March 9, 2023 / Hafsa Haider
Dissolving a bitter tab on my tongue was far more palatable than taking a premature trip to the afterlife.
I was 17 and standing on a razor's edge between my old life and an entirely new one. I desired nothing more from my time on Earth than to feel everything as intensely as I could, from euphoria to despair. Yet I found my experiences restricted by the suffocating guidelines set by my Muslim family and Islamic school. As graduation approached, I acknowledged that the parasitic doubts that had been growing inside of me and eating me alive needed to be treated, or they would kill me.
I swallowed philosophical lectures and devoured religious texts, but the gnawing lingered. I couldn’t choose. I couldn’t choose with the half-baked pink matter behind my eyes. I couldn’t make the cosmic decision of who I would be on my own — I needed some older, wiser being to make it for me. I needed more than man-made words and ideas. I needed to wipe the slate clean, tabula rasa, and see reality without my faulty mental programming. I needed to get higher — high enough to speak to God myself. Dissolving a bitter tab on my tongue was far more palatable than taking a premature trip to the afterlife.
So, one full-mooned Fourth of July, after the fireworks died, I sat at the desk where everything happened in my room and placed two tiny squares on my virgin tongue. I chewed the bitter paper until it dissolved, wanting to waste not a molecule of potential wisdom.
Several skipped heartbeats later and my eyes were now black holes. It was nothing I expected but everything I wanted. For the first time, I was caught by surprise. For the first time, I was certain I was alive. Everything was just as alive as I: the carpet was breathing, my fairy lights were a billion pairs of eyes, and the trees – oh, I needed to go talk to the trees. I drifted down the stairs and out the door, guided through my pitch black childhood home by my body’s memory alone. The trees greeted me with excited waves and dances. Some may say it was just the wind making the branches sway — but I understood then that the Universe doesn’t work that way. The trees and the wind come from the same Source, and every moment in our reality is the product of children of the void working in harmony. I too am a product of this void, incomprehensible and unimaginable by its very nature. Stars winked and told me they were putting on a show tonight and I was the only audience member. The moon was shining brighter than the sun. She told me she would protect me tonight, and for all eternity should I need her to.
As I melted into the sofa under the night sky, I became less and less. When I was almost nothing, it occurred to me that I may be dying. If I was, there was nothing I could do about it. If I was, all I could do was let go. Once I accepted this, I became more and more, everything and nothing.
At some point I teleported back to my bedroom. I looked down and found a gold-embroidered copy of the Quran in my hands, reminding me of the intention I’d set to dissect the book that held my life in its hands. A voice wiser than the one who told me not to judge a book by its cover whispered, “A book is just a book – 604 pages cannot contain the secrets of a Universe. Look around. What you see is an unfathomably small portion of all that is.” In an instant, I was free. I never again had to feel guilty for feeling the sun on my bare skin, listening to music, or kissing a beautiful stranger. God wasn’t angry with me. I had arrived at the catharsis that I had been yearning for my whole life. I was simultaneously inflated and humbled. As the illusory fear of divine punishment and eternal damnation disappeared, I felt warmer and lighter than I ever had, as if I would float away without the pile of fluffy blankets tethering me to the Earth.
My sandpaper tongue served as a reminder that I still required water. As I drank, I felt every sip permeating and healing the cells of my body. I emerged from my blanket cocoon to look in the mirror. My skin was covered in luminescent, swirling patterns in vibrant colors not native to this dimension. I stared into my own eyes, trying to see who I was now. A somehow familiar yet alien voice (perhaps my higher self) said, “I see the world through your eyes,” and I knew then that I was the Universe experiencing itself through the eyes of this one human for a little while. And if I am the Universe, so are you.
I closed my eyes and became only soul, no body. The ephemeral blood, bones, and skin separating me from everything else were irrelevant. There was nothing left of me but eternal consciousness — nothing to think about, nothing to decide, nothing to do. Through the Alan Watts lecture playing in my AirPods, I received a divine revelation: “The meaning of life is just to be alive; it’s so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet everybody rushes about in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” What would I do now that I had been let in on this secret?
