I’m Not Getting Married in My 20s and Here’s Why

I’m Not Getting Married in My 20s and Here’s Why

I want to walk an aisle with the best brain (and heart) possible.

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Wedding season is thick this August; social media is a blur of white dresses, first dances, and bouquets, and I've typed the heart emoji more times than I care to admit.

Wildfires may be raging across portions of the U.S., making wedding skies orange and hazy, but love and commitment are raging all the more!

It also seems to be baby season. Facebook, too, likes to remind me of baby bumps and the need for new strollers and maternity photoshoots. Many soon-to-be new mothers were high school peers; many brides are fellow college graduates.

I could not be happier for the humans in my life who are embarking on these ripe, powerful journeys, with men, women, or infants at their sides. I drool as much as the next person over the Instagram stories and social media albums, and I have spent more time than I care to admit wondering if I have the audacity to serve peanut butter cups at my future reception.

But I'm stuck in the middle of this decade everyone keeps talking about, and I'm not panting for someone to slide a ring on my finger. In fact, if I can help it, I'm not getting married in my 20s—like everyone else, it seems, is.

There's nothing wrong with me—I'm not predicting a future of cat companions and china bowls. There's nothing bitter in me, either. Let the ceremonies swirl on, but I won't be the center of any of them just yet. Here's why.

My brain matters more.

Science, time and again, has asserted that our brains are not done firing, meshing, and getting to know themselves until we turn approximately 25 or 26. In fact, studies also suggest that the brain keeps maturing well into our thirties.

Some people like the idea of developing and maturing with their partners. I like this idea too. My vision of an ideal relationship is one that involves a healthy dollop of collaboration and commitment to a partner's ebbs and flows and self-discovery.

Yet this statistic has me a little concerned. I want to walk an aisle with the best brain (and heart) possible. I don't want to walk it one day and then wake up three years later to the firing of opposite neurons, telling me that that really wasn't all that good of an idea.

I want to offer my future person the best version of myself, at this point in time, on this whirling globe of change. I like to think that that best version of myself also contains wizened, matured neurology, too. I want my partner to feel the same way. Offering anything less is like offering a deflated flan to someone on Christmas (sad).

I've gotten really close with divorce.

My parents divorced during my first year of college. This is no shocking news. After all, America's current divorce rate hovers between forty and fifty percent of all married couples.

Let's just say I got up close and personal with the shards of divorce. At the time I couldn't see it, but now I realize that divorce was the painful solution to a pressing need: my parents' individual needs to honor themselves because they didn't get a chance to do that before saying I do.

A very dear childhood friend got married at 21 and divorced a year or two later, for a similar reason. I was there as she prepared for the divorce; I was there when she told me that what she had really wanted, all along, was to finish her degree, pursue a career, get to know herself.

My heart broke, in the end, for the fact that divorce had to be the pathway to these lovely humans' self-knowledge.

I know divorce is unavoidable for some individuals. In some cases, it is the only exit for people in abusive or dangerous situations. Yet I don't want it to be my band-aid for not taking the time I need with myself.

I am vital and I need answers.

I graduated from college five years ago, but that doesn't make it far away. I feel as if I was skimming syllabi and dozing in lecture halls a mere week ago. I miss the thrill and ride of college life, sometimes, its vitality, and then I realize that I still have it all—the undergraduate's desire to learn, to travel, to keep seeking.

I'll have these desires and this vitality for years to come. I'm not saying that marriage won't permit me to be vital. But there's a difference between individual vitality and vital partnership.

I love commitment. I love being in love. I like knowing that I am invested in someone else's welfare, in the way that they sleep, beyond just relatives and friends. As a wife, I'll want to love in that way, and no ounce less.

Right now, I want to devote that surging vitality to me. I want answers to the questions I am still asking. I choose to keep asking these questions because I know I am still learning, seeking, growing.

In this sense, giving myself the benefit of my own vitality will ensure that I'll be all the more vital as a future partner.

Don't get me wrong—there was a time when I was ready to get married right out of college. I almost did.

But then I realized that my motivations for marriage did not fall on this list; they got swept up in all that white tulle and teary vows. I liked the images and the albums of marriage, the ritual, the energy. I liked the idea that I was following the path I had been taught: as a woman, you go to school, you get married, you have babies.

I didn't even comprehend the idea that I could matter more than all of that--the narrative and the ceremony. And that I should.

I want the same for my partner.

I'm not the only one benefiting from all of these thoughts. I want the same vitality, space, and self-love for my future partner, too. I want the playing field to be even and easy.

But everyone else is on a different racetrack. The only solution to getting on the same page is time.

And I'm personally a big fan of taking as much time as both of us need to get to our best and most ready selves.

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The 20 Stages Of Instagram-Stalking Your Crush, As Told By 'Mean Girls'

Whether you love the presence of technology in your dating life or not, it's probably there.

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Far too often we wait for that follow request or Snapchat add to know that a boy is interested. We look to those notifications for validation of that mutual interest.

There is nothing quite like the freaking treasure trove that opens when a crush approves your follow request(or maybe you're silently looking if he is public). There is so much to do. This has now turned into an ~event~

All other priorities do. not. exist.

