The Midwest is the heart of the United States and the place I call home. I grew up in a small city that wasn't far from the crowded streets of Chicago but was also closer to miles of corn fields. Growing up, I thought I had the best hometown, that had everything to offer. I experienced blistering hot pool parties but also white Christmases. I could be in a city atmosphere or out in the country in a matter of minutes.
But as I grew up, I felt the pressure of the Midwest. Before I start talking about the negatives, I would like to put out that the Midwest is a great place to live. I am the stereotypical Midwesterner in that I say hi to everyone I see and try to have a smile always on my face. I know my people skills and constant cheer come partly from growing up in my little town in Mississippi, but this being said, there are some set backs to spending your entire life in the Midwest.
Small town values are great but for a twenty-something they can be a bit restricting. The biggest Midwest norm that has been pushed onto me is the constant doom of impending marriage. Although my family and friends always commented that I’m an independent woman and I don't need a man, my surroundings said otherwise. In the Midwest, it is very common to get married before you turn 25, or to be in serious relationships all throughout high school and your early 20s.
This was the norm that I never fit into. I could be the perfect Midwesterner and chat with anyone I met, love corn and football, but I was never the one for serious relationships in my high school years. My friends were the perfect Midwest girls and did everything I did but brought their high school sweethearts to the family Super Bowl parties as I sat there seeing how much food I could pile on to my flimsy paper plate. I just didn't see the point of starting a relationship when I planned on going anywhere but the Midwest.
As I entered my first year of college, the idea of marriage became more real for me. My friends were talking about their future plans with their boyfriends and some were even getting engaged. Yet, I couldn't decide on which Mexican restaurant to go to let alone my future plans. I will admit that maybe having a boyfriend at this point might have helped in this process but I couldn't even find a boy I liked talking to for a week, let alone forever.
With all this pressure, I knew I needed to escape, so I went to Spain. In Spain, I learned so much and there is one thing I brought back which I think applies to every 20-something in the Midwest. The Midwest is unique in many ways and one of them being the fact that they marry so young. In Europe and other parts of the United States, it's common for couples to wait until their early 30s to marry.
Not only is it a new concept for people to marry that young in other parts of the world, but they think it's quite foolish. Your 20s are a time to explore, be free and discover who you are. Why bring a significant other into the mix and mess that all up? It's easier to just do what you want and explore the world when you don't have to worry about finding your other half, especially when you don't even know who you are yet.
Even though it works out and a high school sweetheart becomes your 'until death do we part,' its not super common. I’m not saying not to date or force yourself into solitude. I’m just saying don't rush. Although Grandma will keep asking when you are gonna bring someone home for Thanksgiving, it isn't necessary to find your other half at such an early age. Use this time to have fun and explore and leave the serious commitment stuff for when you're older.