Milestones in life, such as getting married and graduating from university, may just be a little overhyped
Two weekends ago, I reached a conventionally huge life milestone. I got married.
But hitting that milestone made me realise something that might stoke the flames of unpopular opinion: these big life milestones are totally overrated.
Now don't get me wrong - my wedding weekend will forever be one of the best weekends of my life.
In between the dancing and the singing and the (sometimes simultaneous) laughing and crying, it was, all in all, nothing I could have expected and everything I ever wanted, all at the same time.
But in truth, ask me what happened over that weekend and I am, in most part, lost for words.
Not because I am too emotionally moved to respond - though there are those moments lodged in there somewhere - but also because for the most part, it was very much a blurry haze.
I am sure I speak for all newly-wed couples when I say that the amount one can actually recall after a wedding weekend is very disproportionate to the sheer number of hours and literal blood, sweat and tears that go into the planning of the thing - eight months of it, in our case.
You begin by nitpicking about the finest details of the shindig. You stay up late into the night after work to tweak your invitations. You quibble over the colour of table linens or party favours - something that neither of you really cares about - and then it is done.
And I for one was left thinking... well, now what?
Now that I've "achieved" this huge step that society has come to expect of me, do I get a prize? Is there a government bonus to be had? (Sadly not, I was told.) Should it not feel more momentous than it does?
Here is the thing I've come to realise about these big life milestones - there is so much build-up and expectation around them that they very rarely live up to the hype when they eventually roll around.
A study from the United Kingdom released in 2015, which drew on the wisdom, life experience and regrets of almost 2,000 adults between the ages of 16 and 65, revealed 25 major life milestones and the ages by which we should have achieved them.
According to the study, self-respecting adults should move out of the family home by the age of 22, get engaged by 25, have a kid at 28 and move into their first house at 30.
Even today, when describing one person to another, we are likely to use these conventional milestones as a life curriculum vitae of sorts - "Oh, he graduated from university in 2009; she got married when she was 28; they bought their house when they were just 25, you know!"
People who have not hit these milestones while on a respectable timeline? Well they just need to try harder at life, don't they?
Except people don't shuffle along the path of adulthood in unison. Most of us drag our way there at an uneven and highly individualised pace.
In which case, do we really need to be relentlessly chasing these conventional life milestones and in this predetermined order? Worse still, are these milestones going to be the things we remember and cherish in the grand scheme of things?
Take getting the grades to qualify for university or snagging that dream job for example - again huge life milestones that people are constantly striving to achieve.
Sure, you were undoubtedly stoked on the day you got the good news about your university acceptance or job offer.
You would have jumped around with joy. Champagne may have featured in the celebrations.
But if I were to ask you now about the moments you've been most proud of while at school or in your career, how many of us would point to these big conventional milestones as standout moments?
I think back to late lazy afternoons spent drinking coffee on campus with university mates, while discussing our goals - both short-term (Should we go shopping after class?) and long (We should really finish that writing assignment by this weekend.) - as some of the best times at college.
In my career, it is hardly my first clueless day at the office, but instead, the days I wrote up stories I was proud of, with newsmakers I was honoured to meet that stick in my mind.
And perhaps the same can be said about getting married as well.
As milestones go, it's undeniably a huge one. You are suddenly financially intertwined with another. You have to figure out what "utilities" mean. Suddenly you have to tick the Mrs box on all your forms.
But is it not the process of building a marriage, rather than the deed of getting married that should be celebrated?
There is real beauty and promise in the mundane moments - buying your first expensive appliance, making dinner together after work, figuring out a game plan to get chores done - these are much more memorable in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, there was dancing to be done at the wedding, but it is the dancing around in our new home that I am much more likely to remember.
And while the food at our wedding did seem top-notch, it still falls short of the simple pasta salads and green curries we've whipped up, while catching up on our day.
I am therefore ready to tap out of the life milestone race and just enjoy the scenery along the way instead.
Milestones - whatever they may be - will come in time. But it is only when you live in the moment and enjoy the journey that achieving them finally feels completely worthwhile.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'I'll take mundane over milestones, any day'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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