I will have been married for an entire decade this February.
People often raise their eyebrows when they find out I was only just 24 years old when I got married. In fact, I often watch in bemusement when they realize I have children. They clock my ring, then try and work out how old I must have been when I got married. I am a Brit, and I think in America marrying younger is perhaps more common than it is in Europe. Correct me if I’m wrong!
It would be years until the majority of our friends began to get married. Now that I have two daughters, I’m sure I would be unhappy with them marrying at that age. I wonder how my parents must have felt.
As I look back through the blur of time and ten years later, I find myself in a capsule of whirling emotions as I float in and around a decade’s worth of memories. It’s only natural and pretty healthy when you find yourself arriving at a big milestone to give space to sink into some contemplation. I have certainly found myself over the last couple of months inwardly reflecting.
What would I say to that young woman standing there the night before her wedding? Would I have any words of wisdom to help her on her way? I know that I am wiser than I was then, undoubtedly more resilient, and a heck of a lot stronger mentally.
But if I could speak to her, perhaps I would tell her this:
Hey, you. It’s me from the future. No, I’m not in Australia. I’m you plus ten years. We have some grey hair, tiger stripes, and laughter lines now and boy, do each tell some tales.
With age has come confidence. I know you are nervous at saying your vows in front of everyone you know. It wasn’t long ago you were asked to be a lecturer by your own favourite lecturer, but your nerves got the better of you and you didn’t take that opportunity. We now understand that you have actually lived with varying bouts of anxiety and that used to directly affect a lot of decisions in your life. We still think a lot about that and where we could have progressed if you had taken that particular job. It’s OK though; even though we’ve carried that around with us, it wasn’t the end. Your lecturer was right, and you are a great teacher. 11 years on and guess what? You teach whole classes of adults now. Yes, really!
You are going to sacrifice dreams you didn’t realize you had until you choose another path, and you’ll find that really hard. Hindsight is a great thing, but it is also wiser. It can seem that perhaps you would have struggled with both children and that dream you had imagined. You can’t stand still; lives evolve, and dreams change and become bolder and more aligned with who you have become. The gentle mist of bitterness is toxic so be sure to regularly check yourself and not only leave it at the door, but more importantly, work your way through it. Otherwise, it will suck any joy from a relationship.
Quit apologising about your age and stop comparing. If someone has an issue with how old you are, that reflects on their own insecurities. Not yours. More importantly, stop comparing your life with friends your own age. Everyone has their own path, and none of those paths are straight. Every path will have big unexpected bends, some loop backs and casually winding. But every one of them will have a variety of those.
Marriage is a lot harder than you thought it would be. Ten years takes you both looking in the same direction and if you aren’t, repeatedly adjusting your boat’s rudder to glide you back toward each other. There will be really hard times, times you will think all is lost. Don’t put the weight on your partner to make you happy. Make sure to find what makes you happy away from that person, for they are only one person and that weight is not fair on anyone. For every hard time, there are double the good times! For all the tears, there are also belly laughs that makes your sides ache. There are hundreds of inside jokes that don’t make sense to anyone else. There is closeness.
Listen…this next one is going to be hard to stomach.
Being a Mummy will make AND break you. It will push you to the absolute brink. You do not have to enjoy those first few months. That doesn’t make you a bad mother, no matter how many articles you read about other mothers loving every single second of it. You are not doing anything wrong. Motherhood will strip you all the way down to your bones and then slowly build you back up again, with each layer teaching you something different about yourself and becoming thicker and stronger. You will love more fiercely, more tenderly, and more sacrificially. They are the perfect little mix of you and him. Even if it is like looking into a dirty mirror!
Lastly, to the sassy, know it all 24 young me:
You did good. At 24, you had all the gear and no idea. The world was our oyster, and we could have decided to have a wholly different life. Maybe we would have been happy, or maybe we wouldn’t. Either way, you did good. Whatever life will throw at you, this decision was a good one. Even if it is one where you have to move around every two years (and you will really wonder about that on more occasions than you can count).
You will take that man whose finger is ringed with rose gold, symbolizing that he is yours. He is still yours, and he has grown as much as you have. He is the best father to your children and the best role model of how a man should treat them. He can still make you roar with laughter yet still has the ability to drive you raging mad. Though talking until the early hours has been replaced with him snoring next to you, you still talk about literally everything and nothing. He still looks at you like you are 18, despite those tiger stripes and laughter lines. He has watched you struggle to find yourself over and over since having his children, yet he always sees straight through you, like the sun’s rays touching the horizon.
You have a wild ride ahead of you. As with all of life, there will be some euphoric highs and some soul destroying lows. You will make some babies, lots of mistakes, move about a billion times and question most of your life decisions (what military wife doesn’t?). You will make some crazy memories and some really amazing friends. You will take some chances that fall flat and some that soar.