Tag Archives: engaged

You’re Too Young!!! When Should We Let Kids Be Adults?

“You simply don’t get to be wise, mature, etc., unless you’ve been a raving cannibal for thirty years or so.” –Doris Lessing

Hello friend,

I used to have a level-headed niece who I trusted to make sound life decisions.

As a 19-year-old college student bursting with potential, she struck me as independent and driven to carve out a unique path that would often–especially in the next decade or so–find her traveling the world alone to explore and share her talents and passions. Though she had had some serious romantic relationships in her past, she swore that it was not in the cards for her to “settle down” with anyone until she had lived out some of her dreams and established who she was as a real adult. I nodded my whole-hearted approval.

Then she turned 20 and got engaged in the space of a month.

What do I have now? And what can I say???

What can we really say to people we love–or anybody, really–when their life choices seem foolish to us?

I suppose part of my personal strategy for this dilemma works its way out in letters to you. I take most every issue that the average person wrestles with–politics, spirituality, family, money, social issues, dreams, relationships, and on and on–and hash them out in my journal, then write out my experiences and conclusions in these letters for anyone to read.

Not that I expect the people in my life to stay up-to-date on Journal of You just so they know how I feel about their life choices. But the actual writing process–both in my own journals and in these letters to you–has helped me to clarify my positions and given me a level of comfort in expressing them. So, when a topic comes up in conversation in the course of the day, I generally feel quite confident sharing my take.

At any rate, the habit of putting my stances out into the public sphere makes any sort of “approval” or “disapproval” I have of anyone’s life choices feel more general, not so personal. Like with marriage, I would hope that if I ever have a conversation with my 20-year-old niece about it, she would not take my position as a personal attack on her. Because let me be perfectly clear: the idea of people–I was tempted to say “kids,” but I caught myself–getting married (to say nothing of having children) in their early twenties seems absolutely foolish to me.

I think of myself at 20–or even 23 or 25 or 28–and I was so far away from knowing who I was and what I valued most. I had morals. I had opinions. I had passions, hopes, and dreams. I might even have been described as level-headed. But evolved enough and prepared to wisely choose my mate for life? Heck no!

My wife tells of the time that she and her college love were on vacation in Las Vegas and momentarily considered getting married before deciding against it. She laughs now at her luck, convinced that she would be miserable (or, more likely, divorced) if they had gone through with it.

But be clear: I am not just basing this on my personal path. I get that just because I wasn’t ready to marry in my early twenties–or late twenties, for that matter–that doesn’t mean no one could be. One of the benefits that comes with living for a while is that you get to witness a much bigger sample size when it comes to testing out your theories. Like most people, I know lots of people who married young. Many are still married. That fact does not sway my opinion at all.

And it is not that I have just come around to this idea in my forties, seeing people two decades younger than me as kids (of course, because I can’t be old!). No, growing up, I could never understand how my parents got married at 20 and 24, or later, how my older brother got married just out of college. I think I felt it most when my buddies started getting married, because I knew just how immature they were (did their spouses?). As with marriages at all ages, some have lasted, others haven’t. Some are probably blissful; others probably miserable, most somewhere in between. And again, just because it has worked out that way, my take on whether it was the right thing to do to marry young does not change.

Why, though? Why shouldn’t the failures of the older, “more mature” crowd dictate my opinion, causing it to skew more favorably to the early twenties cohort? I suppose that, for me, it has more to do with what I see them as missing out on when they “settle down” so young. It is all that personal development/figuring out who you are/building independence/learning by mistakes (and silliness)/understanding what you are getting into kind of stuff.

I think of the twenties as a time for all of that fun, growth, and inner and outer trailblazing. And I know that almost everyone who embraces and passes through that magnificent gauntlet of a decade comes through it quite a different animal. Different interests. Different dreams. Different relationships. I tend to think that that evolution gets stunted in people who marry so young. They evolve, but in a muted way, leaving room for more longing and regret later. It is like how older people with kids tend to think of people without kids: no matter how free and fun the childless people’s lives seem, there is nothing that could convince the parents that their own lives would be richer and better without kids. They almost can’t help but feel a bit (or a lot) bad for the childless. I have that same “You are missing out on something you can’t duplicate with other stuff” sense when it comes to people who marry without getting to experience the bulk of their twenties unmarried and childless.

So what do I do with this strong opinion? Not much, really. As an uncle, I have been known to share my opinions with my nieces and nephews as they mature. I tell the kids to explore themselves and their options in their twenties, and to not marry young. Not that it has had any effect so far: my oldest niece and nephew are 23 and already married or engaged, and my aforementioned 20-year-old niece will wed within the year. (Has any generation ever listened to their elders???) So I settle for a nudge to my own kids–now 8 and 10–when we get the wedding announcements of their cousins. They say in shock, “Cousin X is getting MARRIED???” And I say, “I know–crazy, right? She is very young to make that kind of commitment. Remember that when you are that age.”

