Growing up in the south, marriage and babies are ALL THE TALK and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. It’s hard not to feel pressured about these topics when you live and/or were raised in a place where social and societal norms are practically passed down to you at birth.
We are all familiar with the “southern checklist”… high school, college, good job, new car, marriage, first house then babies (and in true southern fashion, these are expected to be completed in this order, all before the age of 35). Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are GREAT and are what many people spend their whole lives working towards… But why must we make others feel less important, less interesting, less accomplished and less of a person if they aren’t on the same “10-year plan”?
Have you ever thought some people don’t have the desire to be married or have kids? Have you ever thought some people may want kids, but are physically unable to, have suffered a miscarriage or are going through a long adoption process? Have you ever thought some people we’re once in a relationship or marriage but left because it was verbally or physically abusive? Have you ever thought that maybe that single mother isn’t single because of choice, but was abandoned? Have you ever thought that maybe some people actually enjoy traveling, learning and living on their own terms? Have you ever thought that some people don’t want or feel the need to rush into such big, life decisions? These are REAL, everyday scenarios that not many people openly share. It’s not always fun or easy to talk about because we all have different pictures of what a “successful” life should look like.
Since when has completing college, getting married, having a fat bank account, being a homeowner or having a baby become our sole basis in determining our value, worth or whether we have succeeded or failed in life? Yes, these are wonderful successes and are accomplishments to be VERY proud of (I never want discredit or take away from anyone’s hard work and perseverance) but I believe a successful life is made up of much more than societies expectations. Success goes far beyond what the eye can see. Success is about the people we impact, the lives we improve, the amount of love we give away freely without anything in return, the lessons that schools can’t teach, the experiences that money can’t buy, the struggles that make us stronger, the Word that makes us wiser, the family that molds us, the friends that hold us together and the God that gives us life and supplies our every need.
It is about time we all learned to accept and support everyone… No matter where they’re at in life, no matter what age they are, no matter how much money they make, no matter if they are single, engaged, married or divorced, no matter their skin color, no matter if they have 5 kids or none at all. It has not, nor ever will be our place to make judgement on someone else. We need only to be loving, kind and respectful towards everyone and THEIR lives. You never know what battle someone may be going through, so always be mindful of what you say. They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how it made them feel.
As for me, I knew from a very young age that someday I wanted to get married and have a family. I saw my parents, grandparents and other positive relationships flourish as a child and I knew I wanted that for myself. I feel lucky to have found my soulmate so quickly at the age of 17. We got married last year (about a month before my 25th birthday). It was a MAGICAL, DREAMY, FAIRYTALE OF A DAY, filled with laughs, tears and A LOT of love!
Like most women, this was my favorite, most memorable moment… He hates that I still bring it up to this day. But there’s something so sweet and pure when a grown man shows raw, unprompted emotion.
I literally could reminisce on our wedding day FOREVER, but I will spare you all.
Alright, lets fast forward a little bit…
Dating for 8 years and married for 1 year, we are no strangers to routine. As much as I would LOVE a new adventure everyday of the week… In all relationships and marriages there are times when we get caught up in routine and the mundane tasks of day-to-day life. It’s inevitable once you become an adult, have real responsibilities, rely on a schedule and drink your weight in coffee… You wake up, try to get a workout in, go to work or school, cook/eat dinner, catch up with loved ones, watch a show or a movie, go to bed, wake up, REPEAT! Mind you, this doesn’t even take into account if you have children and/or pets.
I wish I could lie to you and say we live in a perfect world where relationships never get old, dull or boring. But that’s life. If you’re with someone for long enough, you will go through this. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay there. What separates a fufilling relationship or marriage from a lifeless one is the EFFORT you BOTH put into it.
Since Day 1, Willie and I have always CHOSEN to put in the effort to make our relationship a place where we WANT to be – and our marriage is no different. We try our very best to “keep things fresh” as I like to say… Keeping things fresh, new and exciting is something that any couple of any age can do. You don’t have to have money or travel the world to do this. In our case, its been the small things we change in our normal day-to-day lives that have made the BIGGEST impact on our relationship.
For instance, we still make it a point to go on day dates or night dates. Sometimes, instead of ordering or picking up a pizza, we will set aside time to make one together from scratch. We leave little notes back and forth on our dry erase board in our kitchen. Sometimes, Willie will randomly surprise me with my favorite candy or ice cream. We go explore places we’ve both never been before. We go places and people watch together. Most of our dates are casual, but every now and then we will get all dressed up and go somewhere fancy. We give each other compliments. We pray daily for each other.
These are just random little things that aren’t hard to do, but can make all the difference. These are not relationship requirements by any means and I am in no way saying if you don’t do these things your relationship is doomed to fail. Sure, an average relationship could survive without doing the “extra” work. But that’s all it will be… Just average. I don’t know about you, but if I love something or someone, I give them my ALL, not whatever is left over. After all, isn’t that the point of love? Finding someone worth the effort and finding a person that thinks you are too!
Speaking of keeping things fresh, the other weekend our day date was at Dave & Busters (yes, we don’t fully associate with the grown-ups just yet).
This place literally had me feeling nostalgic and instantly brought me back to my childhood. All they were missing was the alligator game where you have to bop them on the head when they pop out (if you grew up going to Sportsworld you know what I’m talking about).
The BEST moment by far was when Willie found Galaga. Seeing his face light up like he was 10 years old again was priceless. He even got on his knees to play because he insisted he played better that way. Dave & Busters must have known he was coming because they had just added it. PRAISE!
After we played like children, we figured why not eat like children as well (unhealthy, but so good). Chicken wings, fries, cheesy steak hash browns, beer (oh, and lots of sugary candy).
Today’s take aways: love everyone no matter where you think they should be in life. Be accepting and open minded. Marriage and babies aren’t for everyone and that’s okay. Don’t judge. Everyone is on different paths. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Everyone has different goals. Do what makes you happiest. Ultimately, you determine whether your life is successful in your eyes. Think before you speak. You will only get out what you put into a relationship. Both people have to contribute equal parts. Never fully grow up. It’s the little things. Those little things often times turn into BIG things. Continue to grow together. Keep God a priority. Pray together and for each other. Keep things fresh, new and exciting. There’s no wrong way to “keep it fresh” as long as you try. Keeping it fresh comes in all forms (last week it came in the form of 1,184 tickets and 2 greasy tummy aches).