On Becoming A Grown-Up (on my terms)

I’ve been thinking a lot about social scripts and cultural narratives lately, and the way we are rewarded for following them and punished for veering off the beaten track. I think one of the reasons wedding planning can be so difficult is that it’s the first time we’re introduced to cultural narratives full force. It starts with the (inevitable) bru-ha-ha about the engagement ring, and who proposed to who, and goes on to colors and flowers and How It’s Done. But for those of us who fought back and managed to (sometimes painfully) buck the social script for weddings, I think we often find that fight was just practice for the many fights to follow.

Recently around our house, we’ve both been thinking a lot about how we do things, and how we want to do things. Since we’re our own family now, we’ve given ourselves permission to develop our own traditions, and we’re starting to grow them – to recognize them. I’ve started to get used to the “You’ll seeeees.” The endless “Oh, wait till you have a baby, you’ll see,” and “Oh, wait till you turn 30, you’ll see.” I’ve started to try to block them out as unhelpful noise – because we heard all the “you’ll sees” about wedding planning, and in turned out most of them were not true at all.

But what I wasn’t ready for is what I call ‘The List.’ Once you get to the other side, I’ve noticed people have this idea that you’re going to change, that you’re going to ‘grow up.’ For those of us who have thoughtfully chosen somewhat non-traditional life paths, it’s a shock to realize that suddenly there is a (often subtle, often unspoken) idea that you’re going to change the way you do things. You’re going to:

  • Buy a house
  • Have a baby
  • Move back to the suburbs
  • Move back to the city
  • Get a high paying job
  • Get a higher paying job
  • Get a more serious job
  • Go to graduate school
  • Stop going to graduate school already
  • Settle down
  • Stop traveling
  • Give up your silly hobbies
  • Buy a house
  • Have a baby (yeah, those two deserve to go on the list twice)

And the list goes on and on.

And it’s tough. Because if you’re like me, you don’t want to disappoint people… and you want assurance that the way you’re doing things is worthwhile… and you want people to appreciate your accomplishments just the way they are. So when people are not delighted with your life choices, or are confused by your life choices – the choices you didn’t think were that non-traditional in the first d*mn place – it can be disorienting… and sometimes upsetting.

So in the same way that I found myself collecting inspiration (or really proof) that we could do our wedding our way, I find myself collection proof (or inspiration) that we can be married our way, that we can raise kids our way, that we can have careers our way, that we can be grown-ups our way.

Michael Chabon has a passage in Manhood for Amateurs about being a grown-up that I love:

We are accustomed to repeating the cliche, and to believing, that “our most precious resource is our children.” But we have plenty of children to go around, God knows, and as with Doritos, we can always make more. The true scarcity we face is of practicing adults, of people who know how marginal, how fragile, how finite their lives and their stories and their ambitions really are, but who find value in this knowledge, even a sense of strange comfort, because they know their condition is universal, is shared.

But more than that, this thinking brings up the passage by Anne Lamott, one of my all time favorite writers, in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, that has been rattling around in my head for the last five years. This passage is about her relationship with her teenage son:

… But most of all he needs me to be alive in a way that makes him feel he will be able to bear adulthood, because he is terrified of death, and that includes growing up to be one of the stressed-out, gray-faced adults he sees rushing around him.

Gray faced adults. Yes. Yes. Yes. As I move from my 20’s to my 30’s (this week) I keep focusing how I don’t want to be a gray faced adult. I tried it, briefly, over the last few years, and I never want to try it again. This is, in a way, what I went to art school for. And if I could brave three years of my crazy-ass BFA program as part of my quest to stay fully alive, I can face married life, I can face my 30’s on my terms.

So while it’s terrifying when you hear so many voices saying ‘it can’t be done.’ I have to remember to listen to that tiny little voice inside you that is saying not only CAN it be done, it HAS to be done.

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  • Lor

    And this is why I have to read your blog before I start my work day. It is inspiration, not just in weddings-but in life. I’m not sure if this quote is word for word, or who said it, but it goes something like this, “When the world says Give Up, Hope whispers, Try it one more time”.
    Loving the new site Meg!

  • Laura

    The nice thing about turning 30 was that I stopped caring about this stuff so much. You’re free to make your own choices. Other people are free to disagree with them. At a certain point, I stopped taking it personally that certain family members didn’t understand my life. I also realized that I didn’t understand their lives either. They are, as you say, gray-faced adults. And that works for them. I don’t have to make it work for me and neither do you.
    Enjoy your birthday, live it up! I’ve loved my 30s and hope the same for you. It’s a great time.

  • Of course it can be done. And we’re all in this together. Just as you’ve managed to cultivate this amazing marriage & wedding planning community, know that here we are, the same awesome people (all over the world), trying to live consciously and in a way that is in tune with who we are and who we want to be, not just automatically accepting prescribed roles based on gender, marital status, etc.
    As we say in my family of origin, “It’s cool; we got this.”

  • kerstin

    my husband and i face these sort of questions from family / friends all of the time, and as we seek to live a *non-traditional* (but what is “traditional,” anyway?) life, we’ve adopted the phrase “f*ck ’em” for moments that we feel greatly misunderstood … i think that in order to live a truly remarkable life, you’ve got to adopt this attitude, to a certain extent (of course we do still care what our families and close friends think, but we try not to let it bother us too much when they disagree / don’t understand, because we know we’re making the right choices for us) — this post makes me think of mary oliver’s amazing poem, “The Summer Day,” which ends with the words: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?” Love the post and thoughts, as always — and yes — it CAN be done be done and it HAS to be done. Brava, lady. :)

    • KD

      “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?”

      LOVE IT! I want to print that out and put it on my cubicle wall (ohhh the irony!)

  • Jen

    Love it! Thanks for another great and though provoking post, Meg!
    I don’t wanna be a grown up worker bee buzzy around trying to do ‘important’ things just cuz thats whats supposed to be done. I wanna be a big fat bumble bee that just wanders to and from beautiful flowers of my choice and gets all fuzzy with the nummy good of each flower. mmmmm

  • Jake

    Poet Mary Oliver’s question—”What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”—rings loud and constant in my ears. You have ONE, and it is wild and precious. Do what you need to do with it! Bravissimo!!!!!

  • HK

    This is really inspirational… I too have a birthday approaching this week and it is inducing a quarter-life crisis (mentally!- i’m not out free basing botox or purchasing a new harley, hah). The one thing I dislike about myself above all else is my constant comparison to others. Seeing friends and family be admired for home purchases, desk jobs, extravagant weddings, children- makes me feel inadequate. I need to start reminding myself that I don’t NEED approval, I can face the tongue clucking and head shaking and doubts, if I am happy (more than ever now that I’ve found someone who is as wild as me) and doing what I love…then F that to-do list up there!


