Someone recently told me about a movie they saw in which its 24-year-old lead character was in need of some life guidance. She felt lost, she felt like she didn’t have a purpose. The commentary surrounding this movie went something like this:
“It was just a weird movie, because the character was 24. Aren’t you supposed to be a little lost at 24? It’s not like you’re 40 and you should be settled down with a family or something by that age.”
By that age.
These all point to the fact that there is an unspoken — or, often times, it’s quite audible — rule that we should be at a certain place in our lives by a certain year. By a certain age. By a certain decade.
Spoiler alert: this is not a rant.
I mean this sincerely when I say that I didn’t take the movie conversation personally. Why would I? It was simply one person’s take on a film, and this person was younger than I, married, con casa y child. Naturally this person would think that evolving into marriage, then a family, is what everyone does. She, after all, did it. Most people do it.
I’ve had people in airports, on airplanes, at the nail salon, in the grocery store and in the mall inquire about my husband — with raised, quizzical eyebrows. They’re prying, naturally. Some pry because they’re male and interested. Others pry because they are simply curious. Still others pry because they think it’s odd that I’m not partnered up with someone. Nope, don’t have a husband. Not really in the market, either, but not because I’m against it. I’m very much for it. It’s just not for me at this time.
They ask if I have children. Yes, I have many. Three are furry, and many more are a lovely combination of black and white — words on paper, letters on a computer screen. My written projects are also my kids. I raise them with care, polish them up and send them off into the world hoping they do well. I will always love them.
I’ve congratulated people on engagements, weddings and births, and — numerous times — have received a strange, “Thanks — your day is coming,” in return. It’s an odd response because I merely was expressing my happiness at their happiness. I didn’t say I wished what they had, I was simply happy they found what they were seeking.
With the same passion that makes me firmly believe that white cake with white buttercream frosting is the only way to go when it comes to cake, I also firmly believe that the notion of settling down should be relative to each person. You may despise white cake — or any cake, the same way I will never think that “settling down” should be defined as the trading of vows followed by procreation. Yes, it’s a societal norm for a reason, but…people can be sheep. Sheeple. Sometimes they don’t think, they simply do. It is what it is.
Yes, I love my music and my guitars and keyboards and my amps and my wine. I love VH1 Classic and Metal Mania, my rom-coms and sleeping in. Yes, I love to spend hours in the kitchen cooking, an evening out lingering over small plates and cocktails, taking in a concert or a Broadway show. To many, it’s immature. To me, this is my version of settling down. I’m settled because all of these things were dialed up to 50 in my 20s. Things were often excessive, and only occasionally thought through.
Thankfully, I’m very much settled down — for me, and for now. I can only assume that you’re settled down for you. If you’re not, and I also say this sincerely, tweak what needs adjusting, and seek a better fit if you’re not happy. Take a class. Teach a class. Go to counseling. Stay home more. Go out more. Love your spouse. Love yourself. Whatever you need to do, do it.
You will still evolve, I will still evolve, and at the end of the day, the people who are concerned about whether or not someone is “settled down” are the people who don’t matter, quite frankly. I may find myself with a husband at some point, and you may find yourself separated or divorced. Live and let live, and don’t box someone into a cube which may not be a good fit for that person. The point is that settling down isn’t a one-size-fits-all box to check off life’s list. It’s all relative, and it starts with the heart; you’ll know it when your spirit is calm, content and loves the life you lead.
So settle down.