Focus on your degree, not a diamond

The fall time is full of red leaves and white dresses. This wedding season, I feel more strongly than ever that focusing on a lifelong partnership would be a great way to stunt my growth as a young adult.

Ferris is far from a religious institution, where the “ring by spring” phenomenon encourages students to pop the question in time for graduation. Still, I’m starting to see an alarming number of people my age posting engagement photos.

College untethered me from nearly everything I thought defined me. I have lost childhood friends, gotten new jobs, found new extracurricular activities, and outgrown romantic relationships. In a few months, I will be starting over once again.

Learning from my senior year of high school, I know that I personally can not plan my future inside of someone else’s. I’m not sure what city I want to be in come May 2024, but I want to get there on my own.

Right now, I am juggling the ideas of going to graduate school, finding a dream job, traveling or taking a break. It’s hard enough to know what’s right for me. How anyone is able to make their next step coincide with another person is beyond my understanding.

Growing up requires a healthy level of self-centeredness. College-aged people are simultaneously learning how to keep ourselves alive and trying to convince potential employers that we are outstanding. To apply to school or join the workforce, we have to believe that we deserve success.

Putting another person’s well-being above mine is not a sacrifice I’m willing to make at this stage. I don’t mean that my life is only about me. However, I do believe that I’m too young to have a dependent. Too often, that’s what a partner becomes.

If I want to be successful after I graduate, I need to prepare now. This success doesn’t exist in a specific tax bracket or job title. It’s in a life that I design on my own. I’ve found it so frustrating when romantic partners assumed that I’d follow them anywhere. My future hasn’t even been written yet, and they still insisted that they could edit it.

Even after I find a career and a house that I enjoy enough to unpack in, I want to be able to pivot. I feel ignorant about most of the world. If I have a husband and a mortgage, moving or even traveling to a new state will be way more difficult than I want it to be.

The marriages I watched growing up did little to encourage me to try it out for myself. Before I get reduced down to a child of divorce, which nearly half of all Americans are, I want to zoom out.

Paul Doan is a professor of behavioral science the London School of Economics and Political Science. He’s known for his studies in happiness, which revealed that the happiest demographic is single women without children.

As broken down in Psychology Today, Dolan’s work reflects that men tend to get healthier in marriage. They take fewer risks, earn more money and live longer lives. The statistics do not support similar results for married women. Today, nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. If I, as a woman, value independent leisure time and personal hobbies more than domestic labor, marriage may never look like the route for me.

Let it be known that I have not sworn off marriage as an institution. It is probably the best way to raise children, and I’m sure there are some couples out there who truly get it right. For now, I’m not sold on the concept of spending the rest of my life with someone. Of course, I’m always open to pivoting if something changes.