  • I still don’t understand why our culture has created these narratives for pre-wedding and post-wedding life and why so many people stick to the script. You’d think by 2010 there would have been more people who have tested these limits and proven that they don’t work for everyone and there would be more culturally-accepted options. But still we get the same, one-track route that everyone is supposed to face.

    Perhaps those who take a different route are’t vocal enough, which I find hard to believe, but maybe that’s the case. Maybe they feel they’ve stirred the water enough in their own families, so they don’t want to make waves in the larger sense. They lead brave lives together but keep quiet about it.

    But all that has to change and I think it is. The more we talk about our nontraditional routes, the more others will see that the traditional path isn’t the only way to go. Before you know it, there won’t be a one-track course through life!

  • Rachel

    Thank you for reminding me of this! I think this also goes along with something I’ve been thinking about recently: that people assume something about the way a husband and a wife are as a couple, when no one can really know about a relationship and how it works except the two people in it. We recently had a friend tell us that they were shocked we did such a great job training our puppy because we both seem so crazy and carefree about everything, they didn’t think we could successfully raise anything to be well-behaved!
    Well, thanks for packaging us into that box!

  • LL

    I love this post because it is exactly how I’m feeling RIGHT NOW. I have done everything in my life in a very traditional fashion. . . but now that I’m married, 30, and almost done with grad school, I’m finding that I’m done with the traditional life path. . . and although I know in my gut that this is RIGHT for me and for my husband, I can’t stop feeling like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not ready to buy a mcmansion and start having children. I feel like being 30 means my time is running out! I must start being a wife, homemaker and mother NOW! And just like HK, I want the approval that people get for these things, but I really need to learn that I am more than adequate just as I am – forget the approval of others! So I love that I am not alone, and that I can use your thoughts as my own inspiration to continue to be strong and go about life the way we (my husband and I) want, regardless of tradition, FOR ONCE!

  • KD

    Wouldn’t this world be SO boring if everyone followed this script? If there were no artists or actors living “non-traditional” lives…where would people with “REAL jobs” go for theatre or for art?

    Whether people let it affect them or not, it’s often impossible to not draw comparisons with your peers. I think sometimes we’re all guilty of secretly patting ourselves on the back for thinking we’re doing something better than whatsername from high school who added you on facebook or feeling a bit like a slacker when you find out the woman who started her own business that you admire is your age…

    I think it’s natural, but it really needs to give us more opportunity to expand our own worlds. Every time I can empathize with why this person is living their life in the way they are I get a better understanding of people and sometimes really opens my eyes to things going on in society I didn’t previously see because they didn’t personally affect me. I try to always remember to be kind, but sometimes I judge. I have been guilty of this, like so many people – only if we recognize it and call ourselves out on it can we make the effort to only gain the positive from comparisons. When talking with the woman who started her own company I learned she really put herself out there and all the sacrifices she made to get her company up and running… I didn’t feel like a schmo anymore, I felt motivated and inspired.

    I love that this whole APW community gets that everyone is different – and what works best for you isn’t the only way. This reflects back to the recent post about how weddings are so individual and no marital situation is the same, and therefore no one should judge another’s wedding. Thank you to everyone who ever shares their story/view/opinion here because you’ve all expanded my world!

    Happiest of birthdays to you Meg! Wishing you another fabulous (yet practical) year ;)

  • Hawkeye

    It is easy to get frustrated when someone tells you that something is not possible and I agree that it is important for us as new families to decide which traditions and values are important. However, I think it is also important to remember that wisdom comes with experience and the “you’ll sees” are not always meant with malicious intent. Those before us have struggled and in many ways are trying to prevent us the same hardships that they experienced. I think we have to try to put ourselves in the position of the person giving us (often, unsolicited) advice and remember that there is likely a story behind their disapproval or unsupporting attitude. Just as we would wish those giving us advice to understand the importance of making new traditions, I would hope we would take the time to reflect on the historical context for social norms and the individual experience that may have led to the social skepticism that we are bound to face when we take the road less travelled.

    • elemjay

      Yes but is it mindful challenge? Or is it knee-jerk resistance based on “how it should be”? That’s the key for me…

    • Nina

      beautifully and very wisely said. I must remember this with the next “you’ll seeeeeeee”

      @Elemjay, I think it’s a bit of both – like my married friend who recently seemed surprised by how considerate the fiance and I are to each other and said “oh just wait till you’re married!” I think this came from a combination of her struggles and hardships and also the cultural narrative that tells us that this is just how marriage is. I just keep reminding myself that the marriage isn’t a beast of its own volition, it’s just us.

    • meg

      Read Ariel’s post on the subject. I don’t think that “you’ll see’s” have particularly good intentions, though the list stuff does. It’s more trying to make your negative life experiences universal, so you’ll feel better. We’re all guilty of this some times. IE, talking to people about things you learned with and infant: helpful. Saying things like, “Once you have a baby, you’ll never have sex again” isn’t helpful in any circumstance.

  • ddayporter

    aaahhhh yesssss. I am right there. a few years short of 30, probably a few years shy of taking this post as the kick in the butt that it should be. I’m not really hit by disapproval or misunderstanding, most of my friends and family treat me like they think I’ve got it together and I’ll be fine, nobody is tapping their watches at me, wondering when the house and baby and all the rest is going to happen. there’s just a sort of terror within myself, that I’ve been riding some momentum to this point and it feels like it’s slowing down now, it’s time for me to make some choices and be my own propeller (with the help of my husband of course, we’ll propel ourselves – but I’m primarily talking about my career and not life in general).

    My life is awesome in all areas, except my work. my work is a problem because it’s not what I want, but I don’t know what I want (ugh and I feel like a ridiculous gen-y whiner when I say that). I’m in that place where I’m trying to figure out if there’s some magical place in between “work to live” and “live to work” that I just haven’t found yet?? either way I haven’t the slightest idea which direction I want to take in my career (the word career in itself is a problem for me. do I need a “career”? I think I want one). and part of the terror stems from the fact that I know I want to have this (and many other things) figured out before I have children and they get old enough to start looking to me as a guide for what they can expect for adulthood, and I don’t want to be the lesson in “how I don’t want my life to go.” and I don’t want to be a gray faced adult!

    • yes. exactly. from my heart & head to your words on this page. this is my challenge too. thanks for putting it so well into words.

