Remember When You Thought You'd Be Married by 23? Same

I'm single, 21 and my friends are getting engaged and married all over the place. As October begins, I find I have narrowly escaped "Wedding Season" unscathed, like so many other singles out there. This year, I actually went to the lovely wedding of a dear friend and her perfect match. I even caught the bouquet! I'm competitive, so I was thrilled, but I was riding the highs of glorious victory rather than that of finding a husband, as catching the bouquet represents. I actually laughed at the thought of getting married next out of that group of girls, knowing that it was not going to happen any time soon. I believe my exact words were, "ha-ha, NOPE. Good one, Universe, you jokester."

My reaction, while playfully self-deprecating, is an extremely common one that people in their early 20’s have at the thought of getting married soon. Furthermore, when told about an engagement or wedding at or around this age, my peers all seem have the same reaction: "Why now? They're so young. They have their whole lives to do that." Once I was looking for this reaction, I saw and heard it everywhere, from everyone. I began to wonder why so many of us set marriage as a goal from a young age, and yet, once we get close to the age we set as a child, the same idea that we loved now repulses us to the point of actually shaming those who get married "young." Why do we do that?

So why is marriage a common goal for people of all ages?

Everyone wants to find that special someone, that soul mate; it's in practically every Disney film and romantic comedy. For women, from thousands of years ago to even now, marriage was and is the source of monetary or social value. Part of that system is still ingrained in us, to a point. But, mainly, I think that marriage is primarily a goal for all people because it's seen as the opposite of being alone. Realistically, there are a lot of different types of relationships that can combat the feeling of being alone: friendships, familial relationships, relationships with a mentor, and even romantic relationships that don't end in marriage. And, just because you're married, it doesn't mean you'll never feel alone again. We're not robots—every human is always experiencing some level of each emotion, and those levels fluctuate. It's normal.

Despite that childhood goal, there are a ton of reasons to shy away from marriage at this age, or in general, and any combination of the few of them that follow is totally valid. First, you could love the freedom that comes with the single life—you can't worry about dating when you're too busy glowing, like the girl in "Hotline Bling" ever since Drake left the city. Secondly, you could be busy grinding out your early twenties, setting goals and making plans for your career or for yourself. Thirdly, you could be in a relationship, open or committed, but not want to take it further until you have things more figured out. Next, marriage just isn't a goal for everyone. Single or taken, it's totally okay not to strive for or desire marriage, as long as you and your partner are on the same page.

What's not okay is pressuring someone into marriage, or shaming those your age who do get married.

Not only is it unsupportive, distasteful and unnecessarily negative, it comes across as bitter. If you truly love the single or marriage-free life, why would you say something pointed that only makes you look unsatisfied? Just like a married person's opinion doesn't stop you from being single, your opinion doesn't stop them from being married. So why do we do it? Why do we reflexively spout negatives on young marriages the second we see an engagement announcement?

We may shame marriages out of fear of commitment. Comprehending a relationship that, in theory, lasts the rest of your life is terrifying. It's scary to commit to someone in that way, and the idea that someone would be willing to commit to you that way is scarier still, especially to people who aren't used to being loved by another at that intense a level. For instance, did I only laugh at the idea of myself getting married because I had subconsciously eliminated that as a possibility for myself? Did I only see marriage as funny because I think the idea of someone loving me in that way is funny? Maybe, but I don't think so. I have a lot of goals right now, and marriage just isn't one of them. It probably won't be for a while. Besides, I was always told never to put the cart before the horse.

No matter what your personal goals are or what you think about marriage, we can all agree that everyone is different. Just because you don't want or have something, doesn't mean that it's not okay for someone else to want or have it. There are two ways to see everything, including marriage. If you have a friend who's getting engaged or is married at a "young age," they don't need (and don't care about) your opinion on the matter. What they do need, however, is your love and support in this momentous change in their life. Trust that they're making the decision that's right for them. And trust that you'll end up where you need to be, too. Life is, after all, surprising.