It is similar to the way I pass on to them my considered–and journaled-about–opinions about things like how many children people should have and how old they should be when they have them. When they ask why they don’t have more siblings, I say something like, “Americans–including us–use a TON of the world’s energy and natural resources per person. Much more than our fair share. The planet is running out of these things AND being damaged by our overuse. So, for me, it didn’t feel very responsible to have more than two kids. Does that make sense? You can think about that when you are old enough to have kids (probably when you are in your thirties).”

When they ask why their cousins or friends have bigger families, I just say, “Those were the choices their parents made. Everyone sees the world differently, and everyone gets to make their own choices. Your job is to learn as much as you can about the things you have to decide so that you can become wise. Then you have to think about who you are and the kind of person you want to be. Your answer will come to you. Then you let everyone else make their own decisions, and be kind and respectful to them even if they do it differently than you. We are all trying to do our best, even if it doesn’t look that way.”

Because I don’t actually care enough–despite my strong opinions–to “judge” my nieces and nephews, or anyone else. Of all people, given the life I have led, I have no business (or interest) in making people feel bad for their lifestyle choices. I want people to unapologetically make their own decisions and be exactly who their soul calls out for them to be. (I think that highlights a crucial difference between being opinionated and being judgmental. I see the former as good, the latter not so much.)

It is why I have never been an advice-giver. Both personally and professionally, it has always been my habit to try to help the person in front of me to see the situation broadly and clearly and to ask them the type of powerful questions that will lead them to draw their own conclusions and take ownership of their choices. I think that is the best way to engage life’s difficult choices, with children and adults alike. When people–especially the “impressionable” people that we tend to be at until at least our late twenties–feel pressured or judged into making a decision by the opinions of others (such as their parents or their church), they never take full responsibility for the decision. They feel it is out of their hands and thus surrender to that wave of pressure, never fully addressing the most important question: Does this feel right and true FOR ME? If that question is given a full treatment, there is no other opinion worth considering.

In the end, then, I suppose my way with the kids-who-are-nearly-or-new-adults is this: to offer my opinions in advance, to help them to see their situations more clearly in the moment, and to quietly support them once their decisions are made (though, of course, believing my way is the best way!). They’re just kids, right? They need that support. We all do. I will keep doing my thing the best way I know how and hoping they see the light of wisdom and use it to guide them on this fantastic adventure called LIFE.

How about you? How do you handle yourself when other people don’t follow your model of the world? Open up your journal and think about your opinions and judgments. At what age, generally speaking, do you think the average person is mentally, emotionally, and experientially “ready” (a.k.a. mature enough) to get married? What is it about that age that brings you to that conclusion? Do you come to this opinion by your own experience–good or bad–with relationships, by the examples of people you have known, or just your sense of people? What do you think when people who are significantly younger than that age announce their engagement? Do you keep your reaction–shock, dismay, condemnation, whatever–inside, or do you share your thoughts with others? Do you give your opinion directly to the individual offender? What determines your decision to share your opinion or not? Is it a desire to spare their feelings, an obligation to save them from their foolishness, or do you just not care enough about the issue to raise it? How strong is your compulsion to impose your opinion on others? Does it depend on your relationship with the offender? Does it depend on how egregious you deem their error to be? Are there any relationships worth breaking over the person’s willingness to comply with your opinions? Does it make you feel inauthentic to hide your positions? Does this whole thing really come down to a matter of tact? How much older than your ideal marriage age is your suggested age to start parenting? What is the difference in maturity level necessary to parent well? How different are your suggested marriage and parenting ages than the legal ages to drive, drink, vote, or enlist in the military? How does that disparity strike you? No matter your current age, describe how you imagine most people change between 18 and 30. In what ways do they remain the same? Any? How drastically do a person’s standards and preferences change in that time? Drastically enough to hold off on marriage? What aspects of marrying young–and having kids young–are more desirable to you than waiting? Are there any lifestyle choices that others make that truly upset you? What is it about those that somehow get under your skin and push your buttons? What choices cause you to “judge” (i.e. condemn) someone rather than simply have an opinion about their choice? Do you consider yourself opinionated? How about judgmental? What would your family and friends say? If you are more judgmental than you would like, can you change your attitude? Would that lighten your load to let go of all that responsibility of policing people’s lives? How difficult is it to be supportive of someone you believe is making a life mistake? It would be a nice skill, though, right? Leave me a reply and let me know: How well you do let others live the lives of their choosing?

Love without condition,

William

P.S. If this letter helped to draw out some clarity in your own mind about how you operate, please share it on social media. Let’s support each other and celebrate our differences!

P.P.S. If this type of deep dive and questioning appeals to you, check out my book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at your favorite online retailers.

A New Year’s Question: How Do You Want to FEEL This Year?

DSC_0784“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” –Henry David Thoreau

Hello friend,

Happy New Year! Here we are again. Every year around this time, the millions and millions of people who have set resolutions for the coming year begin their quests to live better. They are going to the gym, quitting sugar or alcohol, looking for a new job, going back to school, reaching out to old friends, starting a journal (right???), or just being more patient. Whatever it is, people are starting something or quitting something in the name of improving themselves and being happier. That is definitely something I can get behind!

