The 5-year-old girl I babysit proudly announced today that her mother was pregnant with her third child and that she was “so hoping for a baby sister” this time around. As I watched her so carelessly run around with chalk in hand and the sun shining on her strawberry blonde hair, I was suddenly struck by the brutal fact that I have never been in love.
Sure, I love my mother more than words can say and I would thankfully step into the line of fire for my beloved dogs, but I’ve never truly romantically fallen in love with another human being. Perhaps, at this moment, I happened to be stuck in my own world, overcome with emotion about this beautiful family growing in size and in love. Nonetheless, I could physically feel my life shifting further into perspective. I began to think about all the boys I claimed to love over the years, each one more devout and poetically tragic than their predecessor, and realized that, more often than not, I was rather in love with the idea of them.
The desire to be wanted and cared for by someone who you already see so much good in is an unfortunately easy thing to confuse for love. At 18, I was under the impression that I was blissfully trapped in a Taylor Swift song where falling in love with your best friend was the stuff romantic-comedy dreams were made of. Now I’m two months away from turning 23, and I can happily say that I know better (or, at least, I’m learning).
I’m learning that the words life and plan ironically do not ever belong in the same sentence. We all have a ridiculously hilarious outline of checkpoints we’re supposed to reach by a certain age: Dream job by 22, married by 28, two kids by 32 in a house in the countryside. Though I swore I was content with living alternatively and going at my own pace, somewhere (not so deeply buried) in my subconscious I had these ideals ingrained, hoping and praying that living would be so effortless. I was trying so hard to start a failing car – something we all do in order to prove ourselves.
Stop. Take a giant much-needed breath and freeze right where you are. Stop planning, stop pushing, stop comparing your life to those around you – just stop. There is no magical age or formula for existence that calculates when exactly someone is required to have everything figured out. It’s a lifelong journey to discover your own personal pursuit of happiness. Life consists of thousands of potholes, detours and crossroads, void of any signs whatsoever. How we proceed as we approach them is what really counts. Life is not a destination. The process, experience and adventure of your 20s are a full tank of gas and a blank road map. Instead of looking forward to all the things we believe we are so far from achieving, we should glance at the beaten path behind us and cherish how far we’ve traveled.
The world is too full of tomorrows and somedays. Take pride in today, fall in love with right now.