Friday, August 3, 2007

First comes love ... then comes a breakup, then more love, a few more breakups

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.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey you...just wanted to be first to respond...
loffe me

Erinn said...

I'll be 30 in December and haven't started a family. I am actually okay with it. These days 29 seems to young to start a family. Besides I like sleeping in on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

"Not until she's 25..." sounds painfully like my own set of parents. lol

erica said...

My parents had dated since high school and married right after college. They've now been married 27 years and have been quite happy. However, they waited until they were 30/31 to start having kids, so while they didn't get to be on their own through their twenties, they got to be without child and they say they don't think they would have been able to handle children until that point. So to each their own I suppose.

kristin said...

This is a great post! I just turned 26 and I'm not nearly ready to get married and start a family, unlike most of my friends. I like the way you paint the picture of having your twenties all to yourself. That's exactly how I feel.

aahcoffee said...

I married young, only 21, and we had our daughter when I was 24, but I wouldn't go back and change any of that. I would, however, tell my daughter to wait...it has been a long, hard road because of our youth.

Chelsea said...

I'm planning on doing the same thing as you, once I reach that point. I don't understand at all why my friends want to settle down now, their senior year of high school. Just about every single one of my friends are in relationships and want to marry their boyfriend, and they've yet to start college!

the plainsman said...

You are going to let your daughter start dating at only 25!

Seriously, your essay today should be required reading for kids in Junior High. It might not impact everyone, but it might give them something to think about before that magic time when they know (we knew) it all.

Sarah said...

i am with you girl! I firmly believe the saying "You have to have had a past in order to have a future". Living life on your own before settling down is important!

Anonymous said...

Many people who are younger feel the same way that you do about marriage... no matter WHAT your age, when you find the right person, you know.

Emilee said...

A lot of my friends feel the exact opposite of you, they want to find boyfriends and "the one" in high school. High school is the time to find your bridesmaids -- not your groom...at least, that's my outlook on it. And my parents were married right after college, but they didn't start having children until they were 30 though.

mk said...

Your post comes at a hard time for me. My boyfriend of two years broke up with me last week, and that has been very difficult to deal with so far. It's nice to hear that things work out okay, even from a complete stranger. So, even though you didn't write this with that intention, thank you so much.

Janice said...

I think it all depends and I'm glad that worked out for you... I'm kind of in that slot that Erica was talking about... I know I'm with the man I'm going to marry, but I want plenty of time to get to know myself even more and then have time later on for children. I really enjoyed that post.

Miriam said...

I'm 22. All my friends are either in serious relationships or engaged. They find it strange that I don't want a serious relationship now. I'm about to graduate college and if all goes smoothly, I plan to move halfway across the country. I know I'll enjoy having my twenties to myself...although a boyfriend would have come in handy when I moved this past week!

Anna said...

I have been reading now for a few months and decided it was finally time to leave a comment! This post really is great, and really got me thinking. I'm starting college in a few weeks, and for a while thought I had everything planned out and knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But then, after thinking about everything, I realized I have so much time ahead of me and I am ONLY 18!! You've shown me how things can change so drastically, but positively-- and how much things can change only in the time of a few short months. Who knows what we'll all be doing in a year??

Thank you for sharing everything with so much humor- your posts are so fun to read! And, last but not least, good luck with everything!

whitney/weber said...

thank you for posting this! i had to agree with the anonymous comment the other day about the H.S. girls that are posting about wanting to have your life (hell, i'd love to have your life somedays). hopefully some of them will live their 20s for themselves like we have! and yes, we both know that when the right one comes along, you just know it!

Randall said...

Of course I am so lucky to have found my Nick and look forward to a wonderful life ahead. However, I wouldn't give up my apartment, my own cat, my bed and my life years for anything either. I think these years have been beneficial in shaping my confidence and my overall self.

Oh, and my dad used to say I could start dating when I was 35!

Ray said...

I liked this post particularly because you let us in on the Kelly of the past and that is always interesting. I too am beginning to realize what you realized years ago. That I need to be by myself to find out who I truly am and what I truly want. And I too agree on the fact that, "we should NEVER settle for LESS." Never. That's why although it pains me a bit to be single, it is also a blessing in disguise. I haven't made any mistakes yet (relationship wise). My slate is wiped clean. I have no children I really didn't want and I'm not married to someone who hates me and doesn't respect me.

Since I have no real relationship to look up to and for me to say that's what I want for myself, I must look at these relationships around me and know, that though they are mistakes they are secretly my lessons. They teach me to strive for a helluave lot more and to never settle for a loser who could give two shits about me.

So if I ever fall in love---I hope it's real. And of course I hope it's worth it and that it doesn't end up in a load of unwanted crap.

Thanks for writing this post.

Take, care.

melinda hale said...

So very true. If you can't be happy on your own, nobody else can make you happy.

Anji said...

I just wanted to say that I love your webpage. I am 22 and all of my friends who are the same age and younger are all either engaged and have kids, engaged and pregnant. I wish that I was also pregnant but my fiance doesnt want to have kids right now. I guess it just seems that I am watching all my friends pass me by and though I know it is not a competition I want to have children and have been having some really weird dreams of being pregnant even though I am not.