Last week, I had a weird Twitter experience. (I don't participate in Twitter very much, so almost any experience is weird.)
A journalist from Brooklyn (who checked out my book Quirkyalone from his library) tweeted a blog post to me and asked me for my opinion. The post was called "Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters." It was written by Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of the gossip website Gawker and a highly accomplished woman in digital media.
I'll summarize the post's argument. If you are an ambitious twenty-something, pay as much attention to your romantic relationships as your work and practice being in a committed relationship. If you don't, you will be more or less f*$^$%^, because it will be much harder to learn those relationship skills in your thirties. Then you'll be sorry.
My tweet in response was this: "People continue learning how to love and be w others their whole lives so i don't like a fear-based attitude of 'too late.'"
That was my 140-character response. I'll say more here. I instinctively recoil to any advice about how to "architect a life" as if there is one way to do it. The author of that post mentors young employees about running a successful business.
But running a life is not like running a business. Life is more of a mystery.
There is no age limit on love. And there is no one-sized-fits-all plan for how to live your life.
We all evolve at our own pace. We learn according to our own circumstances and how our soul gropes through life and expresses itself. We may have biological clocks when it comes to having children, but we have no expiration date on our ability to grow. If we want to evolve in our ability to love (or create, or learn to be contentedly single), the most important thing is the word "want." We simply need the desire to evolve and grow.
Many people have had a string of serious relationships in their twenties and are unskilled at being in a healthy partnership. Many people learn how to really love later on in their forties, fifties, sixties, even seventies! I've witnessed the stories of people who feel like they never really had a healthy partnership and are opening themselves up to develop one. I listened to one such story of a woman in her early seventies. It is never too late. I shared this post with a friend in her late fifties. We agreed that it is also absurd to think that you could learn everything you need to learn about relationships in your twenties -- and then enter your thirties as an "expert" knowing it all. You simply don't have the depth of life experience you will have in your fifties or later. It would be nice to think that you arrive at a certain age and have it all figured out, but that's a fantasy. The learning never stops!
Wouldn't it be disappointing if you could figure it all out in your twenties. How boring would that be for the rest of your life?
The worst part about this kind of one-size-fits-all advice is the shame factor that goes along with it if your life hasn't gone according to the advised plan.
If you didn't have the requisite number of "serious relationships" in your twenties, it would be easy to think, "I f@#$@# it up. It's over for me. No one would want me now." You think there is something wrong with you and your not-good-enough relationship history. That shame of thinking there is something wrong with you is exactly what prevents connection because it makes us hold back. We all evolve and grow at our own pace. We learn a lot from relationships. And we learn a lot being single and contributing our gifts to the world.
Our most important relationship is to with ourselves, and all relationships flow from there.
We continue to evolve our whole lives in our own -- and yes, quirky -- ways.
So, that is what I think of that article. Your thoughts and experiences? I wrote this post to open up a conversation.
Sasha Cagen is the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her Get Quirky online course for people who want to embrace the quirky in their lives in meaningful and playful ways is opening up for registration soon.