“I wouldn’t come to Paris with you. I have a child.”
I looked at him perplexed and tried hard not to cry–though I doubt he’d even see the tears in the dim light. Opening my big mouth somehow turned an intimate conversation over a romantic dinner into the end of forever. It was just a hypothetical question. But yet his answer said everything. If I stayed with him, there’d come a time and a place when I’d have to choose between him or my dreams. I couldn’t, wouldn’t have both–at least not here with him where I wanted to be so badly. Maybe I should’ve recognized the warning signs–his dropping out of college and fighting for complete custody of his daughter–but until that night, I never suspected we weren’t walking in the same direction. We Loved one another more than anything it seemed. But that didn’t change the fact that I wanted to go and he needed to stay. So when I finally walked away, he did me a favor and let me leave.
Every day young 20 something adults find themselves in the ultimate life dilemma: Love or livelihood? Dream career or dream (w0)man? Whether it’s that new job that just called you across the country to start tomorrow or an acceptance to a medical school in the caribbean, success, ambition and the pursuit of happiness have a hefty pricetag for young Lovers. No one ever wants to watch a Lover walk right out of his life. But no one wants to be the reason someone gave up on his dream either. Though the details change from relationship to relationship, I hear these stories everyday. I call them Catch-20somethings. They may not be unique to our cohort but I hear them most frequently from young, less established individuals. And many of us, it seems, choose career. We put off buying rings and grab instead for briefcases. This would at least explain the drop in American marriage rates, the new tendency toward marrying later in life, and the alarming notion that “marriage is for white people” amongst young blacks. It might also explain the propensity my single peers have for these more casual arrangements–settling for less than their fair share in the name of companionship. I mean why go through all the hassle of a relationship, if I’m just going to move away soon anyway? I am not talking for anyone. In my senior year a Temple University, even after meeting Mr. Right-For-Now, I thought like this myself. I’d left a previous Love because we had two totally different 5-year plans. And I had no intentions on starting a new fire, now that I knew firsthand how hard it could be to extinguish. But I was also tired of spending my nights alone. When it seems that most young people don’t want to be tied down unless they have children and the working world doesn’t offer as much stability at the entry-level, what is a young romantic to do? What do you do when you’re getting it from both sides?
While many would say drown yourself in accomplishments, I disagree wholeheartedly. In the coming months, I’ll be relocating to Atlanta to attend graduate school and Mr. Right-For-Now decided to come along with me. This time around, I didn’t have to give up one for the other. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because I will get to have it all. Through my recent experiences with Mr. Right-For-Now, I figure I know a thing or two about navigating the Catch-20something. So I’ve come up with what I’d like to call The Stuck Between a Rock & a Hard Place Survival Guide.
Step 1: Determine The Big Picture of What You REALLY Want
Is a life of Love without a great career okay for you? Will you wake up and hate yourself in 30 years? Or do you suppose all of your money and accomplishments will keep you warm at night? Most people want it all not either or. But if you concentrate solely on one aspect of your future and not the other, you will wake up with a life that is overdeveloped in one area and lacking in the other. Take 60 seconds and imagine your ideal life in 25 years down to the very last detail. If you have a great job AND a great Love, then that is what you really want. So no compromises!
Step 2: Be a Savvy Single
Savvy singles are the wave of the future. Acting as relationship moderates of a very bi-partisan dating agenda, savvy singles tend to get the best things out of life. They aren’t bitter, scorned relationship haters or anti-social workaholics. But they also don’t hop in every bed that opens to them. Savvy singles wait for Love but they wait vivaciously. They date themselves and do the things they Love to do while simultaneously believing that Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there. If you spend single time bettering yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically, Love will find you.
Step 3: Don’t Say No to a Good Thing Because It Seems Logical
When Mr. Right-For-Now first propositioned me, the most logical answer would’ve been no. He was graduating while I had a year left. That meant starting off our relationship long-distance. And even after I graduated, I planned to go anywhere but back home–where Mr. Right-For-Now resided. At least that was the plan. But where did life actually take me? I landed a job in my field back home with Mr. Right-For-Now no more than a 20-minute drive away. The moral of the story is it’s good to have a plan. But sometimes Fate (God) will take you somewhere else that’s actually better for you. The same can go for a job opportunity. Don’t turn it down because you know your boyfriend won’t want to move. Let possibility do it’s thing first. Sometimes, things work themselves out in an illogical fashion.
Step 4: Share Your Dreams Early
When dating, asking the heavy questions early prevents you from learning things about your partner after you’ve already fallen for him or her. Although it may seem weird at first, share your goals and dreams with any potential mates (which makes for great date conversation). And listen to the goals and dreams of the person sitting across from you–operative word being listen. People will tell you exactly who they are and what they want out of life if you just listen. The one that’s truly for you will have a life plan that doesn’t conflict with yours.
Step 5: Live Life Together
After you find that special someone, decide to completely share your lives prenuptially. Let him or her into your finances, your religion, your career, your family. Share EVERYTHING. So when she asks you to move to California with her for a job, you’re willing and able to do so because you always wanted to move to California anyway. When you’re not married, this doesn’t seem like something you need to do. But Mr. Right-For-Now and I almost broke up over the selfish decisions we’d made without consulting or including one another. What may be best for you is not necessarily what’s best for your relationship. It’s okay to sacrifice when sacrificing doesn’t mean giving up on your goals and dreams. If you want to be together in the end, you have to live life together now. Give him or her the chance to support you by including your partner in everything.
Have you experienced your own Catch-20something? How did it work out?