Sometimes I wonder where my life would have led if I'd taken a few extra years on my own before getting married. I met my ex husband just as I completed university. I was ready to move out of my parent's house, and moving in with my new boyfriend sounded like a great idea. I was at the cusp of a new life and thought that was the best way to launch myself. I was having some trouble relating with my step-father, and getting out of the house just felt like good idea. So I moved in with my ex within four months of meeting him and we married almost exactly a year after our first date.
At the time, I really didn't know who I was, or what I wanted to do with my life. And lacking any direction, I just jumped at the first chance to see what I could be. I realize now of course that I should have looked for a challenge. Maybe travelled. Stepped outside of my comfort zone. I had finished university, so I was "educated", but I hadn't learned anything about life yet. I had no specific plans for the rest of my life, and this was the first opportunity that I saw, so I took it.
I hadn't had a lot of experience with men at all. I "dated" (if you can call it that) in high school. I was introverted and extremely shy. My parents divorced as I started high school, I ended up changing schools, and aside from a few close friends, didn't have an extremely active social life. I started university half a year before the rest of my high school friends, and I left them behind.
In university there were a few dates here and there. I joined a couple of clubs and had a few friends, but nothing very serious. My ex was my first serious boyfriend. And he was really into me. And so, if I had any focus to begin with, it was all lost, and I concentrated on learning to become a good girlfriend and eventually a wife.
I jumped into the first job that was offered to me, and while I have a good career now, the first few years of working were not very challenging. And at my husband's behest, I kept it that way - turning down opportunities that would have seen my career soar. He didn't challenge me, motivate me or encourage me, but was more interested in keeping me close to home.
My ex's way of living was to work only when he had to. He wasn't challenged by his blue collar job and used it only to fund his outside interest. Well, mostly to fund his outside interests. The rest was paid for by the bank, and eventually covered by the nest egg that we'd built in our mortgage when we divorced.
Looking back now, I can certainly see that there were things I could have done differently to steer my life. I've said that I wouldn't go back and change anything - and I mean it. Going through those experiences made me into the person I am today, led me down the path to my current husband - and brought me three beautiful, smart children. I wouldn't change it for the world.
And yet still, there are times when I think about it. Because quiet reflection deepens the soul. And when given the opportunity to discuss my life with younger people, my nieces and nephews, my younger sister who has just started college, I discuss the benefits of waiting to get married.
That's what I tell them.
Even if you find the perfect person.
Life is like an ice cream bar. If you only ever taste chocolate, you're missing out on strawberry, rocky road, and pistachio. And yes, pistachio sucks. Once you learn that pistachio sucks, you know to steer clear.
At 18, 21, 25 - you haven't begun to figure out who you are yet. You're not fully cooked. Heck, pushing 40, I'm not fully cooked (but that's another story). You need to simmer your life for a while. Marinate. Soak up all of the juices that life has to offer. Go to school. Away from home. Live there. Work there. And when you're done (and maybe while you're there), get a job, travel. Get your own place. Handle your own finances. Alone. Or with a friend. Learn about credit and mortgages and savings. Learn to save. Learn to spend. Learn to cook. Learn to clean. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to travel. Learn to be comfortable with yourself. Because until you're comfortable with yourself, how can you expect someone else to be comfortable with you?
If you've found that perfect person, they will understand. And they'll wait. And they'll be there when you come out the other side. And be waiting. And if they can't wait, then they're not the right person for you.
Because there are benefits to waiting to get married. You can learn who you are, who you want to be, and what you need in a partner. And who knows...maybe he or she will like pistachio.