The college years—four years set aside for your education, four years meant for self-discovery, four years to find your husband. Each of these ideals might sound familiar, but unfortunately the last of the trio is all too often the most emphasized. Family members, friends, and even pastors, all ask the seemingly innocent question: So are you seeing anyone? Even when asked with the best intentions, this question implies that you should be seeing someone. That if you aren’t seeing someone, the clock is ticking. Four years goes by faster than you think, and the idea of the “Ring by Spring” creates an undercurrent of anxiety on Christian college campuses. Still, here I stand, one year post-graduation from Biola University (AKA the Bridal Institute of Los Angeles) and I have no ring on my finger. There’s no husband, just a cat named Ernest. My #TBT photos aren’t of me on my wedding day. The craziest part? I survived. Even crazier? I’m glad it didn’t happen. Not getting my MRS degree actually turned out to be the best thing for me, and it might be the best thing for you too.
Here’s a harsh reality that should be posted on all Christian college campuses: 50% of marriages end in divorce. It’s debated whether the rate is higher or lower in the Church but the fact remains—1 in 2 marriages ends in divorce. It’s a sobering statistic and when I write it I feel like I’m raining on someone’s parade, or on his or her wedding day. Still, it’s not said often enough. Nobody getting married plans on divorcing. Everyone thinks in terms of forever, but when you’re 22 forever is abstract. There’s so much growth that happens after college. It’s important to let your relationship exist in the real world. While it’s easy to make one another a priority when their dorm is a five-minute walk away, it’s not so easy after a long day at work. Not to mention the traffic, the cost of gas, and the early start you have planned for tomorrow. So maybe you can meet next week? It’s the trials of real life that make real couples. College isn’t real life. It’s a simulation, or a four-year long dream. Of course there’s reality in the midst of it, but staying up until 4 AM talking doesn’t happen too often when you’re working 9 to 5.
As college draws to a close, you’ll start making plans for the future. It’s the second most dreaded question (the first: Are you seeing someone?) and the second most asked: So what are your plans when you graduate? Plans post-grad seem terrifying, and really they are terrifying. You’ll wake up from your four-year dream to job applications or grad school applications. It will be a complicated mess, and harder than the final paper for your Psychology class, because even though it won’t be graded it will have a much bigger impact. So imagine planning out the next few years of your life, and then throw into the mix another equally as confused person. They’ll have their own mess and their own five-year plan. And then, like a puzzle missing half it’s pieces, the two of you will try and sort out your messes together.
This isn’t to say it isn’t possible, because I have plenty of friends who were engaged by the end of college or at least soon after. They’re married and happy. Their five-year plans included each other, and I went to their weddings and cried with joy for them. But what I’m trying to say, from my spot in the silent majority, is that there isn’t one path for everybody. If everybody paired up at college the world would miss out on adventurers and missionaries, on the people who can come running without asking for permission. If I had a somebody to spend forever with, I might not have gone to grad school. I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today, for better or for worse. There’s value in getting to know oneself. Changing as a person is hard enough alone, but it’s even harder with a second person, especially when they’re changing too. My path doesn’t look like everyone else’s, and that’s okay. There’s no point in peeking over into your neighbor’s backyard. Sure, their backyard might have a husband who mows the lawn, but my backyard is always changing and the overgrown wildflowers look great in the spring.