Let me start off with the hard hitting facts. I am 21 years old, a college student, and planning a June wedding to my wonderful fiance who also happens to be, wait for it, 21. We are no stranger to opposition, to weird side glances, and almost disapproving looks from many. Many moons ago getting married at 21 was by far the norm, the days of our grandparents where getting married by 18 was something to celebrate. Getting married at 21 in the year 2014 is more like being a traveling circus or an exhibit at the Ripleys Believe it or Not museum. Most people handle it pretty well when the topic comes up, from peers its usually goes something like this ‘ohhhhhh wow! You are engaged? How old are you again?’ and from older adults it goes a little something like this ‘Wow, um Congrats! you both are so young!’. Which, is true, we are young. The rest of the truth is, I have been with my fiance for almost four years and, we have never had a conventional kind of love. He is from Brazil and the day we met was the day we kissed and the day we started dating and, if you ask him it was also ‘the day he fell in love’ (what can I say, it took me awhile to make sure). We were 17 and widely in love and that feeling hasn’t gone away through long distance, holidays, graduation, college, and now living together. We are a normal couple we have our arguments and fights but one thing we decided long ago not to fight was societal standards.We decided long ago that we would do what was right for us, not what the world expected from us. Now don’t get me wrong, if life had not taken me on the journey I am on today, I would probably also have respond to a young woman’s engagement with a little bit of confusion and a whole lot of sass. I also understand how older adults, my mothers generation, tend to be suspicious and how they love to give out the ‘well this isn’t going to last long’ look, with the rapid divorce rate among that age group how could you blame them? But what I don’t think people understand is that every love is different, and this is our love. Every love moves at a different pace, it falls apart at a different time, it works through its own unique obstacles, it fights its own fight. This is our love and for once in my life I have decided not to take my love up to the thrown of society and asks what it wants with me. I have decided to let our love evolve naturally and without reservation. I have decided to not let the disfavoring looks of my peers and my elders and society to control our love. Because, this love is ours. It talks different, walks different, moves different than his kind of love, or her kind of love, or your kind of love. Every love is different. And, it is about time we start to revel in that. We need to not let our own ideas of love and our own prejudices dictate someone else’s. Because, in the end we are the only ones who have to deal with the consequences. If it end we are the ones that suffer, or enjoy, why then should we allow society to mandate unnecessary love guidelines if we are the ones who have to face the music in the end? Will we have children, will we settle down in New York, L.A., London, will be get along, will be be married until death do us apart? The thing is I have no idea and, man, how happy that makes me. Once you cut the ties of normalcy and the irrelevant standards set by society over your life and love you will experience a freedom unlike anything you have ever known. Cut the ties. Experience your love. Enjoy your life.
As the chill in the outside air grew colder and everyone around me bundled up. As the colors of the leaves began their last marvelous show and everything became pumpkin flavored, I knew it was time. The date of expiration was nearing me. I remember the issue date, or to a 16 year old me, the best day on planet earth. Though I was sneezing and coughing and had the worst kind of flu, nothing could rain on my parade. After the nerves settled and I managed to park the car back in the lot, I knew that I finally earned my ticket to the freedom my 16 year old self so desperately desired. I ran inside, and with a nod of my head a mob of screaming, hugging, and excited family members surrounded me. I had the largest smile any human could have produced and that smile stared up at me until my 21st birthday this year. Something I also remember thinking about that day was the big, bold expiration date listed at the bottom of my pink ticket to freedom. I remember thinking of the year 2014 as if it was a land far far away, a time so distant and so unattainable I had no idea what the world had in store for me. Of course I had the bigger questions of things like, would my country still be in war, how would technological advances affect the children of the time and would we be able to cure cancer, but lets my honest here I was 16 so I mostly thought about me. I remember spending hours upon hours attempting to imagine what exactly the world would be like for me in the intimidating, far off year of 2014. Right before I went to go exchange that picture of a doe eyed child for an adult woman, I was forced to reflect on the time spent between issue and expiration. At the ripe age of 16 I would not in a million years have pictured my life how it is today. I would not have seen any of it coming. The struggle of losing my grandfather with such speed in knocked us all off our feet. The way my mother and father can now be in the same establishment and even shake hands. The car I am driving, the place that I work and the nearing end of my college experience. I would not have foreseen the loss of some friendships and the making of new glorious ones. The meeting of the love of my life and my very best friend. That by the time the expiration date grew close I was planning a June wedding and looking forward to the challenges and adventures life has in store for a 21 year old me. At 16 I had the world at my feet, no fear in my eyes or dreams that were too big. And, while some realities of the world have set in as I am crossing over into my 21st year, I am proud that I still have large dreams and an optimistic outlook on life. The things that I have accomplished in those years between those bold dates make me proud. The things I have in store for my future, the goals and dreams I am working toward achieving and the understanding that there is no way I can predict what my life will be like between issue and expiration makes be believe that in some distant universe where time is endlessly existing, I have made my 16 year old self very proud.
Sometimes the words flow easy. A thought drifts causally across my mind and like a Polaroid, within moments I am able to compile my every thought and do so with drastic detail. I am able to showcase the exact way I am feeling at an exact moment. The way the sand felt on my sunburned feet that one perfect summer, the way the chill in the wind whipped through my hair bringing to attention the first glimpse of autumn. Sometimes I am able to capture a moment and a place and a feeling. Sometimes I can effortlessly be completely present in the moment. To laugh easily and cry with intention and dream without boundaries. Sometimes the days are so smooth they run into weeks and weeks into months and months into years. Sometimes the doors always seem to open and the path always seems to be one of little resistance. Sometimes there is always rainbows after rain and a silver lining and a friend to talk to. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it is hard. The words don’t come easy and it is as if I am a wily child again spending hours upon hours upon hours with a shiny net running across grassy yards trying to capture a butterfly, getting rather close but never quite having the ability or agility to fully capture the creature I so long for. Sometimes I cant focus or perfectly recall an outstanding moment. Sometimes the school work adds up, the bills become mountains, the long hours at work begin to take its toll. Sometimes I cant describe how I feel, or what I want, or who I want to be. Sometimes the loss of a loved one comes back with a force unknown by any creature except humans. Sometimes I lose my way and the doors always seem to close and the path always seems to have the most resistance. Sometimes I questions the goals I have set for myself and the ability I have to achieve them. Sometimes it just rains and there aren’t anymore good friends left. But always I pick myself up and try again. Always I take the blow and the rainbow-less rain and get right back up. Always I take the punch in the gut and the confusion that follows and dust off my fabulous clothes and stand tall again. Always I find an open window or an open crack if all the doors are closing. Always I refocus my intentions and refocus my life. Always I continue to chase that sneaky, cunning butterfly. Always I try again.