My wife and I were married three years ago today.
Three whole years.
That means we have another seven until we can start pretending like we know a thing or two, and probably another twenty until we actually do.
At the moment we're still novices. And we're young. I was 24 when we met and got engaged and 25 when we tied the knot. That would make us pretty run of the mill by our grandparents' standards, but not anymore. These days we're practically a Ripley's Believe It Or Not exhibit.
People are downright befuddled to come across a 20-something with a wedding ring, much less a couple of carseats in the back of the sedan.
There's a good reason for their shocked amazement. Indeed, young families are a dying breed.
It seems every week we get a new report illustrating what we already know: young people aren't getting married. Millennials are delaying marriage longer than any generation before us, and according to some studies, more than 25 percent of us will never take the plunge at all.
We are, without a doubt, the most marriage-averse group in human history.
Every generation leaves its own mark on the world, and this is ours. Rejecting an institution that is integral to our advancement as a species; that will be our legacy. Maybe our kids -- the dozen or so we collectively produce -- will continue this process of self-destruction by being the first to voluntarily give up on water and oxygen.
Who knows? We can't tell them how to live, man.
So I'd like to take the occasion of my wedding anniversary to offer some needed encouragement to my millennial peers.
I implore you, friends, don't be afraid of marriage.
Look, I've been young and single. In fact, I've been more single than many of you, as I lived completely on my own -- no roommates or live-in girlfriends -- for the first five years of my twenties. And I've also been young and married with kids and responsibilities. If I could choose between the two, I'd take young and married every time, without a doubt.
You won't hear this from very many people anymore, but this is my advice: get married young. Have kids. Don't be scared of growing up.
Most people are supposed to venture out into the world and start families while they are still young and full of life and energy.
Most people. I didn't say all. I didn't say every. I didn't say there aren't exceptions or that people don't have different vocations and callings in life. I said most. As a fundamental, general principle, human beings shouldn't wait until they're 35 or 40 to start a family. That's what our twenties are for.
Now -- with the already-stated disclaimer that I am an not a marriage expert and I do not mean to suggest that the following points apply equally to literally every single human being who has ever walked the face of the Earth -- I'm going to give you eight solid reasons why young people should start thinking about marriage and kids now, rather than two and a half decades from now.
1) You don't need money to get married.
What is with this 'I can't afford to get married' stuff? There isn't an hourly fee attached to marriage, as far as I'm aware. If there is, I don't know how I managed to pay it three years ago when my salary was a whopping 400 bucks a week.
Besides, every day I see a link on Facebook to ridiculous clickbait websites like Elite Daily or Thought Catalog, explaining the '30 Things You Should Try in Your Twenties,' or some such nonsense, and the list always includes traveling, partying, and hanging out at bars.
What do all of these things have in common?
They cost money. A lot of it, actually. We don't get married or have kids because we 'can't afford it,' but we certainly don't let our limited finances get in the way of our recreational activities. And we definitely won't allow our minimal income to prevent us from collecting all of the latest Apple products.
We can't afford to be spouses and parents, but we can sure afford to be extremely active consumers.
Something seems a little off balance here.
Really, in a culture overrun with consumerism, very few people can claim they 'don't have the money' to do important things. It's not a matter of a lack of resources at all -- it's a matter of jumbled priorities.
In any case, money or no money, the good news is that marriage is free. Sure, the ceremony might cost you a penny or two or million, but married life doesn't come with a specific price tag.
Neither do kids, incidentally. I know economists like to assign completely arbitrary cost figures to raising kids -- I think it's over a quarter million dollars now -- but I can tell you unequivocally that it's all nonsense. My parents raised six kids. By these calculations, they would have plunked down around 1.5 million dollars throughout my childhood.
They didn't. Not even close. In fact, there are many large families out there who manage to survive and thrive on solidly lower-middle class incomes. It's not magic. It's just a matter of controlling your impulses and exercising a little discipline.
2) You aren't your parents.
I'm lucky. My parents have been married for over 30 years and provided me and my siblings with an incredible example of what marital love and fidelity looks like.
Many of my peers were not so fortunate.
Millions grew up in chaotic homes, witnessing the daily horror of selfish, immature parents verbally and emotionally tearing each other apart, until one finally left, dooming the kids to a childhood of guilt and abandonment.
A great many Millennials came of age in this kind of tumultuous, spiritually violent environment. Having seen nothing but failed marriages and bitter divorces -- having never witnessed a healthy, stable, married life -- they've become incredibly jaded.
Marriage is misery, they think, and I can't blame them for feeling that way. Still, it's about time they come to understand that their parents made choices. They chose to have that kind of marriage.
You do not have to make the same choice.
You are not your parents.
You have seen a bad marriage, now go and make a better one.
3) Marriage is about experiencing life with your spouse by your side.
There's a very basic and very lethal flaw in the "I'll get married once everything is perfect in my life" philosophy. Actually, two.
First, nothing will ever be perfect. Sorry.
Second, a big advantage to marriage is that it gives you the wonderful opportunity to traverse the peaks and valleys of life with your husband or wife beside you.
Maybe this is another reason behind the divorce epidemic. We don't go into marriage prepared to meet any serious challenges because we think we're supposed to wait until all of those challenges have passed. But they're never gone for good, so when they inevitably reappear we start looking for the nearest exit. "Hey! What is this -- an obstacle? I didn't sign up for this!"
4) Youth is a gift.