As the sun rose, the birds sang a lullaby to help me sleep and I thought, I’m so lucky. Tomorrow I will wake up and I won’t have to decide who to be — I will simply be. ■
By: Hafsa Haider
Graphics: Victoria Porter
Graphics: Victoria Porter
March 3, 2023 / Pebbles Moomau
A back-and-forth reflection during road trips between my two homes.
Driving back and forth from California to Texas is a 26-hour drive of only going straight for hours at a time. It consists of glancing down at Google Maps, noticing with gutting surprise that your ETA hasn’t budged, and none of the songs in your playlist hit the right way. It’s an excursion of being awake with your hands on ten and two with a foot constantly changing between the gas and brake (I get too stressed out relying on cruise control).
Some hours are grueling, flat, boring, and gray. During others, you drive through every color: red rocks, orange sunsets, tall yellow grass, green hills as you leave Gilroy heading toward southern California, and pink Arizona skies. Like clockwork, the sun bleeds orange on the dead grass, beaming a golden glow onto your face and inundating you with the vastness of the world.
The thesis of driving between states is all about motion. Mental motion.
One second, I’m settled in my apartment at school with my best friends, my own groceries, and a job. The next, I’m thrown back into the adolescent universe where I wore a plaid skirt and polo for four years and the space of solitude throughout a pandemic.
I roleplay, revert back, and get re-rerooted into the routines of my past life for one month of winter break and two months of summer. And I grow comfortable. Then, right when I’m settled back in, my roots are pulled out from under me, and I spew back to the present day. It’s a sudden, unsettling back and forth.
Two bedrooms with two posters. Two iced-chai-with-oat-milk spots. Two late-night-drive routes. Two grocery stores. Two friend groups. Two pets: my family dogs and my roommate’s cat. Two time zones. Two versions of me.
I separate and dictate the chapters of my life based on my road trips between my two homes. Driving 26 hours (in either direction) solidifies the end of one life for me and the resumption of another. It’s a three-day drive of peace and reflection, a mandatory exhale. My drives are a grace period — my life is on pause. I remove myself from my roles of Pebbles in San Jose and Pebbles in Austin. I don’t owe anyone anything for three days. I’m off the grid.
Sometimes when I’m driving on the two-way highway, I think about the cars going in the opposite direction. I wonder where they’re going and why. What did they experience? Are they leaving for school too? Starting a new job? Falling in love? Breaking up? Are they scared?
I think about whoever I was the last time I was going in their direction. What were my worries then? What was stressing me out? Who was I daydreaming about? What poem was I writing? Each way, I reflect on the new people, new guilt, or new fun in my life. The interstates have seen all the versions of me, past and present, and they’ll see versions of myself that I haven’t met yet. Every time I’m on the interstate, I’m different. Sometimes drastically, like a new major, passion project, or friend; sometimes just gently, like a new t-shirt, scab, or overplayed song.
I get a murky, reflective feeling every time I leave San Jose or Austin. It’s not a fear of leaving, nor is it homesickness. I experience dread leaving one, and then dread again leaving the other. Maybe it’s my hesitancy to change? Or knowing I have to leave eventually? I force myself to separate my life into chapters because I get scared I’ll be the same. I make sure there is something different about me in each direction because there’s no new chapter if there are no distinct changes — and that’s horrifying. I must prove to myself that I’m evolving, growing, learning, hurting, rejoicing.
The two options of routes I take are
- I-10, which passes through the southern parts of the country: El Paso, TX; Las Cruces, NM; Phoenix, AZ; and into California.
- I-40, the northern parts of each state: Amarillo, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Barstow, CA; then up north.
Different trees and different colors of sunsets. One’s a little windier, and the other flatter. One has more cacti, the other has more trees. One feels like a scurry back home, and the other feels like slow motion.
