While celebrating the anniversary of my college graduation (as if a pretense is needed for Tuesday tacos and margaritas), I found myself reflecting on those final moments before lining up in one of those montage scenes where you totally expect Joseph Gordon-Levitt to burst into the room, as we toasted our futures while also wondering aloud which of us would get married first.
If life really is a video game (I rule out nothing), then marriage is the logical next level after graduating from college. Getting a grown-up job in the interim is like the crappy consolation bonus round where you go around collecting as many turtles and seashells as you possibly can because so much depends on turtles and seashells (but just in case).
So, what do you do when you don’t believe marriage should even be a level in the game (and you’ve already reached the maximum limit of turtles and seashells)?
For starters, you don’t tell your newly engaged friend who will look at you as if you’ve suggested selecting “Mambo No. 5” for the inaugural first dance. And you definitely don’t tell your family who will look at you with equal parts pity that you’re going to be somehow left behind and confusion since questioning marriage is about as valid a life choice as cutting those breakup bangs.
Despite so many societal advances and shifting world-views, marriage remains a milestone most plan to achieve — just another piece in the normal game of life. The whole tradition and production that’s all like, let’s regurgitate some words to each other in front of everyone we’ve ever met, then have a party with some cake and, yeah, definitely smear the frosting on my face just like that…is completely disheartening to me.
That isn’t to say that weddings aren’t fun or marriage is bad. And, I mean, there is such comfort in the idea of an infinity with someone — an infinity of lazy coffee mornings and far-off vacations and dinner dates.
Though the phrase settling down is tossed around frequently by friends upon impending engagements, as if the settling is implied, a necessary component, stands juxtaposed to the niceness of that shared infinity. Because when it comes down to it, marriage is just a word that legally binds you to another person, and, if your end goal is to get married, then you will reach the martial achievement, AT LEAST once.
But, what you can’t manifest by sheer willpower or dedicated prowess, is a real connection with someone. You can send out carefully curated texts and emails and go on dates five nights a week, but that indefinable way someone else can make you feel astounded by their mere existence is the rarer entity, the goal you can’t simply achieve.
And, the idea that when you meet someone, you begin peering into the future and asking yourself, “How much time am I willing to spend with this person if we’re not going to get married, even though I enjoy all our time together?” trivializes the whole human connection — the WHOLE point. Setting out in your relationships with end goals in mind is a self-defeating game.
I’m not saying there aren’t right answers and reasons, but getting married to meet some sort of traditional expectation, because you’ve been dating long enough, because you’re at a certain age, because your family expects it, because all your friends are already married, aren’t good enough reasons to marry someone and have it be more than some skeletal shell of a stage you’re supposed to reach.
Maybe marriage is right for you, maybe it isn’t, and just as you can’t manifest a real connection with another person, marriage won’t simply fulfill that need by definition.
The most important thing is the connections you form with others and learning to enjoy all the people who come into your life for whatever role or purpose they may play. And, if out of all the people, in all the world, someone happens into your life and evokes that feeling that is sometimes overwhelming and frustrating and consuming, but that feeling that lingers with an admirable whack-a-mole persistence, even when you do your best to banish or question it, then maybe that connection in its purest, unfettered form, is enough.
And maybe one day, you’ll even know with a calm certainty that nothing is certain and that’s okay, and still want to give the marriage level a try, so you whisper, “Let’s combine all of our turtles and seashells and USE them to play Mario Kart…forever.”