False Deadlines

First kiss by 16, lose virginity by 20, married by 25, kids by 30.

Consciously or not, I feel these deadlines.

Especially when college comes to a close, it’s time to get serious. It’s time to lock it down with someone, and make plans accordingly.

And if you’re 21 and haven’t had your first kiss yet, you’re a late bloomer, but oddly enough you’ve felt that way for most of your life. Since the age of 4 or 5 we’re asked if we have a boyfriend or girlfriend by plenty of well-meaning adults.

But really there’s no such thing as being “late” in life. Being late to class might cause you to miss important information, but being late compared to your peers will cause you to miss absolutely nothing. You might miss having a date to a formal, having someone to buy things for on Valentine’s Day, someone to make plans with, but you’ve got the rest of your life for that.

If you look a little harder, we’ll find that there’s plenty of friends to be had, people to care about and connect with even if you don’t have one to date.

We’re encouraged to live and love while we’re young, as if at some point the jig will be up and it’ll be too late to start fresh in a new relationship.

We revisit over and over in our minds anyone who gave us the time of day, anyone who showed any level of romantic interest, so we can skip past the awkward first interactions. If we don’t have to start blindly, things can move faster so as to meet the bogus deadlines.

Life will present us with real deadlines that must be met. You have to show up to work on time or you’ll get fired. You have to say happy birthday before midnight hits and it’s not their birthday anymore. You have to get to the bank before 5 p.m. or it’ll be closed.

But when it comes to relationships, the door isn’t going to shut in your face when the clock strikes 5, or even at 4:55 if you’re dealing with an over-eager teller.

Your ability to fall in love and be fallen in love with is not ever going to suddenly dissipate. Not even when you’re in your 30s or 40s. Not even when you’re past your “peak” of what’s perceived as attractiveness.

You don’t have to date the first person who wants to date you, kiss the first person who wants to kiss you, marry the first person who wants to marry you.

It’s easy to get wedding or baby fever, but you’re smart enough not to let your compulsions guide the course of your life.

Don’t try to hit these deadlines just to avoid the feelings of missing out compared to your friends, or to prompt a feeling of relief.

Don’t live like you’re going to die young, live like you’re going to live a long and happy life. And part of that is making a solid choice for the person you want to spend most of that time with. Truth is, you might not meet that person by the time you’re 23.

-Hannah Herner

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