Photo by Emily Long
Four years, six months and nineteen days ago, I met the most handsome, smart, loving man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Alex was the popular college Senior, the all-star football player and soon-to-be medical school student. I, on the other hand, was the awkward, still-growing-into-my-baby-fat freshman. So why he chose me as his girlfriend, I will never truly understand.
After graduating, Alex moved four hours away to attend medical school. Meanwhile I continued my college career as a student athlete and we both began mastering the skill of long-distance dating. We’d visit each other nearly every weekend, Skype was our savior and I was constantly running over minutes on my cell phone plan.
I graduated college in the Spring of 2012 and Alex decided to take a year off from school to join me in fulfilling a life-long dream of traveling. We excitedly planned a six-month trip to South and Central America to do medical volunteer work and teach English. To save money, we worked at a local restaurant in my hometown and lived with my parents (which was where the adventure truly started…). Finally, six long months after graduation, Alex and I took off on our Latin American adventure.
In the four years we’ve dated, our time in South America is the most we’ve ever physically spent together. And while I was initially apprehensive about how we would fare in our travels, I can honestly say it was better than I ever imagined. As the saying goes, “you never really know someone until you travel with them” and I realized the truth behind this statement through the experiences we had during those six months. From visiting some of the world’s greatest wonders to comforting each other through bouts of food poisoning, we ended the trip as a stronger, more confident couple.
As I caught-up with friends and family members after our return to the United States, I couldn’t help but notice this commonly asked question:
“So when are you guys getting married!?”
When I say this question was commonly asked, I mean it truly became a theme in my life. My cousins, aunts, grandparents, friends, coworkers, even my brother asked me. So here I was, coming down from the high of a blissful trip, concentrating on what I was going to do with my life, and being pressured to answer a question I wasn’t even remotely ready to consider.
It didn’t take long to realize this idea of marriage wasn’t just a common question but a phase of life I’d unknowingly drifted into; it was the new theme of my social life. If your Facebook homepage looks anything like mine, you’ll probably agree that a more fitting name for the sight would be “BridesandBabiesBook” – with every log on, there are new posts of engagement ring photos and babies or wedding status updates, and it’s a rare occurrence when a few weeks pass without news of pregnancies or proposals.
By social norms, this “quarter” in our lives as young women should be flooded by exciting happenings such as these – especially with all the rumors going around that our eggs dry up by the time we reach 30. But what I’m having trouble coming to grips with is why people feel the need to pressure and push this ideal conformity. I consider myself a responsible, level-headed woman and I can make important, life-altering decisions when I am ready and willing.
My tendency is to go against the grain; I’m a “The map says turn left, so I’m going to turn right” kind of girl. So when I’m pushed to follow in the stride of a typical 20-something female, my predisposition is to shove back.
After months of grappling with a mental tug-of-war between the “I don’t want to” and “maybe I should” I’ve finally come to a sturdy conclusion. Sure, I often feel uncomfortably pressured to give in and get hitched, but why do I let this particular question bother me so much? Alex and I have always had an honest relationship and neither one of us feel any need to make changes to our relationship. We are happily in love and while it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, we don’t feel that marriage is the answer for us… right now. I have never been one to submit to the mainstream, and Alex loves that about me, so why worry about what people are saying now? Instead of feeling pushed in a certain direction in my life, I’ve decided to ride it out and wait for the open-arm embrace.