The other morning, driving to teach, I caught myself listening with a longing heart to a laughable story on NPR. Welsh farmers who, because of a shortage of eligible women, were “advertising” themselves as possible husbands in hopes to keep their small community going. Women from all over the world were responding! I found myself daydreaming about me and some handsome Welshman eating scones…then snapped back to reality in order to lead a poetry course to 35 carefree college underclassmen. I wanted to tell them, “Look. Don’t ever graduate. Don’t ever assume everything’s going to be as easy and planned out as it is now. And for goodness sake, don’t assume that Meg Ryan movies can happen in real life.” But I decided to talk about the Beats instead.
It’s no secret that young people in America–often faced with too many options or life choices– go through a “quarter life crisis” (just see the whole book series on the subject). I’ve been rethinking my life goals a LOT recently, along with all the assumptions and expectations that go/went with them. I used to believe that every “Anne of green gabels” had her “Gilbert” out there. I used to believe that God knew what was in store for our hearts and protected them. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune in ten years, but for now, I’m content to sit with my multiplying questions.
Over the past few months, I’ve mourned the crumpling of a nearly 4-yr. romance I was sure was God’s calling. When it came down to it, the man I was dating somehow had grown into the *symbol* for a lifelong commitment rather than a man who was actually willing to commit to one. Only after our breakup did I realize just how much of my life I had planned around our future together. But after years of dating, his “I” still became defensive when we talked about becoming a “we.” This may sound harsh, and I don’t (exactly) mean it to be; I know that I played a part in the breakup, as well. But, quite frankly, I am still at a loss. Based on the relationships around me–those of my parents, sister and brother-in-law, grandparents, etc.–I assumed it’s only natural that a serious relationship eventually turns towards a marriage. No so. Not so…What naive world have I been in?!
According to many of my coworkers at “the grad school age,” (male and female, Christian and nonChristian), our individualism is way too fragile and important to risk “losing” too soon. How do I know this? Because we seem to feel much more comfortable nowadays waiting until we *have* to commit to anything–in relationships, we tell ourselves we’re holding out for the perfect person and time to change our lives. Sure, the divorce rate in this country doesn’t help, and no–I’m not saying we should all be trying to get a ‘MRS.’ degree (my mom was bummed when I didn’t go to a Menno college for this reason). I just want to know why we seem to be accepting the jist of films like THE LAST KISS and TRUST THE MAN as truth (that we can’t “help” eventually cheating and should therefore avoid real love, that monogomy is not really natural, that the “self” is most important). WHAT?! Let me scream into a pillow, let me open all my car doors and slam them one by one, let me cut off all my hair in an attempt to revisit my teenage, walled-up, Tori Amos-listening self (which I did in that exact order yesterday and now feel much better).
Journalist Laura Sessions Stepp has just published UNHOOKED, a book that explores our generation’s willingness to take part in the “hook up” culture; yet, she says, we are also “hooked” on the noncomittal world we live in (http://www.unhookedgeneration.com/aboutbk.php). Stepp doesn’t just focus on physical “hook ups;” her book also questions and explores different activites and ideas that can become fast addictions focused on the self. Are we purposefully uprooting community? Why should we even think about “choosing” love, when we’re so often convinced that “everything will eventually work out,” that we have all the time in the world?
Now, even as I’m writing this, the feminist, strong-willed individual in me is dramatically rolling her eyes and can’t believe this blog post even exists. And yet…and yet…there is also the part of me who mourns something she can’t quite name, something she sees unfolding around her in this university town and beyond. Marriage shouldn’t be rushed. It shouldn’t ever, ever be forced. But shouldn’t it at least be a possibility?