1. When he doesn't follow you back immediately

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Not mad, just disappointed. Actually, very mad. Seething, if you will. Honestly expected way more from Steve from Intro to Biology.

2. If he follows you first

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Hey! It's a little hard to see you down there since I'm ON CLOUD NINE RIGHT NOW!!! You text all your friends. These days, this is practically a marriage proposal. Time to start picking out wedding china? Can Vera Wang do this on such short notice?

3. If one of your friends also has a crush on him

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Sorry, Becky. Guess you'll just have to live with being a bridesmaid at our wedding.

4. If you don't follow him, but have a mutual friend who does: you ask them for screenshots

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He's private and you want to know what he is like without any consequences. You're just not ready to follow him yet, but you need some screenshots in your arsenal. This is case in point of why I should ABSOLUTELY not be considered a real adult for at least another five years.

5. Reading his bio

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The best thing it could be is just his name or school or maybe his frat. Or nothing if that is indicative of being a real live grownup who has a job(and I don't mean working at an IT start up your daddy found you). We don't really need an inspirational quote or something random that only two people understand. Your name is fine, thanks. Gentlemen, take a page out of Avril Lavigne's book and don't make everything so complicated.

6. Seeing how many followers he has

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This is something I don't really care about, but it can tell you a lot about the person. Like if they are a SoundCloud rapper trying to make it big and have clearly followed a ton of random people to try to get a follow back which has resulted in a sketchy follower-to-following ratio. If not, then they're probably normal.

7. Seeing how many photos he has

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There is nothing worse than thinking you are about to feast your eyes on all his photos only to discover that he has two photos and one is a group shot where his face is practically hidden. This will result in an hour of promising your friends that he is normal and good looking, despite what this feed might suggest.

8. Making sure he is not radiating jerk

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Saying "Saturdays are for the boys" is fine sometimes, but not every weekend. If he has more gym mirror selfies than the amount of Cosmopolitans Carrie Bradshaw has drank in her lifetime, it's time to move on. Unless you're working on a street corner, there is no need for you to be "just out here hustling/grinding."

9. Temptation to comment on a recent picture

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His hair looks really good! Or if he posts a picture of a party you saw him at this can be more tempting than buying cookies from Girl Scouts outside the grocery store. Resist, resist, resist.

10. Discovering you have a shared interest

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Oh my gosh, he went on spring break and you did too!! He went with ten friends to Panama City and you went home and ate Chinese food with your mom, but really, I don't see a difference there.

. 11. Stalking the most recent photo

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Is it with a girl? Is she prettier than you? If she commented an emoji it's freaking over. You sprint immediately to your closest grocery store and buy all the Ben and Jerry's.

12. Gathering of all the information

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Now we go into detective mode. Assuming at this stage that the dude actually had a decent amount of pictures, we now dig like Bob the Builder. We look for hobbies. We judge these hobbies. If you really like him, you concoct a plan to see how you can relate to these hobbies.

"Oh my gosh, I loveeeee fishing! I love it so much! Oh, you fish, you don't say? Look how much we have in common!"

13. Figuring out how close is he with his family

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Looking for how many times his parents surface on the IG. If you see he has siblings then if you are on a date one day you won't be trying to digest their names and ages, you'll already know. He will be blown away by your impeccable memory and interest in them.

14. Seeing something cool he did and becoming obsessed

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Maybe he studied abroad. All the heart eyes for the picture of him volunteering with Habitat for Humanity last April.

15. Pictures that make the world stop

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This might be him in a tux at a wedding with his grandma. It might be a swoon-worthy pic of him shirtless at the beach. It might be a picture of him and his wait for it… DOG and you die and blush and get so excited because you don't know what's cuter: him or the dog. These are the ones you screenshot for your friends.

16. All of a sudden it's been an hour

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You look at the clock, an hour has passed and you're in 2014. Great, now you know exactly what he wore to a middle school dance. Awesome!

17. When going into the tagged photos leads to being 3 people deep

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In tagged photos, you find previous girlfriends, and naturally, you have to stalk. Luckily, her account is public and you see that her best friend could easily be the next contestant on the Bachelor and probably win the whole thing. So you click on her profile and stalk her too. Then you see her boyfriend and look at his profile and feel genuinely hurt that you won't be getting an invite to their wedding.

18. Not blurting out everything the next time you see him

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You know you can absolutely NOT let on that you stalked him at all. Even though there were ten close calls, you did not accidentally like anything. Consider that a success. They should give out trophies for that. He doesn't need to know that you dropped your phone into the Oreo crumbs that were on your face at 2 a.m. As far as he knows, you simply approved his request and moved on with your life. If it comes up you should say "Oh, I didn't even remember we were friends on Instagram."

19. Crafting your first post with him being a follower

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It has to be hot, but it has to be effortless. You could do a selfie but you want him to know you have friends. But they can't look prettier than you. Should you be mysterious and post an artsy shot? Or post a travel throwback? *Books plane ticket to a cool destination just to take a pic he might like*

20. The first time he likes your post

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You feel like the definition of fabulous. A Snapchat is coming down the pike for sure. Ugh, how can you hate a culture and love it so much at the same time?

