When I was 10 years old, 25 seemed very far away. So far, in fact, I figured I’d be married by then. I wanted to have kids before I turned 30, which meant I had to get married by 28 at the latest.
Life doesn’t usually go according to plan, especially not the plans you make when you are 10.
I did hold on to the idea of that timeline for quite awhile though. In fact, when I turned 24 last September, there was a little bit of a panic. I felt the pressure of time, the clock ticking louder everyday to remind me that I had one less day to find Mr. Right. It didn’t help that I love babies, my empty womb ached a little every time I saw one. Sometimes I think I was born to be a mom.
So for the few months that followed my birthday, there were too many anxiety attacks, leading to too many mediocre dates. I maintained an OkCupid account for 3 months, which was just enough time for me to meet some really great guys and question how much I really wanted to be in a serious relationship. I closed my account. It was becoming overwhelming and I had heard that dating was actually supposed to be fun.
Some time in November, I made the decision to do some traveling before I go back to school. Because while all that dating stuff was going on, there was so much more happening in my life. The October LSAT was coming up and I was nowhere near prepared in both my logic games skills and my commitment to law school. I love legal jargon, case law, and figuring out the fine print, but is this what I wanted to do for my career? I’ve always dreamed of working for an International NGO, making a difference somewhere somehow. Perhaps a J.D. would get me there, or maybe a Masters in IR or Public Policy would be more suitable. There was also the dream of living in Shanghai for an extended period of time (six months or longer).
Then in November, it came to me, a way to do it all. I would travel, live in Shanghai, and acquire a J.D. and/or M.A. It was all very doable and I could check off everything on that list before I turned 30.
There was only one problem, this new plan collided with the timeline I had set for myself at age 10. For an entire day, this conflict troubled me. Until finally I resolved to let go of that first timeline. I have to trust that 24-year-old me knows a little bit more about life and what I want out of it than the 10-year-old me did. I was getting tired of dating and the unnecessary pressure I had placed on myself to settle down. Really, with modern medicine and technology, I didn’t need to have kids before I’m 30. In fact, I didn’t need Mr. Right to have kids, though I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it. Mr. Right is outside of my control. I don’t know if he exists and I don’t know when I’ll meet him. I assume when I meet him, I will be able to commit to a serious relationship, but I have no idea of knowing that until it happens.
I have to live my life following my immediate dreams and putting everything I have into what is within my control. I’m realistic enough to know that at some point in my life, I might have to choose between an ambitious career and the perfect family. I’ll also cross that bridge if I come to it. At 24, I can afford to place my career and traveling plans above all else. And honestly, when I think about what’s in store for the next 5 years, I’m filled with joy, like a traveler regarding the perfect itinerary.