We are all familiar with the to-do lists, the lists of goals, and the bucket list of things to do and places we see before we die. Let’s face it, we all create these lists only to spend the better part of our adult lives modifying them, and even shrinking them, but what if we try to suggest an alternative to the get married in the late 20’s, own a house in the 30’s , and be a manager in the 40’s set of goals that have become the norm in our culture. I think that would be unthinkable to many because the majority of us start planning our lives according to a set timeline of the generations before us. For example, 25 year old girls announce that they should be married by 27, 30 something men worry about not owning a house, 30 something single women feel they are late in the race to have babies, 40 something men stress about not being managers and CEOs and the list goes on. When I hear such statements, I can’t help but wonder what are we late for exactly. Who exactly put the rules? Who sets the timelines, and who ever decided that not achieving what our parents and grandparents achieved at our age means we are late?
Given that I am only one month away from yet another birthday where I’m getting older and mildly wiser, I find that the biggest lesson I learned over the last two, not so fabulous years, was that life is a lot better when you cut down on the should have, could have, ought to, and must statements. If anything, such pointless phrases only make us feel bad about ourselves, and they place us in a race in which we compare ourselves to past generations who lived in a less expensive, less demanding, and more economical world. These rules were set by a generation that has no clue about the reality of life today. They simply do not apply.
Sure most of our parents had us before they turned 30, but then again they were also able to live a pretty good life on their salaries back then. In this day and age this scenario doesn’t even work. Thanks to the economic crises, and the socio-political unrest we see in our region, the average couple should expect to both work full time in order to cover their expenses, and of course they should both earn good salaries, and they should both contribute to the house expenses and that is just so that they don’t starve to death. On this occasion, let us just say sorry girls, the myth that the man is the man and that he should get you everything you need is busted, He simply can’t do that for you, it’s mathematically, economically, and socially not feasible anymore. You can forget about prince charming, he died while still in debt, and you can instead work and pay for your own things, including the hair, nails, and other grooming expenses you pile up on yourself. So, one cannot and should not be married at the age of 25, 27, or even 32, or more, unless his dad is daddy Warbucks of course and he has no problem with not doing anything on his own. It is safe to say that it is a challenge for young men and women to get married and have kids like our parents did.
The baby myth is a whole other story, let’s face it, not all girls are maternal, not all of them want to have kids, and few of them have the same genetics as Mary Poppins. Some girls choose to get ahead in their careers, they do make the four digit salaries, and they do find pride in what they do. I apologize on their behalf for not fulfilling that item on the “list”, but they did other things that are probably more fulfilling to them. Being bound to a “list”, set by society is exactly why arranged marriages are still popular in Jordan. They are the reason why a girl would meet a guy, they would click, they would have the right chemistry but they wouldn’t end up together just because a richer man happened to show up at the right time, and this right guy is ready fulfill society’s plan for her.
I would even say that loveless marriages are so common, to the point where they are almost the norm. After all, marriage is what you should do right? If you say you are looking for the real deal, and you prefer to stay single than settle, then you are not crossing out that item on the “list”. As for the management and real estate scenario, I can say sure our parents had homes and were probably managers by the time they hit 40, but then again their managers retired thus giving them the space to go up the corporate ladder. Thanks to the economic crises, people don’t retire before their late 60s these days. They can’t afford to. They remain managers only to leave individuals in their mid-30s and mid 40s stuck in middle management. So, yes the should be manager item doesn’t apply in this day and age. You are lucky if you have a job to begin with and you are very lucky if you can afford a mortgage on a house in your 30s. Of course again if your father is Daddy Warbucks then that is a different story.
Maybe today’s 30 something or 40 something single person’s list includes “Climbing mount Everest”, “Traveling to Paris”, “writing a book”, “Getting a PHD”, “Running marathon, “Traveling the world”, or “Going Bunge jumping”, These are also very legitimate goals, even if society finds them silly. So let’s all cross out the “list” because it is based on a world of past generations that doesn’t apply to today. After all, not everyone who isn’t a manager didn’t make it, and not everyone who didn’t marry is hopeless, and not everyone who doesn’t have kids is secretly crying about it at night. Those mid-30s and mid 40s people who didn’t stick to society’s plan may be setting their own new definition of happiness even if society doesn’t agree with it. So, let’s replace the “list” with the simple resolution to “Live and be happy”, the older generations, society, and every other facet in the community who feels they must be involved in the personal choices of individuals will eventually learn to deal with it. The trick is to never settle for anything less than what you want.