Your Life Doesn't Begin When You Get Married

I was 24 when I moved to Atlanta for the boy I was sure I'd marry and 24.5 when everything fell apart and I found out, with certainty, that I would not be marrying him. I was confused and terrified and heartbroken. I remember telling my mom: I just never expected to be starting over at 24! I never thought I'd be getting married after 25!

I've been wrong about a lot of things in my 20s but, that one is at the top of the list, which I can see clearly now from my 28-point-of-view. Somewhere along the line I was conditioned to believe that getting married means someone has chosen you - that you are worthy of being selected. Of a diamond ring. Of a white dress. Of getting a plus one for life. Somewhere I started to believe that getting married makes you more worthy because some other human has identified, investigated and confirmed your worth. And that you are, in fact, worthy of diamonds.

Somewhere along the line, it also seems I was conditioned to believe that my life would begin when I got married. 

I started to believe that life before marriage was a waiting game. Stick it out - wait for him to come along - it'll happen when you least expect it - he will find you. But life after marriage? Then you're really living. You're actually alive.

I was so wrong.

Not because life after marriage isn't beautiful and lively. I am sure it is! But because life before marriage counts too. It isn't the dark period, where they dim the lights before the real show starts. No, this is it - this is part of the show, too. You are significant and worthy and the life you're building in your 20s counts. Every minute of it. Whether you're married or single need not matter.

I wish I'd believed this sooner. I wish I hadn't spent my 25th year searching for my partner in crime and had, instead, just lived. 

This decade, I think, is actually shorter than the others. It happens in a blink. You go from being 24, feeling like you're poor and a disaster and why didn't anyone warn you about this phase of life! To the end of your 20s and suddenly things are falling into place a little more. Is life perfect? Of course not. But you don't want to cry all the time or feel like you're a constant mess. You figure out what you want to do with your career and make deep friendships that aren't based on alcohol. You learn to respect your body and treat it well. You find new hobbies, learn how to have adult conversations and actually get enough sleep. You grow into the adult you want to be and, before you know it, you kind of (sort of) are an adult. Even if you still don't feel like one. And you look back at 24 and smile. Because, golly, I sure thought 26 sounded so old. 

I wouldn't swap my days at 24 for 28, or vice versa. Each one counted, no matter my relationship status at the time. Each one was important and significant and got me to where I am today. 

So if you're 23, 26 or 29 and wondering what the heck is going on, embrace it. Believe in who you are and what you know, but don't be afraid to stretch yourself a little. Keep going; keep growing. You are worthy. And you are alive.