I am twenty seven, and I have been married for almost four years.
This is a sentence I didn’t expect to say a decade ago. In high school, I always imagined I’d be off trying to save the world in some capacity or another in my twenties (Peace Corp.? Maybe. Caped Crusader? Even better.). Or headed around the world with just a backpack to my name. Despite these early dreams, I haven’t hosteled through Europe or traveled the treacherous trail of the making of the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, but that’s okay. I still can do those things.
I can’t, however, find a man exactly like my husband, and I suppose that is why I am able to say that unexpected sentence. It may not seem like much (four years? Try forty, say my parents), but it is a lot to a twenty-seven year old, and the pressure that comes with it to grow up and on is a whole other issue. A few months ago, we decided to buy a house. I love my house. It is old and somewhat rickety and I find some new irritating thing about it almost once a week that I will “someday” change. This step felt somewhat like the first step toward adulthood, more so than getting married. I don’t know if it’s because my husband and I had been dating for five years (forever, right?) before we got hitched, or if it’s because it was just “the right time,” or all right, I’ll say it–because we were and still are very much in love–but there wasn’t a lot of pressure there. We got married. We got a dog. Life was good.
Buying a house was a bit different. We have a loan from a bank which we will pay umpteen times more on interest than seems necessary, and we had to sign so many papers I’m sure we bought some ocean front property in South Dakota someone wanted to sell us. People are depending on us now—to pay for this old house. So many other hundreds of thousands of people are in the same boat, to which my husband and my many dedicated hours of HGTV can attest, and it may not seem like a big deal. But again, once upon a time, I didn’t think I’d own a house at twenty-seven, and I do. Suck it, eighteen-year-old Rachel?
On Facebook and other social media, I see others who are roughly my age who have been bitten by the wanderlust bug and give in to the infection, and I find myself rifling through their photos and stories in excitement (and okay, I’ll admit it, jealousy). I tell myself someday we’ll have money, or someday it will be easier to do things like that, but I know I’m lying to myself. I want to travel out of these continental United States not because I dislike my life or the settlement my husband and I have made, but because I think I’ve always liked traveling—in a metaphorical sense. Thinking back to that seemingly miraculous time when I learned to read—and I actually can’t remember not knowing how to read—I have traveled not only to different countries and continents in our world, but to the past, the future, and worlds besides our own. Books have taken me to places I have envisioned, and some places I even feel like I’ve been (Middle Earth, for example, and numerous times). There are places I’d never want to visit from the books that have described them, and then there are the places I can almost feel in the sweat on my skin or the taste on my tongue or the songs I can hear from silent voices.
I’m grateful to have a house, but I think I have a fear of being settled. While I haven’t lived out of the state of Nebraska (besides a short stint in South Dakota from birth to age six), I’ve moved at least once every three years or so since graduating high school. Now, I’ve put down roots. I tell myself that my husband and I aren’t permanently stuck anywhere, that we’re more like a band-aid that sticks strongly for a time and then slowly loosens until it’s ripped off and tossed away. Maybe part of me is worried that I won’t want to leave, that settling might be okay for awhile.
So, while buying a house and being in lots debt might seem limiting and maybe even frustrating at times to me now, I know that someday, if I truly desire to do so, I can travel (and I must get over my debilitating fear of flying, which is something I’ve always been able to avoid with books) to the wild and beautiful places I dream of seeing and experiencing. Until then, I can just pick up one of the books next to me and get lost in a world I haven’t even imagined yet.