Humans seem to be bred to think in terms of timelines. We like regularity and we like to know what’s coming up next. This approach is effective for the first chunk of our lives. All throughout school it’s understood that you will complete one grade and move to the next. Each grade level takes a certain amount of time to finish, and you can expect to hit milestones as you move through the year. Age 16 brings a driver’s license. Age 18 brings a date to the prom.
As you hit these markers, your classmates are accomplishing them too. It’s almost a herd mentality. You all do it together and no questions are asked. Once college is over and you’re no longer moving through school, the way you see the world has to change. The real world is different. It’s not so methodical and linear, and if you’re still operating on this timeline mentality you can set yourself up for disappointment and a lot of unnecessary pressure.
When I was a little kid I had this vision of marriage at age 23 and kids at age 24. These numbers seemed so far away, and I thought by the time I reached this old, wrinkly age I would certainly be ready to settle down. Now that I’m 24, the idea of getting married makes me feel claustrophobic. I absolutely see “save the date” cards and a white dress in my future, but I still have a lot of career goals, moves, and other things to accomplish before I get there. My dating timeline is officially ruined and I think that’s okay.
I never thought I would say this, but a recent episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reinforced this belief. Kim and Khloe were visiting a fertility doctor, and Kim was talking about freezing her eggs. The episode led to a lot of discussion about biological clocks, as well as this idea about rethinking your own personal timeline. While I can’t say that I’ve ever thought “Wow! Kim Kardashian and I have so much in common” much in the past, she was actually making sense in this episode. Kim was talking about how she’d always imagined she’d be married with kids by this point in her life – somehow I have a feeling that a 72-day marriage wasn’t what she’d had in mind – but because of her current state, she was thinking that freezing her eggs might be a necessary move. She also talked about how she wanted babies and a ring so badly that it led her to make a poor choice with her last relationship (you can say that again).
While we may not all be jumping into quickie marriages like Kim, it does seem that her point about timelines and the desire for marriage and babies has some truth to it. Yes, biological clocks are a thing. We all know that having a baby at 35 is more challenging than it is at 25. For those of us who want kids, this is a concern. It may even be a source of anxiety during dating, and in some cases it may make you feel pressure to tie the knot and start producing kiddos.
But while it’s important to be aware of your body’s limits, you can’t let biological concerns have too much control over your decisions. It’s important to feel totally content with your situation before you settle down, otherwise you’ll be doing just that, settling. When you try to work off of a timeline, you’ll always feel like you’re racing the clock. This makes it much harder to enjoy the current moment you’re in. Instead of saying, “I need to be married by 28 and have kids by 30,” it’s better to wait until you’re truly happy and ready and then start planning a wedding. Rushing into things because of fear, pressure, or simply being caught up in the idea of the wedding benefits no one.
Just because you hit an age, it doesn’t mean you should automatically be ready to get married. Turning 30 doesn’t have to mean you’re ready to be a parent. People mature and become ready for things at different paces. Some people are ready to get married at 19, some never are. This is where the herd mentality that is instilled in us as school kids can steer us wrong. We’re taught from such a young age to move quickly along, looking for milestones. We believe that we must do the same things at the same time as our peers. We learn to drive at the same time and we go to the prom at the same time, why shouldn’t we want to get married at the same time? It makes it hard for us to approach life as an individual when we enter the real world. Even when you try, it’s hard not to get flustered when you see another engagement announcement on Facebook.
But when you’re an adult, it’s important to realize that you no longer have to do what everyone else is doing. Just because you’re asked to be in another wedding party, it doesn’t mean that you’re falling behind in school. You won’t get held back. You aren’t being picked last in gym. Set your own pace and do what feels right to you at that moment. Support other people’s choices, but focus solely on your own wants and needs. And disregard that timeline you’ve created in your head. All it’s doing is creating pressure and depleting happiness from the present moment you’re in.
Do you ever feel like you’ve created a timeline for yourself? How do you deal with this? Do you feel pressure to move at the same pace in life as your friends and co-workers?
Tune in for more from Lauren Levine every first Tuesday of the month.