Photo courtesy of Amy Rae Photography
A few weeks ago, I read a great article in The Detroit News by Marney Rich Keegan about a couple of favorite commencement speeches. Now, it’s been a while since my own graduation (and honestly, I don’t even remember who spoke or what they said… oops), but these are interesting to me from time to time. When else do you have a crowd of young people full of potential, eager to get started in the world? Big words can be said in these situations.
Well, David Brooks had some interesting things to say to the graduates of Sewanee, University of the South. He told them what they need to worry about and what they shouldn’t waste their time on. Don’t worry about your happiness (it will come), don’t worry about getting a good job (work hard and it will be there), don’t worry about finding your passion (it will find you). But the thing you should worry about: marriage. Marrying well. Picking the right person.
I was a little shocked to hear this in a commencement speech, even if I fully agree with Mr. Brooks. It’s almost considered a bad thing to focus on your relationship today. Right now, my peers and I are at in age where we are told to follow our passions, make goals and go after them, pick a career and advance. Make a name for yourself. And so many of us are. We’re building these professional lives, centered around the ambitions of one person: me. The Me Generation. And while I think it is good to have career goals, I love what Mr. Brooks has to say about marriage.
This is the most important decision you’re going to make in your life. If you have a great marriage and a crappy career, you will be happy. If you have a great career and a crappy marriage, you will be unhappy. I tell university presidents, they should have academic departments on how to marry. They should teach the neuroscience of marriage, the sociology of marriage, the psychology of marriage. Everybody should get a degree in how to marry.
Now yes, my career is in the wedding industry, so I know what you’re thinking. “Of course this girl thinks marriage is important. She makes her living off the celebrations of newlyweds,” but hear me out. We’re running into this scenario more and more. Two people, diving into their careers. Forging ahead with one thing on their mind: success. Success in the workplace. So they build this whole life around their job. They locale, their friends, the things they do in their spare time, the things they talk about. And then, once they feel they have made a sufficient name for themselves in their job, they look for love. And presumably find someone in a similar situation. Stable, settled, happy in their job. In their life. Just missing one thing: love. They try to fit two, well established lives together. Mash them into one. And it doesn’t always work.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a career. And I’m not saying marry the first person you find, nor should you wait around to start your professional life until you find your mate. What I’m saying is this: there is a very large emphasis on career in our society. On finding your work passion and developing it. On becoming successful (however you define that). What there is not a large emphasis on is love. There isn’t as much encouragement to find the right person, to court someone special, to fall in love and build a life together with someone.
As a military spouse, I get it all. People on the outside not understanding, thinking I’m mindless, following my husband around from place to place, year after year. I choose love over ambition, and I choose wrong. My fabulous career aside, I beg to differ. I found someone who loves me, supports me, and is my equal. My partner. My best friend. And I married him. I locked him down before I ever found my dream job. And sure, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but it’s pretty close. And when I’m having a long week at work, or my friends and family are driving me crazy, or I just feel frumpy as a new mom with this different body and hair (oh, that’s another post for another day, my hair), life is still good because I chose to marry my best friend.
Please, please don’t get me wrong. I am no expert. I’m not saying this is the way to a divorce-free marriage. I’m not saying this is the best for everyone. I was just glad that Mr. Brooks brought into light a different side of things. The side that is not the popular side. The side I chose when I married Jonathan and the ripe age of 22. Love, marriage, family… it’s important. You spend a third of your day at work. But the other two thirds of your day, I hope you spend those hours with your best friend.
PS Thank you Laura for bringing this great article to my attention! XO