I got married really young. Not young as in my parents needed to sign a permission waiver young, but young enough that my wife and I got married before anyone else we know. We met at a bar, she took my Motorola flip phone out of my hand and into hers, and put the name “Megan” in the directory. In the outfit she was wearing I would have said yes if she’d asked me to marry her right then.
She didn’t, so I waited five weeks and did the asking. She said yes, and a few weeks after that we were married in the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas.
I went from being one of the most eligible bachelors in the small city we lived in (it didn’t take much, with no stint in rehab and a college degree on the way, I was golden) to a married father of her (and now our) four-year old within a matter of months. By the time I was 26, I was married with three kids.
This year we will celebrate 11 years of marriage, and while we have had some hard times, the decision to get married young is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For me, and for my career.
Vesting Me in My Life
When Megan and I got married I was still roughly 60 credits shy of a bachelor’s degree. I made $24,000 per year, and I slept on a twin mattress on the floor of an apartment that, at its best, smelled like grilled cheese. At its worst it smelled…much worse. My roommate and I were 21 and 22, and not neat freaks, per say.
In fact, my future wife informed me quite quickly that if I wanted her to spend the night our apartment had to meet her standards, and she cleaned it to demonstrate exactly what her standards were.
I saw what type of changes I would have to make in my own habits, and thought it would be easier to just marry her and bring her skillset into the house on a permanent basis.
Not everyone saw the wisdom of getting married so young, so quickly. When I told my mom that I was getting married, her first response was, “You’ll never finish school.”
But I did. And with Megan’s support and help I finished more school, and still more school after that. I took those degrees and that work and turned it into a career that, just like the demographics of the little family that we created, was far different than most of my peers.
For me, being married and having a family wasn’t a distraction that kept me from being focused on my career. Just the opposite.
Having a family and being married vested me in my own life and career.
Being married and having kids young gave me something lose. It gave me people to let down. It gave weight to every decision I made. More than anything, it gave me people to make proud. Having a family didn’t prevent me from focusing on my career—it forced me to focus on my career, and to take it seriously.
Your Path is Your Own
This isn’t a pro-marriage article. “Marry young and you’ll succeed” is no better advice then “wait to get married so you can focus on your career”. Your life path is your own.
But if you view marriage as a potential threat to your career, the chances that you will be very successful at either your career or your marriage are no greater at 35 than they are 22.
The person that you choose to make a life with should be an asset to all of your goals, but that person can’t become that until you view him or her that way. You might meet that person at 22, or you might meet her at 42.
For Megan and me, I’m glad our marriage started at 22. I’m glad we grew up together. I’m glad we remember our first apartment and its thin walls, and that our first major purchase together was a used Ford Explorer that we had to drive around the block to make sure it still ran before we sold it a year later. I’m glad our first apartment was in a ghetto together—it makes this middle-class house we live in now seem like Jay-Z and Beyonce’s house (or at least one of their vacation rentals).
So if some girl or guy walks up to you, puts their name in your phone, makes you laugh all night, then gives you a ride home when you need it, don’t base your potential future with them on some notion you held before that moment.
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Something to think about.