    • Oh I am right there with you with regard to the career. I don’t know what I want but I do know what I don’t want and frankly at this point there are lots of things I might be willing to do to pay the bills if it means no over time and I get all my weekends free to run around and that I can actually make long term plans with friends without the fear of last minute cancellations due to work sending me somewhere. Of course I tell people this and they say “oh if only those were my problems.” But really, I would like to sign up for a quilting class with the knowledge that yes, I will be able to make it to this and I won’t lose my money.

    • meg

      Does it help to know that LOTS of us are right there with you?

      • ddayporter

        YES. that’s why I basically live on this site. :)

    • Nina

      yeah count me in too! you described it perfectly

      • Tina

        YES! My sentiments exactly. I’m not getting the pressure from family and friends so much. I’m getting it from myself mostly. (Perhaps due to societal pressures??) I’m trying to find this balance between these societal norms and the “gray-faced adult,” but really it’s just wanting to be happy in my work and personal life and the work life not so much. Some of my own torment comes from the fact that right now I live a pretty adult life and I kind of want to break free of that. Is that just growing up? You have to pay the bills and be responsible. When is it bucking the norms and when is it just wanting to go back to an easier time? I would say that the ticking clock does in fact come from the pressure to get things done before kids. I know that life doesn’t end with kids, but it does make it more difficult to go back to grad school before “it’s too late” or to change careers. I’m not worried about being a mom in her mid to late 30’s, but for us, I think kids before that would work best. In any case, thank you for speaking my mind for me! :)

    • SING it, Sister! I’m SO there, too. Stuck between a job I hate and the knowledge (fear?) that MY education/experience can provide the high-paying-benefit-offering type jobs that my husband’s won’t.
      I’m lucky that he tells me all the time “I don’t care how poor we are, you’re no good to me unhappy”.
      My mom recently gave me a book that I’m really enjoying as I try to muddle through all this:
      “You Majored in WHAT? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career” by Katharine Brooks. It’s all about how the linear approach to career (and life?) (i.e. love x, major in x, get a job in x-ology) is total bunk.
      Maybe it can help you find some direction (or courage to seek direction), too.

      Final note: our generation threads a sticky wicket when it comes to “the traditional life path”. The path of our mothers’ basically no longer exists. We’re forced to (or GET to) make it up as we go.

      • ddayporter

        oooh thanks for sharing that book suggestion. I’ll take any advice I can get. :)

        • Kate

          A book I found very helpful in figuring out what the heck I wanted to do next (when I definitely hated my job and felt like I was educated in the wrong field) is The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube by Michelle Goodman. After this post, I think the better title for the book might be The Anti Grey-Faced Adult Guide. : )

  • I have been noticing this a lot lately in my daily life. I don’t happen to live near my family (a personal choice, not against my family, but instead for my lifestyle), and so actually get the pressure a bit less. My fiancée and I are getting married after three years of engagement. There was a bit of swimming against the tide at the beginning, but everyone seems to have just gotten used to my wacky ideas and just go with the flow. What I have been up against recently comes not from family and friends, but from complete strangers. My hairdresser will say “Oh, you’re getting married in August? Good, you’ll be such a great mom.” MOM? Did I say anything about having children? I would have thought this train of thought was a fluke except it’s been happening over and over again. Since when does marriage equal babies? Or, to re-phrase, since when does marriage HAVE to equal babies?

  • So well put. My husband and I really struggled with this prior to getting married, and even during our first year of marriage. We both had to work to get rid of our set expectations, and one of us in particular, a fear of becoming our parents’ marriage. We had to decide that just because we were married it didn’t mean we had to “do” anything else or “be” anything else. Just us.
    I’ve wanted an un-ordinary life since I was a kid, but it’s easy to forget that that takes constant action. It’s too easy to fall into the trappings of what everyone else is doing without ever considering whether you actually want them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting babies and a house, so long as it really is what you want.

  • Chelsea

    I think what is sometimes especially hard is living in the grey area between fulfilling all the expectations and defying all of them. Most of us here have decided to get married, and most of us have/ are getting graduate degrees, a lot of us are planning to have kids one day or buy a house or whatever. So we clearly haven’t thrown out that list, which makes people assume that we’re going to keep following it. And who knows, maybe I will end up with two kids and a house in the ‘burbs, which would be fine with me as long as we make those decisions because they’re right for us, and not just because they’re expected.

    Sometimes I think it would be easier to go so far off the path of normal that no one would have any expectations than it is to live here, pretty much on the same path as all the “grey faced adults,” and resist becoming one of them. It’s harder to swim against the current when you’re in the middle of the river than it is when you’re on the banks. What I like about APW is that everyone here is making their decisions thoughtfully. Some of us are making traditional choices, but we’re CHOOSING them, not being handed them. And that gives me hope that, even if I end up with two kids and a house in the burbs, it doesn’t mean I’ve given in.

    • Jennifer

      Amen to the making decisions thoughtfully, whether those thoughts land you on the path less traveled or not. It’s sort of the same thing as with the Jezebel post – just because someone spends a year’s rent or more on a wedding doesn’t mean they’re being brainwashed, and just because someone buys a house in the suburbs and works a corporate job doesn’t mean that, either. (I should note I don’t think Meg is implying that here.) It’s true, I am only buying a house in the suburbs now that I am part of a couple, but that’s a) because I wouldn’t have been able to afford that on my own for a long long time, and b) because the prioritization sorts out differently when you have another person’s career/commute, family commitments, and such added into the mix. If we both worked in the city, if our parents were all healthy or lived in the city, if we didn’t want to give a home to his mother’s dog… well, then, we might be in a city condo or apartment instead, regardless of what the other “checkboxes” on the list are.

      I am realizing there is probably something very freeing in not only being in my late 30s (as another commenter mentioned, somewhere in your 30s it’s pretty common to stop worrying about this as much), but in getting married (for the first time, at that) in my late 30s — I think for a lot of brides, and grooms, a decade or so younger than me, marriage does seem to get entangled with Becoming a Grownup, whereas I navigated that same age bracket as a very single woman, and so I pretty much had to become a grownup on my own terms, as everyone else’s script was out the window already. There are other issues I’m grappling with as a somewhat older bride (for example, we do want children, but have a much shorter timeframe to figure out how we’re going to do that, and realistically, less time to solidify our family unit before we bring children into the picture than I’d want) but there are absolutely benefits as far as dealing with other people’s expectations.

    • Anicka

      This. I want to do a lot of things the ‘traditional way’. Finish grad school, have a baby, move back home, build a house (okay, that’s not so traditional in my corner of the world)….and I’m scared of losing the ‘my way’ and the ‘our way’ along. I want to keep my hobbies and do adventurous things, travel and read and learn….and inspire my kids to think about what they want their lives to be.