So, what about me? What is my big resolution? I am terrible at this! I really am. I have never really made resolutions. The last few years, though, have found me very contemplative around the holidays and looking ahead to the vast potential of the coming calendar cycle. It has been a fertile period for my mind to stew about what needs to be added to my life, how I need to get better, and what habits I need to develop to make my dreams come true. I want to advance the cause, after all, and what better time to check-in and refocus than the start of a new year?

I have come around to the practice of allowing my thoughts about this to radiate around one basic question: How do I want to FEEL this year? I think that for most people, the process of resolution-making at New Year’s begins with thoughts like “What do I want to DO this year?” or “What do I want to STOP DOING this year?” I can see how those thoughts could be effective for the majority of people, but I have found over the years that, as with most things, I don’t seem to fit in with the majority on this one.

When I base my thoughts around the DO THIS or DON”T DO THAT resolutions, they just don’t grow roots in my heart and soul. They don’t resonate. They feel like orders to me, and anyone who knows me knows that I don’t take orders very well! I cannot be put in a box. When I focus on how I want to feel, though, it allows me a range of DOs and DON’Ts that I can flow betwixt and between throughout the year, changing course as my intuition directs me toward the feelings I have deemed most desirable. It also keeps pushing me until the year ends, because as I complete one goal, the feeling I want still demands to be felt. Thus, I must press on to the next thing that will conjure the feeling. It is the right mix of demanding yet still flexible that suits my personality.

So, what do I want to feel this year? Well, the easiest answer for me every year is fit and healthy. I would like to heal up some injuries still lingering from last year and free my body to do all of the activities that free my soul. For the first time ever, feeling fit and healthy this year is also going to include a weight loss component. Although I have some initial plans for how that is going to work involving nutrition and different exercises, I will be open to the ways my body reacts. If I follow the feeling, it will keep me on the right track. The healthy feeling will be an easy one for me to chase and stay honest about.

The other feeling that has been pressing on my mind as I enter the New Year has proven to be tougher to pin down. The part that is clear is its source. Over the past several months, I have been feeling increasingly pent-up regarding my progress toward the life of my dreams. I have not been making it happen, and that drives me nuts. More and more nuts every day. I am trying to be realistic. I don’t expect all of my wildest dreams to come true this year. But I need to know I am taking real, measurable steps toward those dreams. I cannot be stalled. That part, I have found, is key for me. It is not enough to hit one of my goals and then stop for a while to revel in it. That is how I get the pent-up feeling that currently courses through my veins. The drumbeat of my soul’s calling never stops, so I must never stop marching to it.

What is the name of this feeling that I want to keep feeling, though? What do I call this thing that I want my goals and plans to revolve around? Bear with me here, because I know that writing myself through it will help me find clarity (which is exactly why I journal every day).

I want to feel like I am really advancing my dreams, making big progress toward the big rocks that I want/need to move to find any career peace and satisfaction. I want to end this uncertainty about whether I can succeed in making a living doing the things that I love. I know what I want my career to look like; I just have to make the vision a reality. So, there is a lot of doing to do. The excuse-making and procrastination have to be shut down hard. I must make those tangible steps. Things like getting coaching clients, writing jobs, getting through volumes of The Journal Project, and compiling a list of posts for a potential book based on Journal of You.

Okay, so is accomplishment a feeling? Maybe that’s it. I’m just dying to be doing my thing more often and reaching people. I want to feel like I am making a difference. Yes, now that strikes a chord in me! I want to feel like I am making a difference. I want to be making a positive impact on lots of people. Right now, I am not, and that is very discouraging. I want to get in the action! I’m pent-up. I need to get engaged. That would make me feel useful and effective. That would release some of this tension that I’ve been carrying around for too long. It would be a big weight off my shoulders. I would LOVE that! So, maybe that’s it. Maybe, in the end, what I really want to feel this year is relieved.   I want the relief of setting down my burden, a burden that amounts to not living my dream and not living up to my potential. If I could feel the relief of setting that burden down, it would be a wonderful year, indeed!

How about you? What is the feeling that would make this the best year for you? Open up your journal and think about your goals, dreams, plans, hopes, and resolutions for the coming year. Write them all down. Now think about the ways each of these achievements would make you feel. What are the feelings that come up inside you? How much do they change depending upon the plans or resolutions that you are thinking about? Do your biggest dreams elicit completely different emotions than your standard resolutions or plans? Is there anything you want to feel in the coming year that has not been stirred by your current goals and resolutions? Why do you think your plans have left that important feeling out? Is it something you feel to be unworthy of or too much to ask for? What do you think of my method of starting with my desired feelings and setting my plans and goals from there? Would it work for you, too? Do you make New Year’s resolutions every year? Why do you think you do or don’t? Do you make them often at other times of the year as well? How good are you at sticking to your resolutions or goals? Which types of resolutions do you have a good record with? Which type do you bail out of or fail at quickly? What is it about the goals themselves that make you more or less likely to succeed? Is it the feelings they will generate? What is the most important thing you plan to do this year? Leave me a reply and let me know: What will it feel like to live your best year? 

Your life is now,

William

P.S. If this made you consider your journey through Life in a different way, please share it with someone you know.