice the average rate.
Previous generations had very good reasons to marry young. That type of support was necessary for security and to provide for a family. But we are not the previous generation. We live at a time when the economy is based on entertainment, service, and information. The internet has allowed us to earn an income from anywhere, survival goods are cheaper, and women do not need a man to provide. Instead, for maybe the first time in human history, the average person can travel, explore, and find their passion.
Now, I have been called selfish for not wanting kids, usually by people who have kids. Aside from the collectivist mentality that I owe an overpopulated society a genetic reproduction (this world has enough people with blue eyes, big booties, poor eyesight, and average height), it is hypocritical for people with kids to call me selfish. Nearly half a million kids in the US alone need adoptive parents, until that is taken care I think the selfish ones are those that somehow think the universe needs more of their DNA floating around. Want a kid? Adopt one.
I agree with the author… get out there and explore while your health and freedom allows you to. While riding across the country I met hundreds of people and by far the most common thing I heard was, “Wow, that’s awesome. I would love to do that, if only I was younger.” The body degrades, obligations increase with marriage (and particularly kids), the time to discover yourself, your boundaries, and your love is now.
Are you with someone you love now? Is your relationship great? That is fucking awesome. I have that same thing and I wouldn’t have it if I got married when I was younger. Your life partner should be someone that you adventure with as mature adults. It is crazy to make a lifelong decision based on 3% of your adult life when you have not fully developed. The odds are that you or your partner will change and the big three things necessary for a long term relationship (agreement on marriage, the amount of children, and lifestyle) will change. You can only be made better by new experiences, and that means you will be a better individual and partner. As the article author puts it:
“If your love is truly eternal, what’s the rush? If it’s real, that person will continue to be committed to you 2 months from now, 2 years from now, and 2 decades from now. Grow, learn, travel, party, cuddle, read, explore. Do. Freaking. Something… other than “settle down” at 23 with a white picket fence.’