    • meg

      I think that’s part of what’s always made it so confusing to me. With the wedding or with life, I don’t think of myself as out there… but I know what I want, and I’m sticking to it. So when people react like, “OH MY GOD THAT’S INSANE” (weddings) or just being perplexed and not excited by my life choices, I’m always like “REALLY? REALLY people? I mean, I didn’t just tattoo my face and announce that I was going to live in a yurt in South America.* Get it together.”

      *I have lots of friends that do such things.

  • Kristen

    You may not be following the script those around you would write for you (and to add frustration – they generally would write this script with the best of intentions because they love you) but while you worry about disappointing people, you should know that you are truly one of my heroes.

    I am not sure how I ever stumbled upon A Practical Wedding (maybe One Love has a link from their site?) or what I would do without it. I’ve never posted before because I sometimes feel like an imposter to the APW club. I’m getting a planner for about $3,000 (because after five months of engagement I’ve accomplished nothing but to work on my wrinkles and it’s stressing me out, giving me nightmares, and making me crabby already) and then also going with a wedding budget ot $15,000 and then doing a separate reception in my hometown for probably another $3,000. I’m not DIYing a thing. Frankly, on the day of, I dream of just waking up early, slipping out to go on a run with Kevin, coming back in time for a delicious breakfast of something like quiche and fruit and then taking the day as easy as possible. I know me. If I weren’t paying someone else to take care of it I would be stress central. I would even give other people wrinkles. I don’t know of a great quirky cute theme that will make people walk into our reception and say, “This is SO Kristen and Kevin.” I want dueling pianos and a photo booth. And while I have a slight preference for a caterer who is big into sustainability and local foods I’ll mostly go with what tastes good and fits in my budget. So really, in all of those ways, I don’t fit in the APW crowd.

    But I love the way you talk about the MAJOR things. Like marriage equality. Gender equality. The last name issues. The family issues. Crazy traditions. Calling off the wedding when you know it’s the right thing (both of my sisters went through with weddings they knew they should have called off). Remembering that this wedding thing is minor – your main focus should be planning a marriage.

    I know you have your One Love friends up here (you’ve mentioned them before and I’ve seen them at a wedding show and LOVED the wax print things she had done) but if you’re ever around Seattle/Tacoma and they aren’t available, I would love to buy you a drink or five and toast to your fabulousness.

    • ddayporter

      I know you were speaking to Meg, but I feel compelled to chime in from out here – I think the only thing in the above that isn’t APW is thinking that all those things make you not fit into this community. The only thing I’ve perceived that is close to a requirement to fit into this crowd (aside from being kind in the comments) is making decisions thoughtfully. seems like that’s what you’re doing..?

      • C

        I agree with Stephanie; APW is about making thoughtful choices and owning those choices. Your budget, your wedding, your choices, are *yours* and it’s not for us to judge. I think a big thing about APW is Know Thyself. So if you don’t enjoy DIY but want some things, then go ahead and pay someone to do it for you; artists/crafters/wedding elves need to eat and pay rent too! Also, if you feel apologetic you’re missing the point a little; APW isn’t about making you feel guilty. The opposite actually; it’s about empowerment in this world of treat brides like silly children who just want the shiny thing.

        • meg

          A-men. Besides, more people here have your budget then you think.

  • Kayla

    Gahh, yes… this is totally a problem, especially while wedding planning (for some weird, odd reason). It’s not enough you’re already making a huge decisions regarding making a new family and ‘life’-but the inevitable questions of when do you want kids and where are you going to live come popping out. Someone said it best when they stated that being engaged is the worst time to plan a wedding.

    After working as a front desk receptionist, it seemed that all I would ever see were these aptly-named ‘gray-faced’ adults picking up kids, dropping them off, signing forms, paying for practices–they were the reason I didn’t want to get married, grow up, or become an adult. It’s nice to remember that there is a different path available to take.

  • Emily Kate

    My wife is also turning 30 this week (today!), and while we spent all of last weekend slaving over our house renovations I spent a lot of time thinking about what that means, and what she will do over the next decade (and what she thought she would be doing now way back on her 20th birthday). Strangely, the most comforting thing to me lately has been the pile of ‘More’ magazines that a neighbor gave us–I like reading all of the stories of women in middle age who ditched whatever they were doing and suddenly decided to do something else. It reminds me that that will always be an option–you can always decide to change it up. Except for the baby. Once that sucker is there, it’s pretty much there forever, as far as I can tell.

  • So well said, Chelsea!

    The “you’ll seeeeees” come from both sides– the “why aren’t you living up to the cultural expectations?” side and the “oh good grief, there you go just doing as you’re expected, you traditional thing” side.

    We’re at a point where we’re thinking about having kids. And when we talk about things like that with our friends, some of them make comments about never wanting to hang out with us when that happens, or how they dread that day.

    So there are these two forces: the older generation saying “When are you going to have kids? Move it along!” and so on with that entire list.
    And then (some of) our friends/peers, our generation that claims to be all about choice – and among them, the ones that see a decision to have kids (buy a house/pursue a career/etc) as lame, boring, a sign that we’re giving up our lives/identies/coolness.

    And like Chelsea said, it becomes a challenge to carve your own path amid those opposing forces. We got married. We bought a house. We want kids. But we made these decisions thoughtfully, when the time was right for us — none of these things were auto-pilot decisions for us.

    And I guess this is where the fight for choices and freedom in creating our own lives can end up — so many choices, so many opinions about those choices, that no matter what decisions you make there will be someone to disagree. As has been said, the key is to do it thoughtfully, with the knowledge that no matter what your path looks like from the outside, it was carefully chosen by you, because of what was right for you and your partner. I have faith that a path carefully chosen will lead to good things.

  • Happy birthday!! We’ll have to ply you with cocktails on Friday!

    At 34, I don’t necessarily feel like a traditional “grown up” – except that I’ve been doing it my way long enough that no one sasses me about it anymore – it’s no longer “oh, why don’t you do things this way” and more “ok, I respect your choices.” If anything, moving into your 30s is liberating, I think – less and less people think they can tell you what you should be doing, especially as you carve out your magical niche successfully!

    The “You’ll see” people, I think, are trying to make themselves feel better – a little bit of protest-too-much.

    I’m definitely in the same work boat as ddayporter ^^ up there — I ended up in a career I don’t really care much about, and need to switch it up! Less stress! More freedom! More money! More magic!

    I also, at 34, will probably start trying for babies slightly before I’m ready, as the clock is ticking. Which maybe seems a little crazy, but we’ve thought a lot about it. So things fall as they fall. Some of these things, the house, the babies, are not just societal but biological – we make nests, generate more humans.

