And in today's standards, we are BABIES. At this point in our lives, we're expected to be ultra-focused on our careers, and build, build, build.
Which is exactly the course I thought my life would go: graduate from University, get a job in some elite multinational corporation, climb up the corporate ladder, maybe pursue further studies, then get married and settle down. The ideal age for marriage for me was 28 - but even 28 seemed too early for my Mom (who got married at 20, but that's a story for another day).
Until Nicollo got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife on the eve of my 23rd birthday last year, and I said yes. Naturally, our engagement was met with a bunch of mixed emotions. My family and friends were overwhelmed with joy - I'd never seen so many people cry tears of joy in one room! Some friends were shocked, and others yet seemed unsupportive. The common sentiment was, "Ang babata niyo pa! Bakit kayo nagmamadali (You're both so young, why are you in such a rush)?" - one I expected anyway.
Nicollo and I have actually been analyzing this quite a bit - why this young? Couldn't we have done it later? In 5 years when we'd be a bit more stable and established in our careers? Or when more of our peers would be getting married? In our 30s? I asked Nicollo what made him so decided to start a family, and through our discussion, I realized that his decision didn't happen overnight, but was the fruit of how we cultivated our relationship from the get-go.
1. We realized that "young" is relative.
This realization came to me last year, when I mentioned to a priest, "... because we're so young" (re: marriage), and he replied, "You're not young. Everyone's just getting married later." And he was right. If we look at our grandparents and even some of our parents, the average marrying age was 21-23. My parents got married when they were 21 and 20, and my grandparents got married the same age. My grandma even told me that in their time, if the ladies weren't married by the time they graduated from college, they'd already be considered spinsters! Of course (and thankfully!) it's very different today. Societal standards have become more forgiving, which gives us more time to discern. And discernment is so much more important than age! It doesn't matter if you're 21, 27, or 30. The period of discernment (if done correctly) is what makes you ready, not age. Which leads me to my next point, which is that...
2. We were so secure in our relationship, so certain of our love for each other, and so decided that we were partners for life.
And this is probably the most important step. Nicollo and I have been together for six years now (five when he proposed), which gave us a lot of time to really get to know each other to our core. We saw each other both at our best and at our worst, and decided to accept each other for who we really are, no exceptions. We stood by each other during our difficulties finding fulfilling work after University, we held hands when we went through his Dad's death together, and we sat by each other during awkward-turned-fun family dinners. We've seen glimpses of both the ugliest and the most beautiful sides of life, and decided that we wanted to go through all of it - life in all its glory - together. And we made this decision taking off the rose-colored filter of emotions and "kilig" - the decision to love each other was and (hopefully) will always be a whole decision.
3. We weren't afraid to talk about the M word.
Because we had arrived at the point in our relationship where we were through playing games, at the point where loving each other became a choice rather than a feeling, we weren't afraid to talk about the loaded stuff - MARRIAGE, children, life, death, the whole shebang! It just felt so natural to talk about it, because we decided we were headed that way anyway. So, the late night conversations about what color our house would be, where we wanted to retire, where we would send our kids to school eventually, how many kids we wanted, and, embarrassingly, even what we would name our kids, made us more prepared and more excited for married life.
4. We realized we would never, ever really be ready for it.
It's easy to find a reason NOT to get married. For us in particular (and for many, too, I'm sure), it will have been: 1) We're too young, and 2) We don't have the means. But marriage (and life) isn't and will never be perfect. Marriage is a leap of faith because we'll never know what's on the other side until we take that leap. But the most beautiful thing about marriage is that you go through life with someone you've chosen together - for richer, or for poorer, in sickness and in health... you know the drill. Admittedly, Nicollo and I don't have much, but that idea just excites us and drives us to do better and to work harder so we can literally lay the foundations of our family and of our home brick by brick together.
5. We realized that marriage is just a regular stage of life!
The problem today is that we tend to glamorize marriage. One, two, three celebrities get engaged and the whole world's turned upside down! Wedding websites are EVERYWHERE, and these huge, glamorous affairs suddenly become intimidating. We end up seeing marriage as something too big, too grand, and too intangible that we tend to stay as far away from it as possible. That is, until the rest of our peers start getting married and the M word becomes less intimidating. The thing is, marriage is so normal! Before the dawn of Facebook and Instagram, there was no need to broadcast engagements and marriages to the whole world, and so marriage wasn't so scary. But today, there's that added pressure of the ring, the dress, the wedding. Strip away all of the shine and shimmer, and it really just is a man and a woman deciding to spend the rest of their lives together - a phenomenon that's existed since time immemorial! It was actually this idea that gave Nicollo the courage to pop the question. :)
6. And lastly, we were blessed to be surrounded by hopeful people - people who saw marriage as a beautiful thing.
And perhaps this is the one thing we're most thankful for. These days, because of so many failed marriages, the conversation about marriage and this whole lifetime commitment thing has often become dark, sad, and pessimistic. But while the world tells us that marriage means selling your soul for the rest of your life, that having children means having no more fun, that taking care of the home and of your husband means less time pursuing dreams, people around us showed us that marriage is beautiful because it's a story of giving ourselves completely to the other, elevating what unconditional love truly means; they showed us that life means more when shared, making life a more worthwhile and meaningful pursuit; and finally, we saw that, with God's grace, marriage can be a foretaste of Heaven on Earth!
And because of this, Nicollo and I now look forward to that day next year, when we'll be standing in front of God and our family, saying the most decided I DOs that could ever be said.
But if there's one thing I wish to highlight in this whole article, it's this: what made me so certain about taking this leap of faith is that I found someone who loves me and my family deeply, someone I can depend on, and someone I want to share my whole life with. But this certainty came with a whole lot of thinking, a whole lot of guidance, and a whole lot of prayer. So, choose the right person, and marriage won't be as scary as it seems.
'til then, Onward & Upward!