A wedding by the sea

Over the weekend, I traveled through Boston to Gloucester, Massachusetts to attend the wedding of my old friend, Kate (yes, that Kate). The ceremony and reception were held at Hammond Castle, the ornate mid-20th century creation of an eccentric millionaire rocket scientist, complete with artwork imported from Europe and the Gothic vibe of a Scooby Doo haunted mansion.

The last time I saw Kate was a week before I moved from Chicago to Nashville, some seven years ago. To say a great deal has happened in our respective lives since then would be a colossal understatement. The roads have been long and winding.

I’ve been to my share of weddings over the years, some rigidly traditional, others idiosyncratic and wholly individualized; most find a balance, maintaining the well-established structure but punctuating the traditions with unique touches or turning them on their head. Naturally, each couple has a way of injecting their personalities into the ceremony, especially those with, shall we say, strong personalities. Kate would fit into that category.

As a friend of the bride and the de facto date of one of the bridesmaids (former girlfriend), I spent most of my time in the company of Kate and her female coterie. I don’t have a lot of experience with the male version of a wedding party. I’ve never been a groomsman and the only bachelor party that I’ve been to was for my brother, a rather chaste event in every since of the word – it began with 30 minutes of prayer.

By contrast, I’m rather well acquainted with bridal parties; for reasons surpassing understanding, I tend to be closer with more brides than grooms.

Marriage: It’s, like, a whole thing

The language of marriage is steeped in notions of commitment, which is obvious, but still of interest to me: “vows” and “dedication,” “taking the plunge” and “ball and chain” (admittedly, not all the terminology has a positive connotation). Reaching back to its roots, the institution of marriage is simultaneously a business arrangement and a romantic bond, a facilitator of families and a symbolic gesture. In all its iterations, though, marriage remains a blind leap into the future, the unknown.

Blind leaps of faith are kind of my forte, and yet I find marriage almost unimaginable for myself. It’s not due to some cliché, “I don’t believe in the concept” political stance, or any desire to remain a bachelor forever. I actually find the notion of being married to the right person quite enticing, always have. Even having witnessed my share of marriages dissolve – including my parents – I still see the appeal.

What I imagine a marriage to be has changed considerably since my younger years. In my Christian youth, marriage was the end all, be all of existence. I believed all future happiness would be found within its boundaries. So powerful was this belief – and so insistently was it emphasized by my spiritual leaders – that even once I left the faith, it took me a great deal of time to shake the idea that being married with the only natural conclusion to a relationship, and by extension, to a life.

Based on my experiences, I feel I’ve had the opposite development of a lot of people. Most people spend their 20s saying they’ll never get married and then as their 30s approach, they open up to the concept. I spent much of my 20s absolutely convinced that marriage was the natural next stage in my life, but now in my 30s, I no longer put much stock in it, if only because I can imagine a life without it and – for me – it doesn’t seem like a tragedy.

There are any number of reasons why I’m not ready for marriage (besides for the obvious fact that I’m single by necessity). A more charitable person might suggest I haven’t met the right person, or haven’t reached that destination in my journey yet. If you were feeling less than charitable, you might suggest I’m just too selfish or immature to make such a commitment. All good reasons. I can’t argue with any of them.

I do know that at this moment in my life, there’s something I want more than wedded bliss, and that’s the open road. My dedication, my commitment – the plunge I will always rush to take – is travel. Honestly, I reject the idea that I’m a commitmentaphobe. At 22, I set aside ten years of my life for a travel project and I followed through with it. How many people could honestly say they could’ve successfully made a decade-long commitment to their significant other at 22?

This guy crashed the wedding.

I’m right at ten weeks from making the next big blind leap of my life, one that is even less knowable than 10 Cities/10 Years, and there are a lot of conflicting thoughts going through my head, a mix of “This is going to be amazing” and “You aren’t doing enough to prepare.” There’s so much that could go wrong; it’s what could go right that pushes me to take the risk.

Over the two days in Gloucester, I couldn’t help but see parallels to my own unknowable travels in everything that was going on around me. The excitement and fear, the uncertainty about the future and the memories of the past, the physical and mental exhaustion, all of these reactions are part and parcel with a a big move in the same way they are at a wedding. That wave of emotions is inevitable whenever you take a risk; it can become intoxicating. When it’s all said and done, we leap because we believe.

At the wedding, tears were in abundance before, during, and after the ceremony, from Kate and her groom, from the bridesmaids and the guests, and even from the officiant. There was talk of nerves and moments of stress throughout the weekend, but before the sun had set on Sunday evening, a new couple had taken the plunge together and the long path to their union was completed, one journey having reached its end, another just beginning.

Congratulations to Kate and Aaron; here’s hoping that every leap they take together only raises them higher and higher.

As for me, well, I don’t know if I’ll ever take the matrimonial leap. It’s always an option, but it’s not the only road out there. I’ve got plenty of other plunges ahead of me.

The Sky’s The Limit

I want to go to Mars.

Someday, quite possibly in my lifetime, humans will set down on the surface of Mars. I want to be one of the pioneers. To sail across that untouched sea and set foot on a new, unblemished terrain, I can’t imagine a greater achievement or experience. I dream about leaving Earth and exploring a virgin world.

So, you know, if any of you crazed billionaires are reading this, hit me up.

I was discussing this subject with my friend, Maria, and she had a hard time getting on board with my desire to rocket from this planet on a trip that would take decades. It would be a permanent relocation, after all.

“But you would never come back.” She said incredulously.

“I know,” I answered, relishing the thought. It seems we had very different feelings on that possibility.

