As I wake up every day—one closer to death—I find that the pressures of growing older are there to meet me head-on. It doesn’t matter that billions and billions of people have lived and survived throughout the history of mankind before me without total failure; I still worry with the best of them. Am I going to stay happy and successful in my career? Will I be able to pay the mortgage or float the rent this month? Can I afford to turn on the air conditioning so I can get some sleep without sweating bullets? Is my debit card going to overdraft if I try to put some gas in the car? These are the problems that we face each and every day, and everything seems as though it’s always about the money.
In a world where my iPhone can track me virtually anywhere on the planet and 1 in 10 people are on Facebook, it baffles me that life, and so many of the problems associated with it, revolves solely around money. How did early mankind survive? Was one man more powerful than his neighbor because of the amounts of beads and trinkets he owned? At 22 and on the cusp of life, I find myself physically, mentally and financially leaving childhood behind and stepping through the metaphoric door to adulthood. Being in a serious, committed relationship, it feels like everywhere I look money is working against me.
I have some peers who have started their lives… earlier than I would personally choose for myself. And I can’t help but notice when certain complaints appear on various social media forums about how difficult parenting and marriage are to manage for my friends and family—with apparently relationship and monetary hardships to blame. My question to you this week is: How soon is too soon to start one’s life; and what constitutes “starting” one’s life? Is it marriage? A house? A car? Children? Is it having a job that you’re happy in? Is it having to pay for and accomplish all of these things before we’re ready?
It’s understandable that some of us don’t have a choice. Perhaps we weren’t given the opportunity to go to college; maybe our parents don’t manage a billionaire’s hedge fund; and/or we made life choices that haven’t worked in our favor thus far. It was always my understanding that you were supposed to get good grades in high school so that you could go to college and get a degree. Once you had graduated from college, you were to find a well-paying job and secure yourself a stable career. Upon stability reached, you could then settle down, get married and start a family. That was what a successful life was supposed to look like.
As society changes—and please bear with me—and men and women are becoming closer to equivalents in both the workplace and home life, it’s not uncommon for most households to have two fulltime income streams. With more income comes more stability. Parents are giving their children things that they never had before. From vacations and iPods, to computers and digital cable, children are quickly growing more and more in-tune with widespread news and information exchange.
Just a couple of years ago, I took a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (I’m a bit of a space nerd). The tour guide told me that the iPhone in my pocket had more computing power than the super computers that landed American astronauts on the moon in 1969. I hypothesized that the young minds who were exposed to the rapidly growing technologies of tomorrow had become somewhat power hungry, in a way. Doesn’t it seem like we all want the fastest computer, the fastest cell phone, the fastest customer service, and we all want it now?
I got my first cellular telephone in the 7th grade. That was about the time when they became affordable for each member of a household. It’s not uncommon to see most children, now as early as grade school, with their own phones. We are preprogramming our youth to want things better and faster without consequence. As much as it pains me to say, this includes obtaining premature, obnoxiously expensive marriages, having children before we are even close to ready, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and signing ourselves into mortgages that we can’t afford.
Courtney and I have talked about this with one another. While we’re not starving or in debt, it’s not like we could individually afford a two-week European excursion at the moment. And I think most Americans, young and old, are in that same boat. But we know what it takes to stabilize ourselves and get a steady footing in life before taking the leap into anything like marriage or children or a shared apartment. Could it be that our society has grown too selfish for our own good? Are we too dumb to take a step back and wait to get these things until we are ready? I happen to think that’s exactly what’s happened.
If you’re young and broke and certain that you’re in love, what says you have to be married in a $50,000 wedding right now? If you are in love, your fiancé will wait for you. If they won’t, I highly suggest you take that step back and consider why they won’t wait. With more than half of relationships ending in expensive divorces and a huge percentage of children born out of wedlock, it’s not so obtuse of me to suggest waiting a few years, is it? Especially considering that it costs well over $100k to raise a child to the age of 18. And of course, that’s not including his or her college tuition and expenses. You would have to double that amount to pay for higher education. And according to national averages, most families have 2.3 kids or something. Although I don’t knowhow much a .3 of a kid costs… that’s not the point.
I’m enormously happy in my relationship because there’s no pressure to grow up yet. We want to establish careers and ourselves rather than force one another into a $50,000 wedding that our parents would be forced to pay for that would tragically end in divorce a year later with children in the mix. We want to travel and see and do things before the strains of parenthood and life take place. We want to grow up and be ready for it. Now my theory won’t be able to hold any water for a few years, but I vow to keep you all posted on how it goes. And I can promise you one thing: I’m not going to bitch about it on Facebook because I wanted things in life without working for them. Instead, I hope to work hard for the things I do want and care about.
*Before you blast my inbox with rebuttals and complaints, I just want to say that I understand life can throw you curveballs. We don’t have a choice in how the cookie crumbles. But we should treat every day as a blessing and remember that the sun will always rise for new tomorrow. And no matter how hard some things can get, life can always be easier when you can surround yourself with the people you love.