  • ALSO. I hadn’t looked at all these posts tagged inspiration and now I am freaking out!! So much prettiness!

  • Kira.D

    As I go about planning my wedding and the next big phase of my life post-graduation this post was a much needed read because I think that it hit the nail on the head.

    I’ve also been encountering the dire “you’ll see(s)” and “just wait(s)” and like you, I too have notice that they don’t just stop at wedding planning. It seems that since my engagement was announced that my entire life has been put under a microscope and found somewhat lacking. The trouble is that I haven’t been able to figure out what exactly the world at large thinks I am missing. A better steadier job? We’re in a recession and almost no ones job is stable, let alone a recent college grad. A bigger, fancier wedding? I’m not sure that I’d want one even if I could afford it, which I can’t. More maturity? If by “maturity” they mean turning into one of those “Gray faced adults,” all I can say is no thank you.

    Sometimes I want to stand in the middle of a busy downtown intersection and shout;

    “What could possibly be wrong? I’m happy!” I always thought that was the place which all of the supposed-to’s were supposed to bring you anyway –a place of happiness.

    Well Meg, I can tell you that this post (and most of your posts) definitely go into my proverbial folder of proof that my partner and I can “be married our way, that we can raise kids our way, that we can have careers our way, that we can be grown-ups our way.” Also, on a more personal level, they prove that I can be who I want and live my own way. Thank you for this timely reminder that “normalcy”, “should” and “can’t” are words that are best left muffled for those who believe that they CAN.

  • Stephanie

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your posts, and how, like this one, they seem to always come just when I need to hear them. I just turned 30, just got married in a courthouse in a town we had never been to before, and am planning on taking a few months off life in South America with my husband before we both start grad school in a (another) new state… So, thank you. Your posts are so elegant and so pertinent to what I am going through.

  • Jenn

    Amen, Meg, amen. I too am leaving the 20s for the 30s this week. And, I too am celebrating my first year of marriage after a hugely fun and wonderful party which we did our way (and every time I doubted doing it our way, you’d write something that made me stomp my foot and recommit myself). I’ve been rolling all the same thoughts around in my brain the last little while, and I love it when you post what’s on my mind and give me a little vindication and support in my musings. Carry on, and happy, happy birthday!

  • Happy Birthday and kudos for your conscientious and conscious life planning! As one of the “gray faced adults” now entering my later 30s, thank you. I allowed choices to be made for me in my 20s. I gave up the writing career I dreamt about, went to graduate school, moved away from my home where my friends, family and comfort are to a city where I took the high-paying job, bought the over-priced house in the suburbs (later lost, natch), and worked so hard that I never had time to make new friends or lament that I was isolated in a city I didn’t really like and doing work that was not fulfilling.

    Then one day, I woke up and realized I needed to unravel the mess I had made by following all of the “shoulds” on your list instead of my own heart.

    • meg

      Phew. That hit home.

    • Tina

      Thank you for such honesty. So amazing this conversation. Fire under ass officially lit.

  • I’m 24. I’ll be 25 when we get married. As we talked about buying a house, about my graduating from school, about my getting a job, I freaked out. Because I wasn’t ready for the house and the implications of grown-up-ed-ness that came with it. Wasn’t ready for the dog, then the children. Wasn’t ready to become a gray-faced adult. Wasn’t ready to give up the 20-something I wanted to be before I became a grownup. Am I ready to get married? Yes. But getting married doesn’t mean that I’m going directly from “college kid” to “adult”. I still get to collect my $200 of foolishness; of lousy career mistakes, of way too many Margaritas at happy hour; of crappy apartments and burned cooking experiments; of expensive shoes and crazy fashion trends. I still get to start projects that will never happen and dream big of the life that I want. The fact that I have a partner in crime just makes it all more fun.

    • meg

      YAY! This is such a perfect description of your 20’s (or how I hope they would be for many). The best thing (about my early 20’s at least) is that they were fabulous, and then I was SO HAPPY they were over. They go on just long enough, I found. One day you wake up and say, “I’m tired of being super broke and having mice in my apartment and having dishes that don’t match.” And then you know you’ve gotten what you needed and you get to move to the next step.

  • Margaret

    Wow, this is so exactly what I needed to read today.

    I had a long conversation with my guy just this morning about how terrified I am of entering the “real world” (having recently graduated w/my MFA), how I’m afraid that I’m going to become, well, basically the readers of “Redbook” magazine or “Lady’s Home Journal” (i.e. stressed-out working women/mothers/house owners who never have time to take care of their health or enjoy their spouses).

    I want to do something different with my life, but I’m struggling to know what that is… and sometimes I find myself drifting into the conventional route for its ease, acceptance, and safety (of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the mainstream, I just don’t want to find myself there mindlessly).

    And yes, hearing that it can’t be done, or that so-and-so tried that, but failed, is incredibly discouraging. But I lived my teens and twenties on my own terms (and like you mentioned, Meg, that’s partly why I went to art school) and I *refuse* to believe that turning 30/getting married = must conform to The List.

    Love the quotes, too. I’m trying to start a file of inspirational lives and words.

  • Yay! Bravo! One reason I read this site daily, even though I am not in a marital position, is that you embody several things about life that I strive for, and respect about you: You are practical (but frilly as wanted), sassy, brave, and very intentional about your life and the things that fill it. You take time to look around and evaluate what you want, and then go after it, even if it is differing from the masses.

    “Gray-faced adult” is the last thing that I want to be, but it is something that we must be intentional about avoiding in this society, as the pressures and subtleties (and sometimes not so subtleties) are very powerful.

    These posts, and the discussions after them help me remember to fight the madness, to live brightly, to be mindful.

  • lyn

    I think the hardest thing about deviating from “the list” is that this is the way many of us have assumed it will be. Since I was a little kid, I always just *assumed* that one day in the far off future, I’d go to college, I’d get a great job, I’d get married, I’d buy a house, I’d have kids. It was the logical order of things, and it was perpetuated everywhere, from children’s books to television shows to the way we played “house.” I may not have ever dreamed of my wedding, but I did dream about my future life as a grown up.

    Then I got here, and I was like: oh crap. That dream career, that perfect job? Turns out it never arrived, so I clumsily had to forge my own way. The house in the suburbs? Turns out we don’t have nearly enough money to buy a house, and I hate the suburbs. The kids? Let’s just say, I am really, really having serious doubts about that.

    The list didn’t really help any of us. What it did is cause a lot of quarterlife crises, angst, and doubt.

    Thanks for the reminder that I really, truly *can* go my own way.