August 2021 was the first time I drove to Texas. There were nerves, a thrill, and curiosity over what the next few months would bring. I did the 12-hour drive to Phoenix by myself and then picked up my dad from the airport that night. Those 12 hours alone were vital to fully grasp that I was leaving the only life I knew. The girl in the Cane’s drive-thru in Bakersfield saw my packed-up car and wished me luck for my semester. I still wonder if she knew how much I needed that. I remember the sunset and learning that Palm Springs actually does spill of palm trees. In the evening haziness, I realized it was mere hours before I crossed state lines and departed from the version of myself I knew. I saw my first real-life cartoon-looking cactus with long arms overarching me and squealed.
December 2021 is when I drove with my best friend from Texas to California. We didn’t know each other in August, but we experienced our first semester in Austin side-by-side. We meshed in a way that driving four days together felt natural. Instead of speeding home, we took the tourist route: Roswell, New Mexico, to visit the International UFO Museum (and UFO-shaped McDonalds), then Flagstaff, Arizona, to see the Grand Canyon. We bought mittens at a gas station in Williams, Arizona, because we failed to check the weather before departing and froze our asses off.
We sang our hearts out to “Telescope” by Cage the Elephant and “Me & My Dog” by boygenius. Silences were never awkward, and we brainstormed what we wanted to write a book about. December was juvenile independence: we were young, old, and free all at once. We were taking on the world one gas station at a time. I learned the virtues of friendship then, and realized this was someone who would be in my world for lifetimes.
I stalled leaving California for as long as I could, so my dad and I rushed back to Austin in January 2022. This time, driving back to school was filled with dread: I was driving toward my doomsday. I didn’t want to take classes I didn’t care about and fend for myself again. My roots were most tightly planted in San Jose soil. Semester one was exhilarating, but so damn exhausting. My dad and I raced to the Austin airport and said quick goodbyes as he rushed out of the car. To second semester I go. Filled with dread, fear, and hesitation — the goodbye didn’t feel proper, and I certainly didn’t feel ready.
By May 2022, I had survived a tumultuous semester. My dad and I dedicated extra days to sightsee and clear our heads. So, I picked him up from the Albuquerque airport and we went north to visit a few of Utah’s national parks like Arches and Canyonlands. I felt peace settle in every part of my body as I walked through the red rocks, finding solace in the quiet as I escaped my own chaos. Off-the-grid isolation was reassuring; sometimes I tell my dad that if things go sour, I’ll live in a town with a population of 300 and be a speck amidst the rocks. Maybe I’ll take up waitressing.
Summer 2022 was for working in an office, house- and dog-sitting, and online Nutrition and Spanish classes. In fact, bliss is actually defined as soaking in UV rays in a stranger’s backyard, buying tickets to see Bleachers the night before the concert, and journaling all summer. Over this time, I met someone, so out of impulse and summer spontaneity, they joined me on my drive back to Texas in August 2022. We went through Bakersfield for a burrito, then Flagstaff and up to Dallas. We visited barbecue joints, an ice cave, and a dinosaur museum somewhere in New Mexico. They helped with my Spanish homework every night.
The three and a half days were vulnerable. What if we hated each other by the end? Or worse: what if we still liked each other? The drive was for learning deeply about someone simply because there was nothing else to talk about; it was about giving yourself up completely to coexist with another. What are they like when they’re cranky? Hungry? Stressed? Exhilarated? Do they talk in their sleep? Snore?
The trip was beautiful because it was finite. We were driving toward the start of a school year with different time zones, responsibilities, priorities, old flames, and rituals. Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if the drive had lasted an hour longer. Would we have been different people then?
