At 23 I felt pressured to find a good job, get married, buy a house, and have kids — then I fell in love with an amazing German guy. After just a few months of dating I decided to take the plunge and move to Germany so we could be together. It was the craziest thing I had ever done, and my family and friends made sure I knew it. They said I would end up behind in the career race and everything else in life. I worried they were right.
In Germany I was considered pretty young to have already graduated from college. I made friends that still lived with their parents, partied every night, traveled constantly, and switched what they were studying every few months. At first I looked at them like they were irresponsible, but soon I started looking at them like they were perfect.
Germans are some of the most hard-working people I have ever come across, but they also know how to live exactly as they please. I’ve stayed up until four in the morning partying with people in their late 40’s and I’ve stood by as one of my best friends navigated having a child for the first time at 42.
I watched from afar on Facebook as friends from home started posting Pinterest worthy wedding photos. Next came the gender reveal parties and then the thousands of adorable baby photos. All of this before the age of 25. Never once was I jealous (OK maybe I was a bit jealous of some amazing wedding dresses). I was relieved that it wasn’t me, because it easily could have been. My life had been on that exact same trajectory.
Instead I worked 20 hours a week as an English teacher, traveled all over Europe, went to concerts frequently, partied whenever I wasn’t being a grandma, and lived exactly how I wanted.
I sometimes wonder if those people, the ones who did it all so young, are happy. I’m sure they are, but do they second guess themselves at times? Do they look at my pics online and think I’m irresponsible or do they envy me?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know this; I never second guess the choice I made. I will get married to my boyfriend someday, hopefully have children and a cute little house, but today is not that day.
Today I woke up in my new home of Costa Rica, went to a farmers market, sat outside reading a book, cooked a nice dinner, and then spent my night drinking beer outside with some friends. It was perfect.
I’ve learned to accept that my lifestyle might not be what some people deem age appropriate, but I’m going to live exactly how I want. I’ll do things on my own terms when I feel ready, because it’s my life and I’m not going to let it be manipulated by what my society says is expected of me.
When people ask me if I think they should move abroad I want to shout “Yes! Go Now!” I think you will find the things you once thought you needed to do and be are not really what you want in life.
There is this false assumption that you have to be rich to live abroad, that is true. Granted I have been given some great opportunities and I have a wonderful family that will support me even if they don’t always agree with my decisions, but I am not a rich kid with a trust fund. I get by through living minimally in some areas and living huge in the areas that are really important to me. Material things have little importance to me, experiences have maximum importance.
It is not my intention to put down anyone’s life choices. If you want to get married, have a powerful career, and children at a young age, then I think that is absolutely awesome, but your decisions should be based on your own desires, not on what you feel you have to do by the people and society that surround you.
So get out there and live like freaking crazy, however you see fit! You owe it to yourself.