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Age, Readiness & Starting Over

So Monday night as I was watching The Bachelor (we’ll say my mother and sister made me. . . yes, let’s go with that), there was a moment on the show where he found out the age of one of the women. He’s 36 years old, while she turned out to be 22 years old. He kept debating whether he wanted her to stay, because he felt at 22 she was not ready for a life of serious relationships and the possibility of marriage. That led to this food for thought discussion on societal expectations and stages for both young and old.

I found it odd, considering there were other women around 25-28 years old. While it’s not too far apart, age-wise, the experience can be immense I’ll admit. What was going on with me at 21 has changed now at 26. But in terms of societal expectations, that is where others and I are either an outlier or reality. When I was 21, I was not into the club scene nor on a conquest to “have a good time”. Shocker, I know! Hell, when I turned 21 and legally allowed to drink, I did not even get black-out drunk because I never saw the appeal of ever getting drunk. Then again, as I once said in an older post, I had to grow up a bit sooner than others but my “old souls” post will be saved for another day.

Going back to the show, the 22 year old was making her case that it doesn’t matter what age anyone is when it comes to commitment and relationships. He was saying that at her age, she may not be ready to commit and would rather experience life for awhile. Her counter was how can anyone know if they are ready to take the plunge unless they try. Now understandably, I’ve seen several who were married young end up divorced after some time. And vice versa, some who married young have stayed together for years. You never know unless you try. There is no mandatory clock for us to follow in life; some are ready at a young age, while others “never grow up” well past their 50’s. True, in the early 20’s, we don’t see much of the world. But there are some exceptions, while at the same time I have met people in their middle ages who have never seen the world themselves. And they are okay with it, because everyone is different and some prefer to stay in the pond rather than jump into the ocean. It’s a matter of finding the right people in your life, because you can waste your time on someone who is on another wavelength than you; and who wants to waste each other’s time?

You don’t need to be young and single to experience the best parts of life.

The idea of readiness, and enjoying life on your own is interesting. Not just on the show, but on those new Abercrombie commercials for example, they suggest the 20’s are a time of self-discovery and having fun: by ourselves. Nothing and no one holding us back as if to say people weigh us down; sorry couples and single parents. While partly true that the 20’s are a time to find out who we are, what we prefer and planning ahead for life ahead of us, does it mean we have to go through it single? Does it mean we can’t do that when we are in our 30’s to 60’s? Of course not! We are constantly figuring ourselves out, because we are constantly changing. And we are usually not alone, for we have our support group to be there for us. Whether it’s friends, family, significant others, they are there for us in some way. That includes travel and experiencing life.

What I take away from media is that this decade is a time where we have no baggage, we are allowed to do crazy things to “find ourselves and create memories”, and must travel with our other single friends because life expectations. Personally, I’ve never been on big trips with my friends because work, time, money and prior commitments occur for us all. But I’ve spent great moments with friends both single and who are in relationships; whether they brought them along or went without them. I’ll post this another day as well, though single parents also can have fun in life at any age. Older people can also go out and experience life, as one of my bosses travels like twice a year (she’s in her late 50’s). Another friend, who is in her 60’s, is about to do those group travel deals to another country and I couldn’t be more excited for her. I love when people break from the norm of just settling. Though they are rich, famous people, I love the show Better Late Than Never because it’s showing that just because your older doesn’t mean you can’t see the world and have fun doing interesting, new things.

I don’t see any reason why one can’t experience life with someone by their side. Sure, if things don’t work out in the end, some memories may be soured. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be replaced with more positive ones. If it doesn’t end on a completely sour note, there’s no reason you can’t reflect back on it and enjoy the time you had with that person as you move on to your next chapter. The same exact thing can be said about experiencing life with friends. What many people tend to do is put all their eggs in one basket of another, when really they should keep some eggs for themselves. When you’re with someone, yes you try and build a life together, but never forget who you are as well. To paraphrase Seinfeld, don’t let your worlds collide. Try to keep “relationship-you” and “independent-you” separate.

The fallout of putting all your eggs in one basket, only to have the basket break, is starting over. Yes, it’s not fun and memories may pop up painfully, but such is life. We never know what life has in store. People fall in and out of love at any moment. What you have to do is what many feel we only do in our 20’s; find yourself. In relationships, it is common to sort of settle for how things are. We start to become complacent, as our identity combines with our partners. Dependency. If I hear that a friend or friend of a friend is going through a breakup/divorce, and they talk sorrowfully about starting over, I look at how dependent they were to that person. Did they lose a house and the car? Did they not work, while the other did? What happened to their other support people? Things like that I look at, and wonder how they let themselves get to this point of feeling defenseless. For if someone maintains their independence and can support themselves, while building an empire along with someone else, then they should be fine. And if they have to start over, well. . . I think you know what I’m going to say, along with others who talk about opening up to vulnerability again.

So when I hear people like Ari, the Bachelor, talk about experiencing life before committing to someone, I don’t believe it. Because we have to define what “experiencing life” is, and it will be different for everyone. Is it traveling the world? Establishing your career first? Partying and doing crazy things every single weekend until you get bored? Experiencing different people through dating quite a bit? What about how many people you can sleep with? (You all know some people consider the last few “experiencing life”). It’s entirely subjective! And even then, it doesn’t have to be on our own. We can travel with friends and loved ones, or go to school and start a career with someone being by our side supportive. As I mentioned, I have friends in relationships who will do things (including traveling) without their partner. Are they not experiencing life while being committed? Priorities will be different for everyone but, when the right people come along, we can be flexible about it. We do slow down when we get older, we change in terms of what we like and prefer, and we want a place to call home whether it’s an actual place or familiar people we care about. But throughout our aging, we make triumphs and mistakes, we grow, and we try to have fun in life. We are always experiencing life; the good, bad and weird parts of it. You don’t need to be young or single to do this. There are stages of development, but there are no set stages for life experiences. The fun doesn’t go away after your 20’s, you don’t need to wait till your 30’s to have children, and you don’t have to stay at home after your 40’s. Go to the beat of your own drum, and never lose sight of who you are. When you’re ready for something, you’ll know. And if you don’t know, maybe take a chance. . .

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