26.

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” – Herman Melville

Have you heard of the Christmas cake theory? It’s the theory that everything before 25 is ideal. The theory was created as a general guideline for marriage; a woman is at her best before this age. For me, it sounded like an expiry date or being on the wrong side of 25. At 24, a woman is young, fresh, and she’s at her peak being desired by every man. At 25, she’s not the best, but she’ll do. But at 26? Christmas is over honey, move on.

As for me, I had applied this rule in all aspects of my life. If I were to look years back at the naive lists I had planned for my future, all my goals were set to be accomplished before I reached this imminent deadline. Get married. Buy a house. I’m pretty sure having 4 kids was on the list too. Imagine the horror of not having everything figured out before then! My life would be a failure. I’d be going to parties as an old spinster while my friends would have an adoring husband on their arm. Who would, in turn, be charmingly cradling their newborn. Twins, in fact.

I’m now just a few months shy of 26. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I do have nights where I’m just lying in bed thinking, “What am I doing with my life?” On paper, I have nothing. I don’t have a husband. I mean, I don’t even have a long-term boyfriend to show for. I live with my parents. My job may be millennial, but by no means stable. Where is the house with the white picket fence, the adoring husband coming home from work, and the decisions like whether to attend the next PTA meeting knowing that Susie’s mom will try to upstage me with her gluten-free poppy seed muffins?

And then I think to myself.

Are you freaking kidding me?

I think about everything I have done until now. Maybe my life wasn’t what I had imagined, but what else is life if not unpredictable? Would I have been happy, knowing I “had it all” at 25? Of course there are going to be days where I’m feeling regret, unfulfilled, or lacking. But who doesn’t? Does anyone ever feel fully gratified with life? I look back at everything I was able to do, and I am satisfied. I’m satisfied that I didn’t waste time working for things I wasn’t ready for. Everything I have done, intentional or not, had brought me here. Being single has allowed me to meet so many new people, travel the world on my terms, and eat breakfast during the night with no one complaining. I love my parents, and spending every day with them makes me appreciate them more. My job is still pretty unstable, but I’m just happy I can be working a job that allows me so much freedom. The good memories that keep me going now exist because I pursued them, and not a marriage I wouldn’t have been ready for, or a job I wouldn’t have been happy with. Or kids, thank goodness. Also, I love gluten. I can’t imagine living another life than the one I lived until now. And to think, why am I stressing myself to make it by 25? Does life cease to exist after that? I’m only 25! Just because I’m turning 26, it doesn’t mean I’ll stop living. Forget those unrealistic goals I had made years ago. I’ll keep living my life, the one that makes me happy until I’m ready for everything or anything else. If that day comes. If I want it to come. And when I want it to, that’ll be when I’m ready to let it. On my terms, and not what number defines me.

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