Making Moves

There is a study that’s been making headlines for the last week, which, to be succinct, reports that Americans aren’t moving, and Millennials are a major reason for that statistical decline, with only 20% of the generation (my generation) having moved from their address (let alone city) in the last year. Now, I’ve previously written about how I hate the way Millennials are grouped and stereotyped, but this statistic is worth analyzing briefly.

The main contributing factor for the lack of mobility among the 25- to 35-year-old set is apparently the job market (thanks Baby Boomers!), which certainly makes sense. Other factors that have historically limited movement – home ownership, having a spouse, having a child – aren’t really pertinent to most Millennials who are, statistically, not settling down behind a white picket fence.

To say I’m an outlier in this research is the understatement of the decade. Since I turned 20, I’ve only stayed at the same address for more than 12 months twice, and I’ve only renewed a lease once. Yes, I’ve lived an unusual life, but my ability to move wasn’t based on any particularly unique circumstances. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, I was affected as much as anyone. I went months without work, in multiple cities, and when I did find work, it paid the bare minimum. I’d argue I’m still facing the effects of the recession.

It didn’t stop me from moving back then, and it’s not going to stop me now.

Not everybody needs to move, I realize that. But everybody should move.

I’m reminded of this Louis C.K. bit on marriage and divorce:

If you stay put, you might have a happy life, you may avoid hardships. Your life very well may avoid all the road blocks and problems that come with relocation. But if you never move, you will remain an incomplete person.

I know I just insulted a wide swath of people; I’m okay with that. Until you place yourself in a new situation, until you physically relocate, your understanding of yourself remains incomplete.

Maybe you’d make the same argument about marriage or owning a home (debatable), but it’s easier to get married and buy a home after you’ve moved than to move after you’ve married or bought a house. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and still living in your hometown, you owe it to yourself to make a move. If you’re married or own a house, get a divorce and sell that money pit (kidding; sort of).

giphy

See The World

No matter how far away it might feel, relocating to a new city, state, or even country isn’t a trip to Mars. You can always go back. Technological advancements make that truer every year, which is why it’s so bizarre that I live among such an immobile people.

Now this isn’t discussed in the study, so call it mere speculation, but I am confident another contributing factor to our decreased movement is technology. We all have the ability to see pictures from distant lands on our phones and become friends with people on the other side of the planet. It’s easy to convince ourselves, “Oh, I know what that place is like, I’ve seen it.” Our interconnectedness creates the illusion that all places are essentially the same.

Let me be obnoxiously clear: THEY ARE NOT.

You cannot experience a place through a screen. I don’t care how advanced technology gets, how realistic virtual reality becomes, you will never experience somewhere unless you go there in person. We are not our avatars.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about making a relocation, if you’ve been creating a “Pros & Cons” list, asking friends and family, or even praying about it, let me be the still small voice: It’s time to go.

us-diversity

In our current historical moment, moving to a new country is important so that we can increase our empathy and understanding across borders. But you don’t have to make such a drastic move to still gain a new perspective. One of the many great things about the United States is that it offers unparalleled variety. You can spend years exploring this country and not see it all. I know; I did.

You have to choose your own path; it’s yours and yours alone to take. I’ll just end with this: If every morning you wake up in the same bed and grit your teeth for another day of routine, why are you staying?

Mars awaits.

Divorce

We is
a word that I’ve given up
the way I quit smoking a month before the wedding
because your daddy didn’t approve.
An empty gesture
to him,
standing before our guests and rhapsodizing on
not losing a daughter but gaining a son.
Never has such banal a sentiment
been so pregnant with
malice.

Perhaps it isn’t fair
to
ask what happens to you now
or
to care (perhaps I don’t).
But there was a routine to living with you
and without it I’m not sure whether to
shave or brush my teeth first.
Some mornings, neither.

I suppose it’s my fault for not believing
love could save us.
But I couldn’t help
cataloging all the reasons you were too wrong to be right
for me.
Sometime around the thousandth blurry morning I woke up
facing you,
it no longer seemed worth the trouble
compartmentalizing.

What happens to us?
When did the fantasy girls start
looking like their mothers?
When did you?
In your make-up and tapered pants
you make a convincing metaphor for our neighborhood,
gentrified and costly.
I still see flashes of the city you once were
but obsolete telephone wires and
painted billboards
obscure every golden view.

We
made a go of it,
for better or worse
till life did us part.
And now we split
a half dozen years worth of memories,
some friends
neither one of us would miss,
and a collection of plastic mementos
that we’ll spend months
bitterly battling over.

I guess this is what they mean when they say
“Too young.”
I guess this is what they mean when they say
“Life is too short to…” well,
really, anything.
But if our 20s are the decade for
tragic love and decadence
this must have been our Black Thursday.
The end of the wild ride.
The day we woke up
no longer
we.

Boring and Safe

Now that the world is (boring and) safe
Will you be content being pretty as a model
or will your boyfriend be just another carving knife?
Your skin breaks out
like boredom at a wedding

Sound vices shape your breathing femininity
The woman in you believes
in
anything
Call it grace, ask your children if they want to live forever
in heaven
If they say yes, is that validation?

Justice buys you meals and necklaces that shine
and you love him for it because loving him is the only currency you own
A heart made of cubic zirconia

You live in a world of angles and good sides
Beauty beholden to
camera lenses
and
soft lighting

and a list of friends who call you family or acquaintance
This broadens the urbane suburbia of your global presence
always clinging to a man

You are woman, you are strong
So he says
but
you
aren’t buying it.
It is his purse you live for, the safety of his numbered accounts
The woman I always imagined you could be.