I dropped them off in Dallas to visit a friend from school. I drove to Austin silently. This time, alone was jarring. I thought of all the questions I’d forgotten to ask. Do you like to go camping? Do you wear your retainer every single night? What’s the scariest moment of your life? Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you also feel like your perception of relationships is completely shattered? Can I see you tomorrow? What about next week? Will I ever see you again? I faced the reality that we had to live in our separate universes; — me in mine and them in theirs — but I still hummed their song.
Over the semester, my roommates and I started and finished “Breaking Bad,” so December 2022 was dedicated to the city of Albuquerque. I went with my best friend again — another December of heading to California. We went to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. We got our other roommate a Breaking Bad shot glass from a tourist shop. We went through a snowy forest on a mountain range and then hills upon hills of cacti. There were so many cacti that I almost started believing in heaven.
During the fall, I had gained accountability and got a better grasp of my life. I had secretly applied to double major in my dream major and got accepted over Christmas break. This time, January 2023, I was driving toward a semester I was actually looking forward to. My dad and I stopped at a diner and I pulled my laptop out and used his phone’s hotspot to register for new classes. I realized that this little town, this restaurant, hell, maybe even the booth, were all here before the main freeway was. I was just a momentary figment there, and I would fade into a memory just like this booth would for me. I got to soak in and exist in this place with my burger, my dad, and the laptop loading to determine my future. And then, like I did from the other restaurants I’d already forgotten about from all of my drives before, I’d depart.
When I got back to my apartment a few weeks ago, after I dropped my dad off at the airport, he texted me that somehow the drive feels shorter each time. And I agree. All of my road trips are a bit blurred and jumbled together. The sights and cities aren’t new, so there’s no initial thrill. The only newness is the different small town we decide to stay at for the night or the restaurants that later slip away into time. I mourn for all the revelations, waitresses, hotels, gas stations, internal monologues, and song lyrics I made up that I’ve now forgotten. Yet, that’s the fun of it — so many stories and faces I’ll never see again, who saw me for a sliver of my life (whoever I was then).
If I wanted to, I could scout the validity of my relationships with others based on who I would and wouldn’t want to drive with. The interstates are refreshing despite being familiar, and driving for days is reflective and intimate no matter who I do it with, but most importantly, it’s intimate with myself.
I have time to bond with whomever is in my passenger seat. But more importantly, I have me. Old and new. Broken and healed. Thrilled and scared. Reverting and blooming and rooting. Going back and forth between my life of twos with only one of me. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and. ■
By: Pebbles Moomau
Graphics: Vianey Trejo
Graphics: Vianey Trejo
Le Vicomte de Labrye
March 1, 2023 / Candice Chepda
Is it time to stop the 23andMe craze?
We would all like to know where we come from. However, I have always wondered if genealogy facilitates the construction of one’s identity or if it merely diminishes family histories.
I began inquiring into my genealogy last summer for two reasons. First, I wanted to find someone rich. Maybe if an ancestor of mine was an aristocrat, I could claim their hypothetically abandoned chateau for myself — we are in a housing crisis, after all! — and bask in my completely undeserved glory. If this certain vicomte (the nobleman I counted upon) refused to show his face on a branch of my tree, I at least hoped for an ancestor of historical relevance.
Lo and behold… I found neither.
Genealogy is the study of family ancestries, in which one must sift through copious amounts of archives researching oddly-named strangers — I’m looking at you, Zozime Modeste Sénateur — to establish an account of descendants. After months of this seemingly endless task, one which sprouts two heads for every birth certificate found and four heads for a marriage license, I concluded that I came from a long line of peasants. Embarrassingly, I found it difficult to hide my disappointment. But with time, I grew to feel much pride in my heritage and figured that my ancestry meant absolutely nothing and everything all at once.
Although genealogy is an integral part of many cultures across the globe through ancestral worship, oral narration and other practices, my family rarely cared for passing down stories about our ancestors unless someone directly asked them to. My mother started mapping out her family tree when she was in high school, but the technology available at the time did not allow her to go very far without direct access to archival records.
