What I’m about to tell you is not a lie: Over the course of one week this summer, seven (I repeat, SEVEN) people I know who attend my university or just recently graduated got engaged.
I kid you not.
Needless to say, my school has a major “ring by spring” stigma. With the freshmen newly moved onto campus, we’re already teasing them about keeping an eye out for their future husbands and wives. It’s mainly a joke, but we all know jokes are based in truth. And this one definitely is.
While the statistics at my school are crazy, let me make it clear that I truly am happy for these couples. We all are! There’s such joy in seeing two people who love each other decide to commit themselves to one another in the Lord. It’s what He intended—an extension of His love that He shared with us. I’m so ecstatic for my engaged friends, and I’ll definitely be at weddings to share in the celebration.
But there’s still something about this “ring by spring” stereotype that makes us cringe. We wouldn’t joke about it so much if it didn’t bother us deep inside. People say it stems from jealousy, cynicism, the pressure placed on us, or just plain bitterness. And I think those are all true. But it’s also something else…
I think it’s partly because we’re scared that we’re growing up.
Though we don’t care to admit this, I think deep down many of us know we’d get engaged “this young” too if we found the right person. It’s not that we necessarily think these couples are too young, it’s that we can’t believe we’re old enough.
We’re freaking out because reality is hitting us in the face. Like one of my favorite Stephen King quotes from It says, “Maybe, Richie thought, that’s the scary part. How you don’t stop being a kid all at once, with a big explosive bang…the kid in you just leaks out, like the air out of a tire. And one day you looked in the mirror and there was a grownup looking back at you. You could go on wearing bluejeans…you could dye your hair, but that was a grownup’s face in the mirror just the same. It all happened while you were asleep, maybe, like a visit from the tooth fairy.”
Since we don’t simply “become” adults in a single moment, we don’t realize the process of adulthood creeping upon us. We don’t notice it happening until we look in the mirror one day and it hits us. Or we look on Facebook at the 20 million engagement pictures and it hits us. (And that way is a much harder hit, I might add).
I think a huge reason we act appalled at the masses of engaged couples around us is because we’re clinging to our youth. I do it all the time, talking with my friends about how insane it is that so many people our age are engaged. Yes, these couples are young, and yes, the rest of us still have lots of time to grow, mature, and meet people (thank goodness). But we’re adults now. And we are old enough to have engaged and married friends.
Every time I think “they’re so young!” maybe what I’m really wondering is “when did I get so old?” And the answer to that question is: forever. We’re forever growing older, forever feeling as young as we did yesterday. It’s a never-ending process (I assume, as a 21-year-old)—a process that is lovely and frightening and confusing at the same time.
We definitely don’t all need rings by spring, and we certainly won’t all get them. But all of us are growing up into adulthood, where friends will be married, children will be born, and our lives will ever-increasingly mirror those of our parents. It’s normal. It’s happening. And the best we can do is embrace it as it comes.