  • Michele

    Posts like this fill me with so many different trains of thought and accompanying emotions, it’s hard to know where to begin. First, I love them because I feel like they give me insight into a different world – one where people feel the weight of these cultural narratives and social scripts bearing down on them, as opposed to simply being amused by them, as I usually am. That’s not to say I’m 100% immune, but I don’t feel pressured the way that many seem to.

    Second, I love them because it makes me wonder WHY it is that some people just don’t feel pressured. Is it something inherent to our personalities/character? Is it a product of the family dynamic we grew up in? Blind luck? Something else? Is there something wrong with us BECAUSE we don’t feel pressure to navigate adulthood according to “how it’s done?” There’s a lyric from a Wilco song that comes to mind – “Isn’t it sad? I’m immune,” and I wonder if that’s true – if some of us are missing out on something for the simple fact that we either aren’t being pressured, period – or simply don’t FEEL pressured.

    Third, I love them because as evidenced by the comments – posts like this inspire EVERYONE to think critically about the life they’re living, the choices they’re making, and WHY they’re doing so.

    And that’s one of my favorite things in the world.

    • KD

      I think a lot of it is nurture thing rather than nature. But aren’t there always those kids who march to their own drum beat and don’t care about other people anyway despite rearing? Still – Maybe it depends on what your parents treated you like to a small extent? For example, I always thought it was a joke when on TV people would say things to their kids to pressure for grandchildren until I met my future mother in-law. My mum is always very “do what you want, never have kids unless you want to”. Even though she wants grandbabies to fuss over because she is nurturer, she is always adamant that it’s something you only do when…and IF you’re ready. Then there is the future mom-in-law… who I think had given up hope that my boyfriend and I would ever get hitched because we were doing it on OUR schedule, which is apparently too long according to her and just started asking for babies every time we saw her…?? Talk about awkward! (actually thought about telling her I couldn’t have children so she’d lay off …of course I didn’t though)

      But yes, I am thankful every day for my mom who always encouraged me to think things through and figure out what I wanted. Now I look at people like FMIL like they’re crazy (because…well…) rather than feeling any sort of pressure.

      so yes, that’s my opinion. oh, and yay Wilco :)

    • meg

      For the record, I mostly feel like that. My parents are very, “Do whatever and be happyhappyhappy!” But it’s a little too easy to say I never have these moments, and I never feel the heat, because I think sooner or later most of us (not all of us) do.

  • My terms for being an adult are choosing something other than ranch dressing for my salad on occasion and being able to eat a taco without making a mess.

    Somehow growing up I decided that those were things adults did and when I could do them I’d be an adult. The taco thing took practice.

    I loved turning 30. It felt like people would stop expecting me to be immature and undecisive about things. Not that I really got that from people before I was 30, but turning 30 was definitely a turning point. It’s almost like that’s the age we accept for adulthood now, not 18.

    My favorite go get ’em quote is “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined,” by Thoreau. Too many people forget to dream and imagine. That’s when you start to die.

    • Darcy

      @ Giggles
      Amen sister! (and tacos are tough)

      I too had an easy time turning 30 a few years back. At 29 my retina detached and I had to give up my awesome, dream career as a theatre seamstress and backstage ninja (dresser). I sat in the dark for 8 weeks waiting for my sight to return and I wept, mourning that stage in my life. At the exact same time my partner was going through his own career change because his foot blew up with arthritis and couldn’t be a chef anymore.

      So yeah, we were (literally) the blind leading the lame and both out of work. Looking back, that was the start of the thought process in deciding to get married. We looked at each other and decided the path out of the difficulties was to go forward together. Our families were supportive, but because we are older, wouldn’t dream of jumping in with unsolicited advice.

      So here’s to the examined life and to getting a bit of perspective, or wisdom (whatever you want to call it) as you pass into your 30’s!

  • Jessica

    Meg, thank you for somehow being able to put into words these feelings that I have about weddings, gender roles, marriage, and other peoples’ expectations. I constantly grapple with the fact that no one around me seems to understand when I voice my thoughts about these things. It’s refreshing and reaffirming to find a blog and a community of readers who truly do understand, and better yet, feel the same way that I do.

  • In my family, in order to keep costs down, the rule is that once you have children, you don’t get presents from the aunts and uncles anymore, your kids do. It’s a good rule.

    However, myself and my two cousins (we are all within 2 years of one another in age, 28-30) don’t have children. I have a master’s degree and a good job (complete with a defined benefit pension – I am truly blessed); one owns his own business; one owns a house; we’re ALL engaged and will be married over the next year (it’s a big year for our family!).

    But, all of us, at Christmas, will get “token” gifts because we don’t have kids yet. It’s not that I mind receiving a gift – of course I’m grateful – but rather I don’t like what it implies. A couple years ago, when the aunts and uncles decided our relationships were all “legitimate,” they started including the SOs in this, too. What’s worse is, our relationship is legitimate enough for them to buy us gifts, but if I spent Christmas with FH’s family and not mine, you’d think WW3 was about to erupt, with my hometown as Ground Zero … I know, because my cousin split holidays with his (now) FW a couple years ago (because her family lives in the same town as them), and it was NOT pretty.

    In other words, it’s like they’re patting us on the heads and saying, “Look, how cute our kids are acting all ‘grownupy!'” It’s really obnoxious.

    • Chelsea

      This cracked me up, because even if the details are a little different, it is so perfectly a description of my family! I think that I am the only 26 year old in the world that still gets videotaped as I walk down the steps on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought me. I have a 13 year old sister and there’s a perfect Catch 22 that’s going to result in me getting Santa presents forever: on one side, if Santa is bringing her gifts, then it’s only fair that he bring gifts for everyone else, too. But she’s never going to stop getting Santa gifts, because the argument will always be “Chelsea got Santa gifts until she was 26, so Caroline should get Santa gifts until SHE is 26.” At which point, of course, I’ll be 39 and still getting presents from Santa, because if he’s getting her presents, he has to get me some, too. Maybe the insanity will stop once I’m married, or have kids, or whatever.

      And yeah, the splitting holidays fight… not looking forward to it. I used to know a guy who was literally an orphan, and I would fantasize that we would fall in love and I would never have to have the splitting holidays fight. Instead, I fell in love with someone whose parents are divorced, so now I get to try to split holidays three ways instead of two.

  • Happy Birthday! I was actually talking with a friend who is also turning 30 this week about the “turning 30” thing. I think it is like other mile-marker events in our lives, like weddings, graduations, and New Year’s Eves (for me anyways) where we tend to reflect on our life thus far and what we imagine for the future.

