I recently got married to the greatest dude on the planet, and in doing so, we were both faced with a whole new world of expectations. As we all know, getting married is a huge milestone, and with big changes in life come big responsibilities, and (apparently) even bigger expectations. I guess neither of us thought much about it, we never anticipated the amount of people who truly thought that their opinions were so crucial in the planning of our lives together.
When choosing to take that step toward an eternal love and commitment to one another, we did not include many people in the decision. God was included (of course), and I would like to believe that He was at the forefront of it all. However the expectations, plans or opinions of others simply weren't taken into account. We love each other, and when he proposed we had been dating for a year (and friends for even longer), and we knew with every fiber of our being that marriage was the right step for us. We just had no idea of the questions, interrogations and ultimately the expectations to follow.
Approximately one hour after publicly announcing our engagement, we were asked if we had set a date yet. One hour. I have never met a soul who could plan a wedding in so little time, but I am led to believe that they thought this must be a legitimate time period in order to plan such an event. Otherwise, why the hell would they be asking me this?! Was it a sin to enjoy a moment of leisure before plummeting down the rabbit-hole of wedding planning? According to society's standards, it must be. By the end of that day, I think we had both been asked about this supposed "date" maybe ten different times by ten separate people. This is not an exaggeration, although I desperately wish that it was.
To make a long story short, my husband and I eventually chose the path of a destination wedding on a quaint beach in southern California on a beautiful Wednesday in May. Which by the way was probably the best decision we have ever made (you literally cannot go wrong with a beach wedding, people). But details aside, throughout the planning process (and even afterward), we were plagued with questions and other people's ideas/plans that were forcefully thrust onto our lives.
We both felt constantly pressured to celebrate in "this" way, accommodate certain individuals or even make serious life decisions entirely based on the perception of other people and their unnecessary plans. The day after our wedding we had someone ask when we planned to have children and they immediately followed with their own ideas about how we should live our lives and make these choices. You can't have them too soon, because then people will assume that we were fooling around before marriage (God forbid, because no one does that) and you can't wait too long because then people will begin to "wonder" about us. The funny thing is, all of these narratives lead back to "what would people think?" and that is especially upsetting to me. Can we not just live our lives on God's good grace and rely on Him to direct our paths, plans and decisions? Isn't that the whole point?
*We interrupt this article for a brief rant about said questions above: The "baby" questions in particular bothered me the most (and continue to bother me) because truthfully it is nobody's gosh dang business what we choose to do and when we choose to do it. Some people have fertility complications and their chances of conception truly are based on God's good graces, because of the lack of the lack of sustainable or affordable options. Other married couples simply do not want children, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I have always despised the idea of forcing people into baby-making based off of societal expectation and some unspoken set of rules. If a couple does not desire a child, they most certainly have the right to take precautionary measures to ensure prevention. It is not like we have some population shortage right now (or anytime in the last 50+ years), so why push people who either aren't ready or aren't willing? There are enough children in this world who deal with unfit parents, neglect and/or abuse. Why would we want to enforce (or promote) the possibility of making that number of mistreated children even higher?
Yes, my husband and I want children and I truly feel that God will bless us with a baby (or ten) when the time is right, but not a moment too soon. And truth be told, nobody's opinion or expectation is going to speed that timing up. Only God knows for sure when our little miracle will become a reality. That is for Him to know and us to find out. Rant over.*
In addition to the "baby" craze, we are also subject to other expectations as a married couple like when we plan to "settle down" and buy a house or when we are going to get "real" jobs (whatever the hell that means). Just for the record, our jobs help us to pay our bills, provide us with many necessities and sometimes even afford us a few luxuries... so that feels pretty "real" to me.
Unfortunately, married people aren't the only ones who face constant societal expectations though. There are many other universal expectations that young people are facing today, for example, when they are going to date, get married, graduate from college, pay off debts, start a savings account, get life insurance and so on. It feels like our lives have already been mapped out for us from the moment we enter this world.
When a baby is born, we anticipate the child's first words and place enormous emphasis on it. Once the baby can speak, we look forward to the day the kid can crawl, and then walk and then run. At this point, we are looking forward to his/her first day of school, and then kindergarten graduation. Then it is onto standardized testing and some possible extra-curricular activities. Eventually, it is time to pick out a college (or other legitimate life plan) and then graduate from high school. Our lives are a perpetual cycle that is almost entirely based off of anticipation and society's standards for our lives. There isn't ever a moment where we are encouraged to step back, smell the roses or evaluate ourselves or our mental or spiritual state of mind. And honestly, I have a problem with that. Why are we all in such a rush?
I am a reasonable person, so of course I understand and appreciate the value in a good life plan or goal(s) that you might have mapped out for yourself, or your child or whomever. But it feels like we have diminished the true value of planning our lives and made it into this dreadful idea of upholding society's standards and losing all individuality in the process.
I definitely support encouraging your child to walk and talk and obtain an education, but I hate the idea that once we are adults we must continue to walk on this deranged, one-size-fits-all path for the rest of our lives. Everybody is different and we all move at our own pace, that is one of the many inconceivable beauties of the human race and God's creation in general. We were never created to be little robots who move, think and operate in the same exact manner. We are human beings created for individuality and each granted our own special skill sets, incredible talents and unique mindsets. We all have different callings and different plans to fulfill, so why would we believe that God's plans for our lives has a one-size-fits-all prototype?
I have said all of this to encourage both mindfulness and individuality in your daily lives. I'm sure most of you have been the victims of blatant questions and ignorant expectations at least once in your life, because surely we have all fallen short of this impossible to attain, one-size-fits-all plan society has for us. So be mindful of the questions you ask and the unattainable beliefs or expectations you might have for others (or even yourself). We are all equal, yet very different members of society with our own unique pace and our own plans in mind. There is beauty in this, and a need for it.
The truth is, not all of us we're meant to graduate high school with honors, attend a pristine four-year university, meet the man/woman of our dreams, graduate college, marry our "college sweetheart" and then jump into baby-making in one perfect swoop. There is no perfect "swoop" or perfect life plans. We all do things in a different order. There is nothing wrong with that.
Let's stop rushing others into making life choices that aren't quite right for them and let's recognize that we are all precious children of God with exceptional (yet different) life plans. Start listening to God more and society less, for nothing and no one in His Kingdom is one-size-fits-all. We are all worth so much more than monotony and society's uniform standard of living.