Alex Haley’s “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” (1970) popularized the practice in the United States. The book followed the story of Kunta Kinte, a slave from Gambia, and his descendants through seven generations, expressing the author’s earnest longing to connect to his past. This message strongly resonated with Americans, especially African Americans, who yearned to understand their ethnic origins and heal the genealogical trauma of the slave trade. Other ethnic groups similarly used genealogy in an effort to understand their immigration stories and shape their present selfhood. However, my mother never started inquiring into her ascendance as a search for herself but out of pure curiosity. Growing up in Picardy and having Norman parents was hardly the identity crisis of a family tree hacked apart by centuries of deracination. Nevertheless, the search for one’s ancestors is meaningful, regardless of one’s cultural background. It explains various traditions that have persisted through generations and crystallizes the DNA of a family. Most importantly, it creates a narrative from which one may infer their present realities. Why does that matter?
Why are we obsessed with knowing where we came from? How does the journey of strangers who passed away a long time ago say anything about who you are as a person and what your place is in the world? We are not the sum of the places we have existed in, nor are we the confluence of endlessly intertwined stories. We are whole on our own.
If I’m honest with myself, I did not start my inquiry for wealth or historical relevance. I wanted to prove that I was a true Norman. I have a confession: I did not grow up in France. In fact, I only lived there for a whopping three years during my childhood. As a consequence, I have often heard people dismiss my cultural identity as performative and not inherent. While not entirely wrong, the dismissal of one’s identity — however self-crafted — is a sting of a special sort. But, when I found these many generations of born and bred Normans buried in the (digital) archives of distant villages I had never heard of, I felt absolutely nothing.
A genealogical inquiry can be as exciting as it is superfluous. As I gradually placed names on the ever-growing branches of my family tree, I realized that I did not feel any different before and after the process. I was merely finding birth dates, marriages, professions, and deaths. Occasionally, I would stumble onto an address yet ultimately hit a roadblock when finding that an ancestor’s father was unknown. However, this familial archaeology did little to construct a family history made up of different personalities and characteristics. My efforts failed to forge an identity based on common values and beliefs.
I realized that the best genealogical studies cannot be measured in the number of generations traced but in the amount of actual stories uncovered. Although I did not find an ancestor who fought in the French Revolution, I found a way to connect to my present family. Living as an expatriate for most of my life, I haven’t had the chance to see my extended family often. Years passed until I could no longer hold a conversation with my grandparents. I was so physically and emotionally detached from my country that I lost all interest in learning about my roots. So, when I started my genealogy, I was inspired to ask my grandparents questions about my ancestors. Their endless stories were what brought my tree to life, not the hundreds of archives I painstakingly dissected for a fraction of a person’s life. No amount of research could have recounted how my great-grandmother opened her own delicatessen and dairy shop in Formerie before ultimately moving back in with her father when the Second World War split France in half.
I will never forget the look on my grandmother’s face when I printed a copy of her family tree. Her eyes lit up as she instantly started pointing at the names she remembered. Her eyebrows lifted as she learned about a distant aunt’s single mother or another tumultuous marriage. Her lips curled up at the many locations she remembered visiting as a child. And her arms extended to my grandfather so he could revel in her enthusiasm.
So what if my family is condemned to our memories? I have come to understand the importance of passing on stories, however banal they may seem, to fortify the links that connect us. I may not have learned much about myself in the process. However, I have begun to assemble the portrait of a family I have long misunderstood. ■
By: Candice Chepda
Graphics: Binny Bae
Graphics: Binny Bae
February 23, 2023 / Katlynn Fox
Are you looking at me even when I'm not looking at you?
I can’t help but shuffle the best photos on my profile around in an order that will strategically entice my viewers. Does my arm look too big in this one? Should I start with an open-mouth smile or closed? Just in case someone notices my teeth are slightly crooked on the bottom.
