If you had asked me even six short years ago if I planned on getting married, I would've given you a quick, definitive "no." And babies? After I finished laughing, I probably would've choked out, "Absolutely not."
Because as strong of a proponent as I am for marriage now that I found the right person, I was an equally strong proponent of solohood in my younger years. So strong that even if my little sister, Lisa, came to me today to show off a sparkly diamond on her left ring finger, I would have a hard time not telling her she's too young. As a new college grad, the world is hers for the taking. She just has to figure out which part of it she wants -- and that is much easier when you only have yourself to answer to.
I try hard to live my life without regrets. Sure, there are a few biggies like not going to London for a semester through my college's exchange program. And not calling in sick to work the night my ferret, Zeke, died so I could've been with him. But, for the most part, I do my best to follow my gut instinct and it usually serves me well.
It was that instinct that allowed me to falter through the dating world with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder. I rarely let anybody in so I didn't get hurt. My first serious boyfriend in college got so attached that he bought us matching silver bands to wear on our wedding ring fingers to symbolize our commitment to each other. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I reluctantly accepted the gift and wore it on my thumb.
Apparently my hesitation hurt him so deeply that he found solace in the arms and crotch of another woman. No matter. My freshman year was ending. He was graduating. I left the ring and a few other crappy things he had given me on his doorstep on my way out of town. He called crying his apologies for weeks. I shrugged and had a great summer with my girlfriends.
I didn't get out of my next few relationships completely unscathed. I got attached. Then dumped. And it felt like my world was ending. I remember the act of breathing was a chore. But even in my most pained retrospective post-breakup moments, I knew it was for the best. I knew those guys weren't right for me. They couldn't handle me. In a weird way, I sort of took it as a compliment.
Then I turned it into a catalyst.
I used that hurt to propel me into some of my best years. I was woman. And I was roaring.
I boldly decided to move to a new state and start a new job in my mid-twenties. With the help of my friends and family, I was able to embark on a life-defining journey. I lived on my own for a full year in a fabulous apartment and batted away the occasional request for a date because I was more than content rediscovering who I was as an individual. Boys didn't exactly fit into the picture.
Until I met Jerry. Then the picture changed. Drastically.
But it was that year that allowed me to take stock and grow into adulthood. I was self-sufficient. I proved to myself that I could rely on my talents and the knowledge I had collected in my younger years not only to survive, but thrive. I didn't need a man to take out my garbage or tell me I was pretty. I had my health, two arms and legs, and after paying some serious attention to my hair, I knew I could look damn good.
I look back on that year with fondness. And I wouldn't change it for anything.
So now that I have some perspective on the situation, I see that all of the relationships I fumbled through did serve a purpose. They taught me life lessons I couldn't have gained from any book or classroom. Not only did I grow from causing heartache for some and being heartbroken over others, it makes me appreciate what I have now that much more. I know how rare this kind of relationship is, and it makes me want to work hard to keep it.
Above all, I guess I realize what a huge mistake it would've been to settle. Sure, I know 29 may seem late to some to start a family, but I wouldn't want it any other way. I had my twenties almost all to myself. And now I know how smart of a decision that was.
Because of that, I have a lot of life experience to offer to a child. And, more specifically, a lot of dating advice for a daughter.
But not until she's 25.