For me, 2004 was the year of the wedding. I was 25. I haven't counted specifically, but I would bet that my husband and I attended at least 15 weddings that year, all over the east coast and midwest. It was an expensive year, but a fun year. We were constantly seeing friends, constantly getting dressed up, constantly celebrating the next happy couple. There have been a few weddings scattered in the years since, but overall the era of the wedding, for us at least, is over.
Now I am in my (almost) mid-thirties, and the divorces have started. Not a lot, but definitely more divorces than weddings. And if you would have told me eight years ago that things would end that way, I would have laughed in your face.
If my twenties was the era of weddings, then my thirties so far has been the era of rude awakenings. And that's probably because my twenties were based on some pretty faulty assumptions:
1) That all marriages last. You'd think I would know this not to be true, being a product of divorce, but my peers and I? We were different. We knew better. We chose better.
2) That marriage is easy - because if you pick the right person, why wouldn't it be?
3) That we would all get pregnant as easily as we wanted, whenever we wanted. And that we would all have perfect, healthy babies.
4) That we would all be skinny and beautiful forever. Yes, I know some people age, and wrinkle, and get a ring around their belly, but not us. No, we would forever be carded at the bar.
5) That we would be healthy forever. Because we are strong and resilient. Cancer, chronic diseases, addiction? No way. That happens to other people.
6) That our parents would be healthy and live forever. We used to think that 60 was old, but now we've adjusted. Our parents are youthful and strong and will go to their grandkids' college graduations.
7) That we would be financially secure, and enjoy long, satisfying careers. We did everything right, after all. We were educated. We were driven. We were responsible.
8) That we would all stay in touch. That we'd always be best friends. That we'd never find friends like this again.
9) That we were strong. So strong. We could handle anything.
It was fun to live under that cloak. I guess that's why I enjoyed going to weddings so much. It was a reminder of all of the above.
Over the past decade, all of these assumptions have been blasted, one by one. Some personally. Some through the experiences of those I love.
It hasn't been so easy.
At first I was in shock. As yet another couple would separate, as yet another friend was laid off, as yet another friend's parent had a heart attack. I couldn't believe all of this was happening! As each assumption was discredited, I would go through a period of lamenting. And then adjusting.
My eyes started opening a little.
The fact is, I don't think I really "grew up" until a few years ago. I didn't really know what life was all about, and I didn't care. I was stuck in my bubble of happiness and protection and security. But it wasn't until my bubble popped that I had to really find my inner strength, to really face hard circumstances, and to really face life. And the result has been empowering in ways I never imagined.
When you have all of these assumptions, life is scary. Because the smallest thing could shatter this security - this delicate sense of peace. You aren't prepared for the worst, because why should you be? The worst isn't going to happen!
That's not to say that I now walk around being all doom and gloom, preparing for a tragedy to happen to me. But I don't live in fear of it anymore either. I feel stronger than I ever have, and I feel at peace with a lot of these broken assumptions - knowing that some are natural, some are inevitable, and some may never come.
I'm not going to lie though, there are times when I sure do miss that 25 year old innocence. When I didn't think about the complicated stuff. When I was blissfully ignorant of how hard life could be. When we all were.
Being naive certainly has its perks.
But I wouldn't go back there. Because back then, I was wrong about the biggest assumption of all, one I didn't list above:
I assumed that I was having the best time of my life.
I could not have been more wrong. In many ways, life keeps getting better and better.
This weekend, I'll be attending the first wedding I have gone to in a year. It's for a family member, and I am so excited for them. I'm going to smile, probably cry a little bit, do a little dancing, and celebrate with them not necessarily a happy ever after, but the best years of their life, still to come.
A wedding is a fine thing indeed.