Well, another school year has ended and I am on my much longed-for summer vacation. Of course, I have a long to-do list for the wedding (including those ever-elusive save the dates). But don’t worry—I’m planning lots of fun stuff too.
I’ve been thinking lately about bridal “identity” and about how getting married is really seen as an accomplishment for women in our culture. There is a message that’s sent, I think, that says if you have snagged a man and gotten him to propose, then you have checked off the most important thing on a young woman’s to-do list. I mean, that’s what our twenties are supposed to be all about, right?
To tell you the truth, I haven’t really struggled with this very much. I think I just so don’t buy into it all that it’s easy to dismiss. Also, it helps that I have had a really successful school year. In reality, when I look back at my successes over the past ten months, I think more about presenting at a conference for the first time, being a commencement speaker, and winning my first professional award. Those are successes. Getting engaged is something great that happened, sure, but it’s not an accomplishment.
This was driven home while I was talking to one of my coworkers at an end of the year lunch. Without knowing I was engaged, she asked if I was getting married this summer (umm…what?). When I responded that no, I was getting married next March, she actually said, “Good job!” and high-fived me. Look, it’s nice that she is happy for me, but it’s also important to note that she wasn’t as enthusiastic (nor was anyone at work) when the principal announced at a different staff meeting that I was commencement speaker. This is not a family member or a friend. This is someone at my job, where I actually did have success this year.
I’m glad that I was raised to value myself as a total human being, not just as a girlfriend, wife, or fiancée. Even if I hadn’t gotten engaged, even if I was still single, this would have been an incredibly successful year. Focusing only on my relationship would discount the hard work I put in to my career and the things I’ve gained from it this year. Believe me; I’ll turn all the focus onto my relationship on the wedding day. But the other 364 days of the year belong to my life as a whole, and to me as a whole person living it.