Next week I turn 25. As I mark this milestone in my life, I can't help but notice the ways my life is different from how I imagined it would be at 16, 18, even 22. I thought by now I would have my career and finances figured out, that I'd feel more at home in the "real" world, that I would have a more definite sense of home. Most strikingly different: I thought I'd be married.
Of course, I never would have admitted to such a strict deadline on a serious commitment like marriage. But in my ideal life plan, I had long ago penciled it in at 25, nestled comfortably between "finish college" (age 22) and "have kids" (sometime before or around 30). It sounds a bit silly when I write it down, but don't we all have these kinds of "plans" for our lives that don't quite end up happening as we always imagined they would? It was so easy, so comforting, to look ahead in high school and college, when 25 still seemed so far away. But then, gradually, my hopes about what life might be became expectations I'd unintentionally placed upon myself—expectations I now realize I've failed to meet. So quickly—too quickly, it selfishly feels—my college friends and roommates started dating, then getting engaged, and after three whirlwind years of bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and bridesmaid dress fittings I suddenly find myself single and surrounded by married friends, unsure of where I fit in to my rapidly fragmenting social circle.1