Dear 22 year old me,
You are about to get married, to your first real boyfriend who you started dating at 18. Part of the reason is because, sadly, some part of you is thinking ‘hey, who else in my life is going to love me like this again?’. I wish I could go back and break you of that thinking, but from here, I can only feel compassion for you, since you were too young to know better.
Even greater than that voice is the one telling you ‘this is what you’re supposed to do. This is a landmark along the path of the ‘right’ way.’ You firmly believe you are checking the first key task off your ‘normal people’ life list. In retrospect, I see you, believing whole-heartedly that marrying a good man will automatically negate and erase your shitty upbringing. It will surely bring the stability your childhood lacked. This will catapult you into a higher eschelon of people. You’ll even earn a different family name as a reward. You’re telling yourself that all you need next are a good job, a nice house, a couple kids and some animals, and your life will be in order and perfect.
The thing is, no one ever told you that marriage is hard. You grew up hearing that someday your prince will come, and he’ll give you a white picket fence, and a beautiful family, and he’ll love you and protect you and life will be beautiful. I’m not trying to say life isn’t or won’t be lovely, but it’s not just magically that way. Marriage will not turn your relationship from mediocre to amazing. No one ever told you that marriage is not always unicorns shitting rainbows. Being married to someone is difficult. It takes communication, and work, and tolerance, and acceptance.
Everything that was yours is suddenly ours. You can’t make a decision without thinking about how it affects your spouse. You have to explain where that $50 went. You have to sit down to discuss, and argue, about whether or not you can afford for them to quit their job and follow their art -and if you guys can, then why the fuck is it their art, why can’t it be your art?
Nobody told you that without a constant, open dialogue, a seed of bitterness in your heart will stay there and bloom. You didn’t know that you can tell yourself you’re over some thing, and shove it down, only to have it come out later in a moment that I lovingly refer to as “passing the butter”. As in:
Spouse 1: Hey babe, can you pass the butter?
Spouse 2: You mean like the time you made me feel stupid in the middle of that restaurant in Hawaii? Like that?
What? What the fuck does that have to do with butter? Where did that come from? Yes, it will come out that way, and unless you have the ability to take a look at yourself, and each other, and really express your truth, it is all downhill from there. But no one ever said that. No one prepared you for that. You didn’t learn that in health class or home ec. Why didn’t you get a pamphlet with your wedding certificate? Why wasn’t that part of the wedding day family pep talk? It didn’t have to be negative -marriage could have still been portrayed as the beautiful thing it has the potential to be -just without the Disney vaseline lens.
I wish I could tell you that you have to choose someone whose path naturally walks parallel to yours. If you don’t, then one of you is constantly sacrificing their path to continue walking by the other’s side. That might seem sweet and romantic at first, but it involves a great deal of forfeit, and that is difficult to swallow over time. Find someone that is secure enough to let you bloom. Someone that has their own thing going, and lets you have your own thing going, so you have something to bring back home and share excitedly. I’d also like to say that if you find that person and over time your paths drift, it is also not a sin to part ways, and carry on, leaving each other with the lessons you had to share.
I spent a lot of time being angry at you for making the decisions you made. You carried me off into a direction that couldn’t have been further from where some part of me knew I wanted to be. However, I now would like to take a moment to praise you, because I realize that I wouldn’t know these things now had you not taken a hit for the team. You launched after what you believed, and survived it, so that I could have the life I have now. So, thank you, and when you go through the hardest time of your life in a few years, please hold on to the hope that the imminent death of life as you know it will rebirth the best times you’ll know.