When you’re 21, and you look 16, and you walk up to the CVS counter with a pregnancy test you’re bound to get stares.
But they stare even more when you look happy about it.Now I know there are plenty of good reasons why you wouldn’t look particularly happy about it, even within marriage. My husband and I are learning how to grocery shop for two people on a budget. Add in diapers and frequent doctor’s visits and life surely wouldn’t get any easier. No. Babies certainly don’t make life easier.
So why in the world would we look happy about it?
The most frequent concern ever raised to me regarding my early marriage, or now my acceptance of the possibility of early pregnancy, is not usually something concrete and practical like finances or experience with children or a steady job.
It’s the fact that my husband and I are young. And when you’re young, you need to live. When you’re young, you shouldn’t settle down. You ought to be traveling the world, discovering yourself, discovering ideas and new friends and new places. You should be having adventures. Doing daring things. Taking chances. Taking risks. As the song goes,
we are young– so let’s set the world on fire.
And I feel that vibe when that song comes on. And I turn it louder. And louder. And louder.
But here’s what I don’t understand. We can climb all the buildings we want, we can go to different countries and meet new people, start fundraisers, protest, drink, dance, dance on tables but the greatest adventure of all always seems to come back to love. I mean, the singer in that song is referring to one thing in particular that fulfills that youthful burning. It’s his somebody. He may set the world on fire in all sorts of ways, but he can’t ever set it on fire quite like he can with the one he loves. We all know that the greatest adventure we can have is in love, and it’s what we, the young, all want. In the end, I want someone to carry me home tonight.
And yet, now that I have that somebody, and I’ve married him, I’m supposed to hold back. I’m supposed to become all practical and calculated. Like oh, here let’s put a barrier between us so that too much fire doesn’t spark. Because fire is dangerous. Fire can burn and burning can hurt and we don’t want to hurt.
But that fire, it’s what we yearn for. It’s what makes us whole. It’s what we sing about. It’s our adventure.
If my husband and I get pregnant soon, or at any point, we will have challenges (there will always be challenges.) But challenges are part of the adventure. Indeed, what is an adventure without challenges? And what is youth without adventure? Of course, one must be a responsible adult and weigh those challenges for the sake of the good of all parties involved. But pregnancy, or the chance of it, ought not be a stuffy, settled-down sort of matter, just as marriage should not be. Why in the world would I put off marrying my best friend because I hadn’t travelled the world yet? I’d rather travel it with him! Why would I wait until my bones start getting weak and my hair turns grey to have my first child? Why not share my youth with him? Of course, marriage and children are wonderful in later life. But how wrong it is to assume that is the only place they belong. For they are the things of love. And love is what we want to set the world on fire with. Love is what our youth is screaming out for.
Am I afraid of getting pregnant? Maybe a little bit. But that’s like asking somebody before they’re about to sky dive, are you afraid of the free fall? I mean, of course he’s afraid. But that’s part of it all. That’s part of the risk. You free fall because you need to. Because that burning in your soul tells you to. You free fall because you’re young, whether literally, or figuratively. You free fall because it makes you human. If you stay on the plane you’ll be safe. On the ground, even safer. But you’ll probably feel less alive. And that’s the funny paradox. That in having somewhat of a detachment from your own life and its security, you’re able to live more fully. Indeed, the world tells us that freedom comes in “finding yourself.” In going on escapades of selfishness and self-indulgence. That the power of youth is living for yourself. But only in letting go of your self may you find your true freedom.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should get married young or have children young (even if they’re married.) But I want to correct the lie the world has told us– that marriage and children are contrary to youth and contrary to living life to the fullest. Indeed, such commitments could not be more in line with living life to the fullest. And oh there are risks. But show me where there is love without risk, or love without pain.
So if and when you find somebody to carry you home, don’t be afraid to give him everything. Not just your vow, but your fears, your insecurities, your hopes, your dreams, your tears, your laughter, your children. Don’t stand on the edge of the plane contemplating whether or not to jump. You’ll only make yourself miserable. Jump. Fall. For only in falling completely and vulnerably will any arms be able to truly catch you. And only in submitting fully to the adventure of love, whatever that adventure may at the time require, can you really know what it is like to be young.