I was standing on the deck of a ferry enjoying a sunset view of the Amalfi coast and I was overcome by a sense of joy at finally coming to Italy. In that moment I was unexpectedly reminded of the dozens of comments I’d heard over the decades from people about marriage and travel and life. It comes out differently from each person, but the essence of the comment is that people shouldn’t get married young because they will never see the world. I heard it a lot in my dating/engagement/early-married years, but it continued well into my 30’s: if you want to travel, you need to do it before you get married, and especially before you have kids.
But you know what? That’s kinda mean to say to a 21-year old who is madly in love, longs to see the world, and is really broke. I was certain I wanted to marry Dwayne, but I was always made to feel that this meant I had to give up my hopes of traveling, since we didn’t have the means to do so in our early 20’s. And yet, even though I didn’t really know when it would happen, I still held onto my dream of actually seeing the faraway places that captivated me.
And then…there I was, at 39 years old, on the Mediterranean sea, sailing along the beautiful coast line with my husband and my children. Not only was I experiencing it myself, but I was enjoying it with my life partner and sharing the gift with my children. And the impact this trip is having on me in my late 30’s is different than what it would have been in my early 20’s. Not better or worse, just different. But it’s my experience and my dream. I never would have imagined my life unfolding the way it has, especially in recent years. Who could have ever predicted I’d have a new life on the other side of the world? But things took a turn and that means some of my oldest dreams are coming to fruition through unexpected avenues.
So, there were two things that came to my mind on that boat:
Number one: every major life decision has enough heaviness of it’s own without being weighed down further by other people’s baggage. Their preconceived notions and assumptions about life simply don’t apply to you. No one knows the path anyone else’s life will take. Who’s to say you can’t get married young and have kids and then see the world together? Or who’s to say you can’t get married at 40 and start a family and settle down then? There’s no prescribed timetable or order of events. There’s not an inevitable way to do it. There’s more than one way to carve out a beautiful life.
Number two: I wouldn’t trade 18 years of life with Dwayne for any trip in the world. Italy is dreamy, but I’d rather never see it at all than give up the years I’ve had married to this great man. In all my life, with the choices right in front of me, I have only ever aimed to make the best and wisest decision at the time, and trusted that the future details would work themselves out. When I meet a young person now, whether they’re getting married, traveling, going to school, starting a new venture, or whatever, I make a point of saying, “Great! Bless you! Run with that decision. Your life path is wide open, and this is just one of the first turns. Enjoy the journey.” I don’t always word it so clearly, but I hope, as much as possible, to ease every young person’s decision load with encouragement and hope and to bolster them on their way. And then I carry on with my own unfolding journey.