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What Your 20's Are All About

Authenticity.

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Being a twenty-something is glorious.

It's easy. It's beautiful. It often looks like a pair of designer cut-offs or a laptop on a beach. It isn't terribly serious.

In fact, it's rarely serious. Yet it makes sense--more sense than any other age because it's newly educated, self-discovered, and hopeful.

Right?

This is what social media tells me. It is what college told me. It is something many of us believe.

I am convinced, however, that there is more to it than this.

Someone or some book neglected to add a few more postscripts to this chapter of the Book of Life. Or maybe they were lodged under the "Recommended Reading" portion of the syllabus (and hence overlooked).

Whatever the case, your real twenties are about something in between the really good vodka and the wandering. That something has the power to shape this decade of your life into a different kind of gem.

(Yes, you can cut your teeth on it.)

Uncertainty

College (or life after high school) somehow perpetuates the myth that graduation precedes a concrete stairway. And that stairway leads clearly to a life path, a career, a vision, and a culmination, all to the tune of Jimmy Hendrix.

A bachelor's or associate's degree initiates many into the world of work and careerdom. But it does not necessarily make things any more certain.

Perhaps you've graduated with a degree in French literature and suddenly feel an impulse to stare at lots of graphs and statistics.

Maybe you have no impulse whatsoever. You have hobbies—fixing bikes, swiping left—but cannot seem to grasp a vision.

If you're like I was in my twenties, perhaps you sense you want to do everything your parents didn't, if only your feet would touch ground sometime soon.

This decade is definitively unknown. Not having a solid sense of what comes next is not an inherent fault of yours; it's part and parcel of life's whimsical years.

Want in on a shinier secret? All decades are uncertain. This one just feels the ripest.

If you wake up every morning and have no answers (or job, or health insurance, or girlfriend, or house), great! You're doing this right. Answers will emerge, but in the meantime, sit with the discomfort of being simply where you are at.

Forgiveness

As the decade of uncertainty unfolds, lean into it. I found that I could get more comfortable with being an unknown entity in my twenties by forgiving myself (and others).

You don't have to go to an ashram to practice forgiveness, although I'm not discouraging you from this path. Nor do you have to start embracing a new religion or giving up red meat and Cheetos.

Forgiveness starts with awareness. Beginning to recognize the difference between personal goals and societal demands is the prelude to following a gentler, more visionary path.

When I forgave myself for being a perfectionist, despairing that I would never find a job, and wondering if I really should have chosen my English major, life became much easier.

Science also tells us that our brains are still firing, forming, and developing in our twenties.

As such, friendships may peel away. Certain kinds of knowledge may dissolve. You may start to realize that holding grudges or avoiding conflict isn't worth it anymore—or is now worth forgiveness.

Forgiveness can also be empowering. It's one of many doors that can shuttle you more effectively into the unknown (with grace and a good pair of heels).

Exchange

Everything we learn in childhood, high school, and beyond is not necessarily the truth. The decade of your twenties is about the conscious and willing abandonment of past ideals, notions, and information.

To some, this may be simple rebellion. To others, it may be part of the self's natural evolution.

To me, it's about an exchange.

Being in your twenties can involve trading in those old ideas for more relevant ones. It's like a consignment store for self.

At this stage in life, a lot of things crumble. A lot of new buildings and scaffolding develop. Sometimes, this is brutal. It may feel unfair. It may feel like a relief.

No one is here to say that you have to be the self of your childhood or the self of eighteen (or last year). Mindfully weeding out the old and heralding in a more graceful, informed you will make that part of your thirties that much easier.

Risk

If you haven't gotten the memo yet, this is all really risky.

I mean, trekking across Mongolia, coming out, changing your name, abandoning your career, or taking up deep water diving isn't easy.

Forgiving yourself and leaning into uncertainty—those are hard, too.

A lot can get lost. A lot more can crack, splinter, and explode. It's a minefield for the mind and heart.

This decade may be the riskiest of your life. But that's how you know you're playing a good hand.

Without risk, the path becomes in danger of getting "too comfortable." That's one thing we millennials can agree on, at least—to be comfortable is to be stagnant.

I say, be risky. Feel imperiled, whether it involves a belief system or relationship or vision. On the other side of risk is knowing.

Authenticity

This decade is yours. It can shimmer, darken, or expand depending on what you do with it. No one can tell you otherwise.

Society may urge you to be free, playful, and exuberant in your twenties. Excellent.

It may also urge you to be driven, focused, and cynical. Also excellent.

But your twenties are really all about authenticity, or what you do with it. The greatest years of your life won't necessarily be college—they may just be the ones in which you chose to live powerfully within the scope of your greatest and truest self.

If no one was there to prep you for your twenties, or if you feel that the ones who were got it all wrong, take these words to heart. Be uncertain and timid. But also be audacious and genuine.

The one who's looking closest is, after all, you.

Note: Another version of this piece appeared on Thought Catalog.

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