Going to a Christian university in the Midwest was a wild ride, especially for someone that grew up in New York. People smiled at me. People I didn’t know. But out of all of the cute little quirks that make the Midwest different from New York (aside from the significantly lower driving standards), the one that got to me the most was the pressure to get married young. Maybe it’s not a universally Midwestern concept, maybe it’s just the Christian school mindset, but still. A 2013 study found that the average age for a woman to get married in Missouri was 26.5, while the age was 29.1 in New York. There’s a little bit of a difference there…Maybe not as much as I was expecting, because it seems like literally EVERYONE I know has gotten married, even my friends that are younger than me. I even have friends that are having babies on purpose. Anyway, there was a cute little saying at Evangel… “Ring by Spring!” At first I thought this was some horrible, sick joke. You couldn’t honestly expect to meet someone at the beginning of the academic year and be engaged to them the next semester…right? I could buy a sweater in August and completely regret it by the time May rolled around. How on earth do you know in that amount of time that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone? I know I know, “when you know, you just know!” My whole life I have been skeptical of people who get married that quickly. And my dad says to me all the time “Kate, you know that’s exactly what’s going to happen to you, right? You always say that’ll never happen to you, but you just wait.” My dad has never been wrong. But there’s a first time for everything, right?
The sad thing is, it isn’t a joke. People meant it. In my junior year at Evangel, I made a list of everyone I knew that had gotten engaged or married just within those past twelve months. I stopped counting at 46 couples. That’s 92 individual people. At a university of only 2,200 students, that’s like 4 percent of the population. IN ONE YEAR. In an environment where you’re surrounded by people feeling like they have to be in a relationship, it can take a toll on you. You start to believe “Well, I still haven’t met anyone or gotten into a relationship…maybe there’s something wrong with me?” As much as I hate to admit it, there was a time that I bought into that. I thought there was something about me that was inherently unlovable. I’m too emotional. I’m too stubborn. I’m too independent. I’m too… The list goes on. Fortunately, I didn’t feel that way for long. I realized, yes, I am emotional, stubborn, and independent, but none of those things make me any less lovable than anybody else. Which is an important but difficult lesson to learn.
Let me just throw in a little disclaimer: I do not think any less of you if you met your S/O in college, or even if you ended up with a “ring by spring.” I saw a lot of beautiful relationships come out of Evangel. I just don’t want people walking around thinking that something is wrong with them if they don’t meet someone in college.