For as many years as I have thought about marriage I have had but one confirmed idea of the institution: not for me. After having four very serious, very long-term relationships and countless random hook-ups, flings, and half loves in between, I was sure that I would never want to be with one person for the rest of my life. After all, I was always changing, always growing, and I found myself growing out of those relationships and even my own skin time after time. Whenever I thought of the future I saw myself somewhere completely different than wherever I currently was. I fancied myself a life-long romantic breaking hearts across oceans until the day I died. Naturally, this day would be sometime before I turned thirty-five, I would never need a retirement fund, and I would be forever immortalized as a tragic young beauty and vastly talented writer after whatever plane crash or car accident caused my demise. For most of my twenties, this was actually my plan.
I don’t have to tell you that this was a terrible plan, or rather not even a plan at all. As a once love of mine used to say, “plans are for planners.” I didn’t know where I was going and I liked it that way. Then, about a month ago, out of the proverbial blue came a fortuitous vision. I saw myself with the man I have been dating for the last two years and with whom I am extremely, almost disgustingly happy. I didn’t see us now, or traveling through Europe next year. I saw us greyed and wrinkled and smiling. We were driving around the States in a loved and dented RV, camping and exploring and making friends with other happy travelers along the way. It dawned on me that the Hudson and Taylor in that vision weren’t two people that had been dating for thirty years. We were old and married, just like all those other old people in their unnecessarily extravagant retirement funds on wheels.
After spending the last ten years of my life defiantly opposing the entire idea of marriage or children or anything resembling normalcy, you might ask what happened. Just a flash of a beat-up RV and everything changed? Marriage to me was always a windowless prison championed by the most frightening of phrases: “settling down.” But lately I think that much-cliched term can reflect something other than the 2.5 kids and a dog that has been so neatly ingrained in us all. We can be settled in ourselves and with each other while still bumming around the world teaching and traveling and acting like drunken reprobates if we please. We’ll just be doing it together. After all the romances and heart aches I’ve already endured I realized that I was never going to find a better man for me than the one I have right now. So I will forge my own brand of booze-drenched happiness with him, however and wherever we find it. I have left the planet littered with so many maybes and could-have-beens, and I think I was keeping them secretly tucked in the bottom of an old backpack somewhere. Just in case. But all at once, they have faded back into nothing but the valued refuse of my twenties: the histories and lessons that brought me to where I am today.
Perhaps the looming advent of my 30th birthday has flipped some strange and little-known grown-up switch. I recently opened a 401(k), thought briefly about quitting smoking, and even talked with Hudson about baby names. I, of course, immediately trashed the last two ideas at least for the next five to ten years, and possibly still forever. But when I think about my life it’s no longer in terms of the next day or week or six months, but in its entirety. We are planning together for years and decades and I see myself age and change and love and move and everything else on the somehow both vast and minuscule timeline of our lives. I want to do it all. And I want to do it all with him.
So, at the age of twenty-nine, my once grand whims of reckless glory have simmered into an earnest desire to make the best life I can. In a movement so gradual it is almost imperceptible this period of great change has passed, and the next phase of my life has been laid before me. Maybe this is just what our twenties are for: to get most of our mistakes out of the way, try to learn from them if we can, or just make some more until we do. To get settled not into a house with a picket fence, but into our own skin.
Knowing he would never ask me to marry him believing that my answer would be a firm “not in this lifetime” (I made this very clear to him on many occasions), I told him that I’d changed my mind. I told him about the RV and our old wrinkled happy bodies and that I wanted it all. That night we went out with friends, and as the drinks kept pouring we decided we were going to do it. Leave it to me to somehow backwardly propose after all my years of trash talking.
In the hungover light of the next morning, I didn’t know whether or not to believe it. But as we talked it over through the following days and weeks, our whim of a wedding idea solidified into something real. We have told our parents. We have picked a place. We have set a date. It is of course not going to be a traditional wedding in any sort of way. There will be no bridesmaids or color scheme, no registry or a stupidly expensive dress. But it will be ours.
I later learned that he was scared for weeks that I was going to change my mind, that this was just another one of my famously impetuous ideas that quickly gets passed up for the next shiniest one I see. Honestly, I think I was a little frightened of that as well. But here we are. With our 401(k)s and our wedding plans and our baby names. And with each day that passes I only become more sure that it is exactly what I want. I guess it just goes to show that even the most irresponsible and reckless of girls can grow up too one day, albeit in her own drunken, impulsive, and generally unconventional way.