I want to live in a person’s mind the way I exist in my home online: eternally curated for their viewing pleasure. My heart is my digital footprint and it beats to the sound of a notification hitting my phone. It feeds my inner desire, my need to appear perfect. If a hair is out of place it is because I put it there. I do not fear perception on the World Wide Web; I crave it. I itch to control it. There is a monster behind the keyboard who watches the screen with glazed-over eyes and claws furiously at the keys. I catch my own eyes in the reflection of the phone and jump. My shoulders tense with anxiety that only eases with another like.
I have to make sure my prompts are just right, elusive yet enticing. I could include something about my music taste. A song that isn’t too underground but definitely not mainstream. I need to mention my love for fall and my obsession with my dog.
I put that I'm a student, an intern, a lover, and a fighter. I must maintain my mystique. I can’t let them know too much. If they know too much and still decide they don’t like me, it’s devastating. If they don’t know enough and decide they don’t like me, it’s because I didn’t want them to. I am secretive; I am protecting myself.
I once had higher hopes. The promise of meeting someone and the boost of confidence when they sent a like or a rose my way was exhilarating at first, the burst of pride. Yes! It worked! I have fooled everyone into thinking I am worthy of some meaningless small talk and the promise of roses on Valentine’s Day and a thousand coffee dates adorned with smiles and shared jokes.
But, of course, there were only 112 unread messages sitting in my inbox. 112 faceless matches who I couldn’t find the energy to entertain beyond the playground of my mind. I’ll swing on the swing set and slide down the slide but they will never hear a reply.
Before I became jaded by my online endeavors, I floated with a lightness that can only be brought out by a simple crush. I would lay awake at night furiously texting back and forth, grins hidden under my comforter. I tried to block the blue light from reaching my sleeping roommate. We talked about books and music and traded witty comments for hits of dopamine. It was a rush to feel that infatuation again. I was finally playing the game right. If I moved my piece four spaces ahead instead of two to the left, maybe I could win. After days that felt like weeks of texting, we made plans to meet. Coffee. Noncommittal.
On a perfect day in April, I was sitting there on that wooden bench at the coffee shop, which I’ve since moved closer to and now have to walk past daily. I was staring a hole through my sour lemonade that I wished I hadn’t bought. I had been waiting for the match to message me back after sending the classic “i’m here! :)” text. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. Forty-five minutes later, the match texted me some excuse about losing track of time. I blocked them before my ego could deflate completely. Ouch.
People with online dating profiles once feared getting catfished by a blonde supermodels' photos while some greasy-haired man sat behind the computer screen. I fear something else entirely. Something that has nothing to do with MTV’s hit show hosted by Nev and Max. I’m afraid of rejection.
I hated being the one that was more invested. I vowed to never sit on a wooden bench and let a perfect day be wasted on someone who didn’t have the decency to show up ever again. From then on, I had to be the one who was worshiped. To be chased and never do the chasing. Manifestations chant on a loop in my head, “I do not chase; I attract.”
Yet I still exist on the platform in a constant loop. I receive the messages and never send them back. It's monotonous to receive an influx of the same “hey, what are you doing right now” or the “you’re beautiful” messages, but I can’t stop.
I want to be desired. I want them to love me and to think of me fondly when their eyes close at night. I yearn to fall in love with a fleeting face, never to be seen again. Graze fingertips and not lips, well, maybe, but only for a second. For one moment in time, I hope they see into our future. Holding hands while we sway with the breeze. Sharing glances over a plate of pasta in a dimly lit Italian restaurant. I don’t need to be remembered; I just need to be adored for one second and I’ll be fine. The temporary validation will keep me fed through the winter.
It feels more hollow now. To date online is to have every encounter reduced down to a set of six photos and three prompts. Instant gratification comes and fades faster. Everything I've ever wanted is right at my fingertips! Someone to call me pretty, an admirer to confirm that I’m smart. What else could I possibly need? Could I even handle the weight of an in-person interaction after basing my entire self-worth on the shoulders of people who know nothing about me? They are made of a binary code, while I am flesh and bone and beauty. The people in my phone are AI personalities attempting to mimic emotion and thought. I am beyond them in every way but one: I need them more than they need me. I need their validation.
