Five days after I turned 25, I got a tattoo. A black ampersand on my left wrist, something I’d been wanting for several months. It meant a lot to me, getting the tattoo and being able to get it while in San Francisco near my birthday. I loved it immediately, the small mark on my skin. It became a part of me, of my story.
A few days later I realized the man I eventually meet, fall in love with, and presumably marry will never know me without my tattoo. He’ll never know what my wrist looked like without the black ink embedded in my skin, full of meaning and beauty. He’ll never know who I was before I got that tattoo. He’ll never know the woman who struggled with whether to get it at all.
And he’ll never know who I was before I was a writer. He won’t know the woman who wanted to be a history professor with a PhD in Victorian history, culture, and literature. He won’t know the woman who was shocked to discover she loved reading about gender studies. He won’t know the student who hid away in a library, researching and scribbling nonsensical notes, living on coffee and broken prayers.
He missed out on the moment when I had to choose between England and Egypt. He missed the all nighters I pulled finishing up my senior thesis and all the little papers that came before. He missed the tortuous weeks I spent watching friends walk away from me, spread out over years. He missed my first day of college, my last day of high school. He missed out on my awkward years, my naive years. He missed out on the time when I was a bookish nerd before I even knew that was an insult.
He didn’t see me fall apart in Alaska. Or Vegas. Or Nashville. He didn’t see me fail in each of of those cities, packing up in defeat and returning home. He didn’t see me fall into depression, confused by the darkness that wouldn’t leave me, rendered helpless and empty and so very alone. He didn’t see me floundering to pull myself together, to create something from the ashes. He didn’t see the moment I fell in love absolutely with writing; the moment that saved me.
In so many ways, this man who is supposed to be my partner in life, my very own love, won’t know me. Or rather, he won’t recognize who I used to be. He won’t know that girl, the girl who slowly grew into the woman he fell in love with.
And I think it’s easy to use that as an excuse. We don’t want to miss out on sharing experiences with our future spouses, so we hold off. We tell ourselves we’ll do all these things that we love when we meet the right person. When we find our soul mate we’ll travel, we’ll move, we’ll focus on finding the right career, we’ll go back to school, we’ll do that one thing on our bucket list that seems to beckons to us. When we find the right person, then we’ll start living the life we really want. We’ll fulfill our hopes and dreams and make them our reality. We have all the time in the world.
In the meantime, we wait. And wait. And wait.
Life isn’t meant to be put on hold. Because the longer we wait, the more opportunities pass us by. Chances that are once in a lifetime might not be there in a few years when we’re married, settling down, and perhaps thinking about kids or a career. We might not have time in the future to do what is waiting for us today.
And every time we say no to a new experience, we leave room for regret to grow and fester. We open the door for us to resent our future spouse. Because we waited for them to come around so we could share that moment with them, but the moment has passed us by, the chance we were desperate to take, and it’s easy to place blame. If we hadn’t waited, we could have done that amazing, wonderful thing.
But they aren’t asking us to wait. I think they want us to be happy.
I believe that our lives are a story. Different moments in our lives are different chapters. Different characters come in and out. There are plot twists, thematic arcs, epiphanies and climaxes, action and suspense, and hopefully some humor and romance. And those stories that you live are meant to be told, to be shared with people. Your story is amazing and exciting and you are the only one who can live it. You deserve to live it.
There are so many chapters of my life that have already been written and lived; pieces of my story that my future husband played no role in. But my story is worth telling, and someday I will be able to share my story with him. I will get to sit up late at night, sitting across from him and tell him how I came to be the woman he fell in love with. Because everything I’ve done, every mistake I’ve made and every triumph, every smile and move and piece of writing will have somehow brought me to him. By living my life, I became the woman I’m meant to be.
Life isn’t about waiting to find a husband or wife; life is about living each day, doing what makes you happy, what brings you joy, with the hope that by living your life you find the one you’re meant to share it with.
So live your story, every day. Live a life you can be proud of, a life you can someday share with the person who means the world to you. Live a life that fulfills you and gives you joy and isn’t about waiting. Because God brings opportunities into your life and certain moments for a reason. You are allowed to take hold of them and have the adventure of a lifetime.