Today I’ll be heading up to New Hampshire for a wedding. Really, these are the first of my friends from high school to get married. Sure, I went to my cousin’s wedding this past summer, but even though we are the same age, there’s a different aspect to being at a wedding as one of the friends, versus one of the relatives. This will be my first friend wedding, versus family wedding.
It makes me feel old. I still react with shock every time I hear someone my age is getting married or having a baby. It takes me a couple minutes to realize that these are not teenage pregnancies and shotgun weddings. It is actually quite normal to be starting a family at 24 or 25 years old. My sister had two kids at my age, and was celebrating her third wedding anniversary.
It has got to be very exciting to start a new chapter of one’s life, being married. It is a definitive time when one stage ends and another begins; you can’t mistake yourself for a child anymore. Me on the other hand, I still feel like a kid. There’s no threshold I’ve passed that has said, “alright, now life’s different”, so things just seem jumbled into one stage of life. You could say two stages, but the second stage has such a fluid starting point.
Did adulthood start at 16 when I could drive, or 18 when I was “legally” an adult who couldn’t legally drink. At 18 in America, you got another 3 years of being treated like a child. So does adulthood start at 21, at which point everyone wonders why these young adults are still acting like children (because they’ve been treated like children for 21 years, well into historically recognized adulthood).
Some expect artificial milestones to change people, but really, changed people reach organic milestones.
Marriage makes the shift quite obvious. Stage 2: creating your own family. You decide when to get married, it isn’t a predestined time and place for everyone around you to then say, “alright, you’re an adult now!”. The choice is yours, and it is something to embark on when you feel like an adult. There’s an order of operations here. Getting married in order to feel like an adult will probably end poorly; getting married because you feel like an adult makes sense.
It is scary to outsiders like me who see themselves in such a different stage. It is natural to compare yourself with your peers, and wonder if you are doing something wrong. When people start getting married around me, it makes me wonder if there is something I am missing. A flurry of emotions is awakened in the unmarried wedding goer. It makes you think. Do they really have their shit together that much more than me?
I wonder if it feels like wiping the slate clean. Is marriage the time when you can finally get past all the little things that bothered you about adolescence, and all the petty quirks from high school and college? It seems like a perfect time to fully harden the “I don’t care” attitude. The good kind of “I don’t care”, not the Lindsay Lohan kind. The type of “I don’t care” because you got someone that will always have your back. You are no longer alone in the world, to fight your own battles. There is always backup on the way, always an ear ready to listen, and always someone else to share the struggles and the best of times with.
Interestingly, Nick and Amanda have been together for a decade at the age of 24. This isn’t one of those “is it gonna last” marriages: they have already passed the seven year itch. Marriage just makes it official, confirms what we have all known for a long time: that this pair makes sense together. They add something to the other, they work well together. They have already been moving through life together for a long time, but tomorrow, there will be no mistaking it. It is Team Amanda and Nick, entering adulthood together.
Congratulations, Amanda and Nick! You are marking the first official time when we can sit back and reminisce, sure that certain things are exclusively in the past. We may never again frolic on the golf course late at night, setting off firecrackers and running from no one. We might be done packing 5 people into a canoe, sunken so far into the water one false move will sink it; lighting fires and sending soda cans rocketing off the coals.
These events can clearly be designated to the Stage 1 of life, and viewed through a new lens. From here the conversations will begin to shift; instead of talking about how cool we are for drinking, and causing trouble, we will probably be discussing how to keep our future children from drinking and causing trouble. How the hell did we make it out of there unscathed? That has already happened with my sister and some of her friends. I consider my experienced advice invaluable to them.
It is funny how it can seem like a blink of an eye from being a kid, to being an adult. Marriage, like most ceremonies, has as much meaning as you want to give it. Some people think there is something magical about ceremonies; that due to marriage an outside force will make you a different person. That’s not true though. Marriage is something to undertake when you are ready to make yourself a different person. Otherwise it would be putting the cart before the horse, and I see that too often. People think that getting married will make their boyfriend become more mature, or their girlfriend act more like a stereotype.
But I know it is not like that for Nick and Amanda. I think you guys have got it all figured out. You’re not doing it for other people, and you are not doing it as a way to convince yourselves of anything. Marriage won’t change anything by itself; you have already gotten to that point, made the positive change. Marriage is just the celebration, the recognition of what you have, and will have for the rest of your lives!