I found myself falling deeper and deeper into the pit. I’d obsess over the numbers. I’d get annoyed when someone didn’t start the conversation first. It’s addicting and damaging, but how will I know if I am worth anything unless a stranger on the internet confirms it?
Online dating is a rabbit hole. Please, God, don’t let me back on Hinge. ■
By: Katlynn Fox
Graphics: Tyson Humbert
Graphics: Tyson Humbert
Long-Distance Love & Marrying Young
February 14, 2023 / Gracie Warhurst
A defense of my not-so-popular relationship decisions.
I receive a text at 1:43 a.m. on a night out. I wanna get married.
Though we’ve said these words to each other many times before, I smile to myself: a secret moment between him and me, 200 miles apart. Me, in a crowded nightclub sharing a tequila soda with my best friend. Him, in a friend's backyard more than a few beers deep. I feel the tug of the thin gold string that intrinsically holds us together, no matter how far away or for how long we are apart.
We’ve revisited the topic of marriage most every year since our relationship began in 2018. At first — I know we’re only 16, but I think I could marry you one day. Later, when we decided to start our long-distance relationship in college, it felt like a promise — if we get through these four years, we’ll definitely get married. Now, both newly 21 and exploring the boundaries of our adulthood, we hold tightly onto the promise, knowing that the future we’ve dreamed of is closer than it’s ever been.
In the present, it’s not just a dream, but a plan. Sometimes, when I miss him most, I relive conversations about the details we’ve decided on. A Texas courthouse, a backyard dinner party, an intimate celebration. I think further into the future to the neighborhoods we’ve looked at, starter homes with enough room for two (and a dog). I close my eyes and see taxes on the dining table and bookshelves full of paperbacks. I can picture grocery trips and cooking dinner, coming home from work and movies in the living room. Each moment equally imbued with the gold hue of love, crisp and complete.
When I started sharing my desire for marriage to my friends and family, I was nervous. I feared retribution for being so young, so freshly new to the world, but it didn’t come. The people who know me, and know us together, haven’t batted an eye at our choice. Despite being raised in different cultures, both our families have voiced their support. The friends I’ve had since before we started dating let me chatter excitedly about the future, sharing in the natural feeling of it all. I think we’ve always made sense, and if I allow myself the cliché, I think that kismet has had more than a little to do with our relationship.
However, the more openly I talk about getting married young, the more people who don’t know me oppose it. The comments may be teasing — no way, you’ll break up before graduation — or sometimes testing — do you actually love him? I don’t understand why the idea is so shocking to some. They’ll set up a hypothetical — if he asked you right now, would you say yes? — as if I haven’t actually thought it through. I don’t find a point in convincing them if they’ve already decided that I’m making the wrong decision. And although their comments have never made me question myself or my partner, it has made me wonder why they’re so opposed. The culture around intimacy in college and young adulthood has pushed back against permanent commitment. But it is a choice that is so personal, one that can’t be constrained to the expectations of others.
Marriage at 23 isn’t everyone’s path, nor should it be. I’m not an advocate for marriage at the earliest possibility, but for marriage when it’s right for you. The benefits of modern marriage are irrefutable: financially, physically, and emotionally. But, it’s a decision that still requires a plethora of forethought and preparation. When I look at my own life — the paths I could’ve taken and the ones that have led me to where I am now — I would never want to separate him from it. I am thankful for the years that have allowed us to grow and evolve as individuals, yet have also been kind to us as partners. I could never have predicted meeting someone like him while still so young, so unprepared for what the future would hold. But I know in my heart that he will always be there: past, present, and future. ■
By: Gracie Warhurst
Graphics: Caroline Clark
Graphics: Caroline Clark