It is a truth universally acknowledged that I, Nivi Obla, will probably get married in 2020. My parents have prophesied it, regardless of my astounding hesitations on the matter. I, however, am a part of the new culture that wonders if marriage is really something that is necessary in the near future. As a soon-to-be college graduate, the world seems to think it’s my next step.
I don’t think it has to be.
In a recent Pew Research report, 50 percent of participants agreed that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children,” and 66 percent of that population came from our generation – all aged between 18 and 29. We are not chasing after marriage anymore, and we don’t seem to be expecting that from anyone else, either. In 2010, 61 percent of people who had never married said they wanted to at some point in the future. That number dropped to 53 percent in 2014.
So we are avoiding marriage just a little bit. Maybe it is because we are that generation. The one that refuses to sit still, swiping left on a pretty face on Tinder because he has bad teeth or waiting for the hotter chick to grind up on at a frat party. Maybe it is because we all have a chronic fear of commitment because deep inside, we are scarred by the harsh realities of life, as told by John Green, and are afraid to get hurt. I mean, we all want a significant other who would hold our hands across campus, but we can’t seem to shake off the bad habit of waiting twenty minutes to text back a response to a simple “Hey.” We barely seem to be able to commit in the realm of dating, so I can only image that marriage brings a sense of impending doom to those of us who like to exist in the realm of “it’s complicated.”
But I would like to give us some more credit. I think our individualistic and selfish attitudes are preparing us for a better, smarter future. For one, we all seem to want some form of economic stability before we put a ring on it. I certainly don’t want to think about paying off my loans after I get married or have to deal with my future hubby’s because baby, if you paid sixty grand a year to major in “International Peace” at NYU, then that is your own burden to bear. The first and only economic instability I will agree to face together as a couple can come from the astounding price of our wedding. Not med school, not dental school and certainly not the debt from the failure of a poorly-planned startup.
And speaking of med school, I do not think that most future doctors really see themselves getting hitched in the third year of a highly competitive residency program. Our priorities are different now. A four-year college degree in 2015 is equivalent to a high school degree from the 90s, which means we have to do more to get what we need to survive. Nothing seems to really project us into success like the corner office or the long-coveted M.D.. You’re looking at a generation that expects more personal success than ever before, and you’re looking at a generation determined to achieve it. We want that raise, we want that title and we want to know that we can stand on our two feet before we jump into some sort balancing act with another person.
With all of these factors, we keep pushing marriage off. The numbers tell us that we really aren’t interested in settling down when we’re in our twenties anymore. The numbers tell us that we’re not financially prepared to “have and to forever hold.” The numbers tell us that we just haven’t found what we’re looking for in another person. But the numbers also give us a glimmer of hope: 66 percent of adults under the age of 30 say that they want to get married, so there is a future in love for us. Just not at the ripe-old age of 25.
These numbers tell us that we are aiming for a new type of future, aspiring to be greater individuals rather than stronger couples. What we end up looking for is not a traditional marriage where we have a provider and benefactor. We are searching for a union that brings together two equals; two people that have their lives sort of figured out, with pasts they have survived and a future to look forward to. And that, my friends, is a very difficult task. It is a task that takes time to fully accomplish, a task that for some of us won’t be done by the time we are 23 or even by the time my eggs start rotting in my ovaries.
In my head, there are countries to explore, friends to adventure with and corporate ladders to climb. I don’t know even know what my life is going to be like in a matter of twelve months, let alone years from now. But I do know that I want to be able to file my own taxes and pick up the freshest coconut at the store before I have someone else to do that with – or for. Maybe the divorce rate from our parents’ generation pushed us into a state of caution, and maybe we are just too rebellious to settle down, even when it is good for us. I do not think it is a bad thing to not rush into things. I have hope for the millennials: we can find everlasting love, and we will. It’ll just be on our own timeline. But for my sake, let’s hope that I find it by 2020.