There's a reason why we idolize youth in our culture (though to an unhealthy degree). With youth comes health, energy, endurance, and vitality. These are good things; they give us purpose and promise in our younger years.
The question is how do we use these gifts? Or, more importantly, who do we give these gifts to?
Do we keep them to ourselves? Do we use them to become more passionate consumers, more fervent video game players, and more enthusiastic bar patrons? Do we devote them entirely to our employer in the name of being more perfect servants to our corporate masters? Or do we give them to our spouse and then to our children?
Which is the most worthy and worthwhile cause?
On a related note, Facebook and Apple recently announced an exciting new health benefit: they'll pay to have their female employees' eggs frozen so that the women on their payroll can concentrate on attending meetings and doing their boss' bidding without worrying about any pesky children showing up and getting in the way.
Feminists have called this empowerment, but I think we can call it another cultural nadir. We have sunken so low that now we treat children as leftovers, storing the ingredients in the freezer, hoping to come back to them at a more convenient time.
But kids are not last night's casserole and our biology is not something that we should try to circumvent.
We give our youth to our bosses and our cubicles and then bring (or try to bring) children and spouses into the equation once we're tired and beaten down after years of serving ourselves and our career ambitions.
It's crazy. And I mean really crazy, especially now that we've started removing body parts in order to ensure that kids don't spoil our chances of climbing into the next tax bracket.
This is the kind of behavior that our ancestors would look upon with pure bewilderment and disgust.
I know how they feel.
5) Family life is edifying.
You won't miraculously turn into a better person because you got married and had kids, obviously. But, at their essence, families are built and held together through sacrificial love, and this is something that can -- if you give yourself over to it -- sanctify you and bring you closer to God.
When you pour your energies and efforts into serving and loving your spouse, raising your children, and guiding your family, you'll find that, inevitably, you grow and mature in the process.
I'm not suggesting that anyone run out and get married as some sort of self-help strategy. I am, however, saying that your bond with your spouse and your children has the ability to change you and illuminate your life in ways that nothing else can. Best friends, siblings, parents -- none of these relationships have quite the same kind of potential.
Certainly, live-in girlfriends and boyfriends are no replacement for the commitment, sacrifice, and profound love of a family joined together through the sacrament of marriage.
6) You don't have to wait for 'The One.'
This isn't The Matrix, nor are we living in some godforsaken Disney movie. I can't believe, with all of our modern cynicism, that we still hang onto the fairy tale notion that there is one single, specific individual waiting out there, looking up at the moon longing for the romantic embrace of the one and only person destined to be their lover for all eternity.
I don't mean to scandalize you, but here's the reality: The One doesn't exist.
You aren't fated to love any particular person. You choose to love them, and when you marry them you reaffirm that choice every day, forever, until death do you part. There's nothing written in the stars. It's got nothing to do with destiny or whatever silly crap you read in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
If you've been through 14 relationships, throwing yourself into them before high tailing out of there at the first sign of trouble, I have bad news: 'The One' won't suddenly appear out of the wilderness with 'MARRY ME' tattooed across their forehead. And if someone like that does emerge from the forest one day -- run. Call the cops.
The truth is, the one you marry is The One. That's all. You married them so they are The One. There is zero chance that you get married only to find out that your mystical soul mate was actually on an expedition in Antarctica this whole time, and if you'd held out a little longer you could have lived happily ever after.
Marriage bonds you eternally to your spouse, making them your soul mate and nobody else. Period. That's all there is to it.
7) Biology is a thing.
Now, I ain't no scientist or nothin', but I'm pretty sure there is a limited period of time when a woman can naturally conceive children. I think, at the very least, we ought to take this as a strong hint that it isn't necessarily advisable to save having a family for the precise point in our lives when having a family is potentially physically impossible.
And even before it becomes impossible, it becomes increasingly risky as women get older. I'm not saying that women in their late 30's shouldn't have kids, only that it's usually not the best strategy to wait until then to start trying.
Our fertility is not a disease. Our biology is not a mistake. Our bodies definitely have an opinion about when we should start making a family, and I think we should probably listen.
8) It'll be the best adventure of your life.
We're young. We're risk takers. Thrill seekers. We're bold and ambitious. We're the strivers, the dreamers, the fighters, the revolutionaries.
So if you really want to do something bold and beautiful with your youth -- love someone, commit to them, have kids, forge a place in this world for you and your family. You can go stare at buildings in Europe and walk across sandy beaches on the Pacific, but none of those experiences will teach you more about yourself and the world than staring into someone's eyes and saying "I do," or holding your child and swearing silently to God that you will gladly die for this little being in your arms.
In the end, these are the things most of us long for, whether we know it or not. We want to commit ourselves to that which is greater than ourselves. We want to love, to fight, to live for something.
But society urges us to concentrate our efforts elsewhere. That's why you can type 'things you should do in your twenties' into Google, and you'll get a bunch of articles listing everything but 'get married and have kids.' Cosmopolitan magazine encourages its readers to dedicate their twenties to having sex with hot guys and wearing brightly colored shirts at rock festivals. Buzzfeed tells us to act goofy and get plenty of AIDS tests. Another site advises us to drunk dial our exes, dye our hair blue, and dance.
No time for marriage and kids when we're too busy sitting with our blue hair at Walgreens waiting for our Valtrex prescription, I guess.
This is what our culture wants of us. It wants us to whittle away an entire decade pretending that we're still teenagers on spring break.
But I think we're capable of more than that.
I think we're capable of great things.
And there's nothing greater than starting a family.