    But, as much as I was not looking forward to turning 30, I have found these few years in my thirties to be pretty great! I feel like I have a greater sense of freedom in my life and the possibilities ahead. And maybe people have had enough time to learn to expect my atypical life path by now? :)

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  • brendalynn

    What a great post and Happy Birthday! I just had my own big-number birthday this week and have been thinking a lot about growing up and related topics in the weeks approaching (not that I’ll stop now!).

    I read APW as my own inspiration/proof it can be done ;)

  • Lauren

    This. Yes.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I do want babies. Like… seriously, started asking my mother to have a baby for me starting at age 11, because I wanted one and couldn’t have one of my own yet. It was the typical “but I’ll feed it, and bath it, and take care of it…” except with a human child instead of the ‘normal’ puppy or kitten. So, at just now 22– we share a birthday week, Meg, I hope yours is wonderful- I’m two months from getting married, and probably not far away from the babies I’ve been yearning for for ten years now.

    When I was younger, I envisioned myself as a sort of gypsy single mom, living in tiny apartments, changing jobs often, driving a beat up pick up truck which I would only own because of how often I needed a truck to transport all my junk from one town to another. I don’t know why the cultural script didn’t impress itself upon me like it does so many people, but it didn’t. My fiancé, however, is the script embodied. We’ll get married, THEN have children, THEN buy a house (and those are only in that order because the economy effing sucks right now and we know we can’t afford a house by the time we want kids, ie next year). And he’ll have a good job, and I’ll be able to stay home and take care of things, or maybe work as well and send the kiddies to day care and school…

    How is this going to work for us? I don’t know. All I know is that at 22 I feel as grown up as I ever want to be– in fact, more so than I want to be. I’m already on the way to becoming one of those gray-faced adults, and I don’t. want. to. be. that. Full stop. College degree? Check. Full time job? Check. Time to myself– time with my fiancé– an investment in what I really want to be doing for the rest of my life– I need to work on those. This post was a great wake-up call. It’s so easy to get caught up in work and cleaning the house and taking care of basic physical needs that I forget why I loved college. Why I’m not ready to be a gray faced adult. And why I hope I never will be.

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  • Elissa

    It’s not easy to be the odd-ones-out doing things differently – and not just because of what people say – it’s an internal struggle too. My partner and I have both spent the last 4 or 5 years at uni instead of getting Real Jobs like the rest of our friends. We’re both happy with still being poor students just starting out in the Real World at 26 & 27, but it’s also hard not to be jealous seeing friends, who’ve spent those years working, doing things – like buying houses – that we want to do but won’t be able to for ages. It’s very easy to forget that they’ve spent those years in an office building working all day, dealing with clients, working sleeping working sleeping, etc. I’m currently trying to reconcile myself to the financial consequences of my part-time, not-for-profit career preferences – I /think/ I’m making progress, but it’s hard when I don’t have the rent money that’s due in 2 days….

  • Tristen Chang

    Hoooo. Exactly.

    Just what I needed to read, 124 pages into a novel that will mark the end of my graduate work, and the beginning of the “You’ll sees.”

    Trouble is, I kinda like working only 30 hours a week. So much that, once I graduate, I think that will still be the plan. The hubs is on board, our finances are fine, but everyone seems to be like, “Whaaaaaaat? Why would you do that if you don’t even have kids?”

    Oh, I don’t know. Because I want to. And because we can. And because I want to learn Russian and and how to make a souffle and how to do a flip off the high dive.

    But it can be so exhausting. And I’ll feel so BAD for reasons I can’t explain, even though I tell myself I should know better, and rise above.

    It’s still just nice to hear y’all chiming in.

    • meg

      I kind of feel like you need to move to Europe. This is where our American live-to-work not work-to-live concept gets really f*cked up. I mean, I’m as guilty of it as the next person, but I also know that it’s kind of….. warped….

      • Tristen Chang

        Oh, it’s tempting!

        My friend just moved here from Germany and she thinks we’re nuts. She’ll say things like, “Wait. Why can’t you just take a month or two off?” Or, “Everyone gets a year off for a baby, right?” that really just make my eyes pop out of my head.

        How have we not caught on to that here?

  • Chandra

    You and me both, sister. I hit 30 last week on the 8th, and everything you’ve said here rings sooooo true! I’ve been lucky to have parents that encouraged me to live off the beaten path, so making the “right” and “wrong” choices in regards to adulthood was never for them, thank goodness. But since the advent of Facebook, or Look-at-all-your-old-high-school-friends-and-see-how-quickly-they’ve-settled-down-and-made-babies-and-careers-in-real-estate-Book (as I like to call it), these notions of “right” and “wrong” have become so easily informed by what other people my age are doing that it’s freaky. Then there’s this phenomenon called Saturn Returns (basically a cosmically-induced midlife crisis, if I’m correct) that has us second guessing our present place in life and has us making drastic life changes like the ones you listed above in a (wrongfully perceived) last ditch effort to get our lives right before it’s too late… We’re weird creatures, human beings. Always seeking acceptance while at the same time trying to make a mark so distinctly us… anyway, I guess this is my roundabout way of thanking you for the poignant post and hoping you’ll continue to churn out more of the same. Really loving the site.

    • ddayporter



    • meg

      Is it bad that some days I’m like, “look at the poor suckers with kids already?” Though, honestly, I used to do that about married people too ;) I kind of figure 50% of what people put on Facebook is not-exactly-true anyway.

  • Audrey

    Thanks for this entry, and thanks for the comments reminding us that pressure can come from both sides. I love how Meg’s list contains completely contradictory items – I certainly feel that way sometimes.

    Personally, there was a specific narrative I somehow fabricated for myself when I was a kid (well, and a little in college) that never quite happened — in fact, the kid would be very disappointed in some parts of my life that are pretty mainstream. While I’m all about being true to your dreams, I think everyone can remember to take a step back and ask “what am I doing right *now” that brings me joy?”

    I still struggle myself because I find my joy in play and relationships and hobbies when I grew up convinced that I needed to find joy through work. (I’m very grateful to be in a good job that I generally like, but it does not bring me joy).

  • I’m reading “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller and one little instance in it stood out as I was reading today.

    “It is told of [Helen Keller] that, as a child of eight, when some one tried to interfere with her that she sat sober a few moments, and, when asked what was the trouble, answered, ‘I am preparing to assert my independence.'”
    pg 323-324

    I want to get her answer printed on a shirt to wear just to warn people that an independent thinker is coming through.

    • meg

      Sign. Me. Up. I think we should make Team Practical T-shirts that say that….

      • ooh! ooh! I’ll take one in every color!

      • ddayporter

        ummm YES PLZ.

