I turn twenty-three years old next month and for the first time in my life, I’m not actually excited. Not only will Taylor Swift no longer sing for me, but Blink 182 sends constant reminders that “nobody likes you when you’re 23.” Oh.
For three years, my social media feed has been flooded with engagement, wedding and baby photos. At first, it was my graduating high school class, then the grade below me, and now it seems the baby sisters and brothers of my close friends are making the big leap too.
When you’re constantly surrounded by digital pressure to do the next big thing (and a looming pinterest board), you can’t help but wonder if you have an action item in front of you. My boyfriend and I have been dating more than three years now and though we’re in it to win it, the fact is that I don’t feel old enough or mature enough to lawfully glue myself to him for all eternity, much less plan a wedding right now.
What’s the socially acceptable timeline? If you acquire data exclusively from the perfect-life platform of social media, it may seem to be 1) graduate high school, 2) graduate college, 3) get a job, 4) get married, 5) buy a house, 6) have a kid, 7) buy said kid a dog and 8) live happily ever after with the occasional mountain ski vacation.
While that sounds pretty great, I’ve been a notorious curmudgeon towards these happy-lifers for quite some time. “There’s more to life than getting engaged!” “What if you spent all that wedding money on traveling the world instead?” “Stop getting married so young!” But the reality I’ve accepted is, you should probably do what you want to. I’m not your mom.
I forget that those colleagues of mine are mature, consenting adults who surely put months if not years of consideration into tying themselves down for the rest of their lives. There is actually nothing wrong with marrying your soulmate young and building a family. And just because I’m not ready to make the plunge doesn’t mean that they’re not allowed to either. So as I make this adjustment to minding my own business, I must politely request that you do the same.
I encourage you to make this the year you realize everybody’s path is different, that nobody’s life is as perfect as social media conveys, and that what works for some people may not work for all. There is no perfect mold or path to follow, nor should you ever seek to mimic someone else’s life because it appears to work for them.
If someone wants to spend their life savings on an RV, it’s not your prerogative to make a judgement. If they have 5 kids before the age of 25, it’s not your place to say a word. If they move to Bali to work in a coffee shop for three years, it’s actually still none of your business.
Let’s make this the year that we stop shaming others for their decisions, the year that we water our own lawn and look internally for what truly makes our soul sing. Spend your money on weddings, travel, babies, business endeavors, hobbies, bitcoin, I don’t care. Just be happy.
By the same token, let’s stop asking people when they’re making the next big step, when they plan to get married, when they plan to have babies, because it may very well be that that’s not on their agenda. And let’s stop comparing our life journey to the Instagram models and Youtube stars. That seems like a good way to be unhappy for all eternity.
This year, whether you’re turning the age of disdain, launching into your thirties or reaching sweet retirement, can we all just agree that the only person allowed to scold or advise you for your life decisions is well…your mom?