  • (Meg – I am halfway through Operating Instructions and I LOVE IT. Mwa! xx)

    • meg

      Yay! I’m so glad. One of my favorite writers ever-ever, for one of my favorite ladies :)

  • sarah

    i’m so sad because i haven’t had time to read this blog in over a week now! and i usually try to read it every day, or at least every couple days. things have really started getting crazy at my work, with my last push towards the end of the semester in grad school, and of course… my wedding is only 2 months away!!! i feel like this blog gives me so much sanity amidst the craziness of both life, and wedding planning. i hope to have more time to return to it and finish back-reading in the couple weeks before the wedding.

    p.s. happy birthday!!!

  • sarah p

    30 is… wow. made the leap over the weekend and still doesn’t feel real. although i guess i don’t really know what it’s supposed to feel like. people have been saying to me that i should be happy that i’m 30 and married (since december) and own a home (since february), but that sort of makes it feel weirder. i’m not looking for validation. just not to feel so old but still so young i guess.

  • Molly

    Meg – My wedding is next month – and I’ve turned to your blog often over the last 8 months for refreshing and thought-provoking perspective. I really (really) enjoyed this post. I shared it with my fiance last evening, and he said, “We should really focus in our married life on what make us happy together… Not the other crap… We need to do things that make us laugh.” Thank you!

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  • We already bought the house. Kids aren’t in the plan and marriage is something I’m working on being okay with… someday, if my boy is lucky, we will take that step. So our families have already accepted that we will not be doing things as we “should.” Kind of actually breaks that ice nicely. In the meantime, thanks for sharing your umbrella when The List rains down upon us all.

  • Gah! This is why I love this website SO MUCH. I’m getting married in October. I’m only 22. My fiance is 28 and since I moved to his home state, most of our friends are already married and in their late 20’s or early 30’s. All they talk about is buying bigger houses, getting bigger jobs and having BABIES. I’m not ready to be a mother. Eventually, yes, but dear LORD I’m only 22! My fiance is struggling to find a job that he is passionate about and is just starting college (he was in the military for 6 years). I have a job that I am truly blessed with and dearly love, but having a baby would, excuse my language, fuck it all up.

    I love kids, and I’m more than happy to babysit, but all this pressure on us (by everyone but my parents and my fiance) to have children ASAP is driving me crazy. We want to be free and have fun. I don’t want to be a grey-faced adult, either! And I know having a baby now would turn me into one before I know it.

    THANK YOU for having such an awesome website to a) help me plan the wedding I WANT to plan and b) buck the social pressure and live the life with my husband that WE WENT to live.

    I feel better now. Thanks!

  • You’re so THOUGHTFUL Meg. How do you have time to be so thoughtful?

    And because of this you clearly needn’t worry about your life choices, but I love reading your musings. Also, love Michael Chabon and now am huge ginormous fan of Anne Lamott. You must disclose your favorites of her books.

    Now get pregnant and cross that one off the list. I swear you won’t have to listen to kids music. But you will think A LOT about poop.


    • meg

      You already have my very favorite, but I think all her books on faith are incredible. I mean, faith or no faith, the essays will make you cry and laugh and cry again. She’s crazy (like me) and curse-y (like me) and thoughtful (like me on a good day?) I just always feel so relived reading her, like, oh ok you hate your baby some minutes. Oh, ok, you have really mean thoughts sometimes. Oh, ok, you get really sad for no reason sometimes. SO THAT MUST MEAN I’M NORMAL. Which is pretty much the biggest gift a writer could ever give you… no?

  • Moz

    Normally I read all the comments, but Meg I couldn’t agree more and had to say so. And quoting Michael Chabon just endears you further!

    Now I will go and read everyone’s comments :)

  • OMG. I love you. I am not a writer and there is no way I could put this into words as beautifully as you did.

    As someone who doesn’t want kids , I am constantly shooting down THAT “you’ll see” but yes, at 30, I know who I am what I want, and just wanted to thank you for writing this.

  • boomboom

    I enjoyed the thoughtfulness with which you take on these pain points of 20’s/30’s life. What I have found is that whether I’m living a life that to others might seem wacky or cuckoo or I’m living a life that seems by the book (that’s all in the eye of the beholder, right?), the ultimate journey is to keep the fire in my heart alive. I will tell you that I’ve had many great adventures and things to write home about and meanwhile that fire of creativity was waning inside. I think any time we look to a checklist of social constructs to define our self-image, we will feel ourselves lacking — that goes for the norm or scripted constructs as well as the ones labeled fringe. If I can make choices that feed that inner fire, without sacrificing the happiness/wholeness of the family I’ve helped to create, it really doesn’t matter to me if the house/neighborhood/car I drive/clothes I wear read as scripted or not. That’s the tightrope walk, for me anyway.

  • I know I’m late in commenting here. I’ve been following APW for a while, and I’m finding your posts so incredibly thoughtful and relevant.

    I’m maybe a few years off from these particular expectations, but being engaged seems to offer it’s own little treasure trove of whens and ifs and shoulds.
    My fiance is going to graduate school in the fall, and I’ll be graduating next spring. So in life in general, we’re facing the threat of becoming “real people” in the world. And it seems that marriage is accelerating that. I’m only in my early twenties, so maybe that’s why this discussion is so novel to me.. but it’s odd to field questions from my mom and aunts and grandmothers about when I plan on having kids. (Beth, I totally relate.)

    So I should expect the “you’ll see”s to keep on coming then, I guess. Anyway, thanks for offering this perspective and the support to do one’s own thang.

  • Heather

    LOVE this post! Thank you, thank you! As my man and I approach the 1 1/2 year mark, BABIES are on everyone’s mind. That, and the fact that my husband is starting his MBA (uhhh…why the HECK is he going to GRAD SCHOOL now?!?!) Why is it somehow appropriate to question the life choices of a newlywed but people would never dream of questioning the life choices of a couple on their 25th anniversary??

    On another note, something I wish people would keep in mind if that HAVING BABIES isn’t EASY for some people. To be honest, my husband and I would like children (yes, while we’re both working and he’s in evening classes, thank you very much. We like crazy. We will love our kid like crazy and don’t believe he or she needs a mini-van, large house, and a dog. We also plan on traveling with our kid. ::cue: You’ll seeeee::). Anyways, conceiving isn’t easy for us and when others question us about “when we’ll FINALLY have kids” it sort of rubs salt in the wound…I mean, really, would you ask a cancer patient EVERY BLASTED TIME YOU SEE THEM if the chemo is working and if they’re expected to make it? No…it would hurt them. So, why does my “newlywed” status make it ok for peole to question me about personal things??

    Sorry for the rant, but just something I’ve been thinking about lately…why do people ask personal questions of newlyweds that they would never dream of asking anyone else?