23 Things I Should Do Instead of 23 Other Things

My mom didn’t think I should publish this.

Sorry, Mom.

By now, some of you may have heard of an article that’s been floating around the internet, called 23 Things to do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23

The author, Vanessa Elizabeth, outlines the struggle of being a single 23 year old surrounded by a vast array of friends, family members, coworkers, and former classmates that are engaged or married or happily in serious, long-term relationships post-college.

She attributes this slew of young marriages to lots of young people not really knowing what to do with their lives after college, so they get married, because why not? What else is there to do? YOLO!

What else is there to do?! Why 23 things, apparently. She gives us a mainly humorous list of things to do with your life post-grad rather than just copping out and tying the knot.

However, her negative portrayal of early matrimony and insistence that all young marriages end up in nasty divorces has created quite a bit of backlash, particularly among married early-twenty-somethings.

Katrina Fernandez, divorced mother and author of the Catholic blog The Crescat, wrote a biting rebuttal titled, 23 signs you are a narcissist and men should probably avoid you at all costs…

Katrina points out that Vanessa is suffering from emotional immaturity and more than likely has that and her off-brand “humor” to thank for the fact that she is alone. She admonishes Vanessa for her disrespectful tirade against the institution of marriage and the way she shames young couples who decide to get married.

She then goes on to mock the feminist movement, call Vanessa an attention-seeking slut, admit to being as condescending and patronizing as possible in her message that putting off marriage in any capacity is selfish, shallow and vapid, and gives her own list of 23 things to do with your life.

Both Vanessa and Katrina make very valid points, but the credibility of their arguments are diminished by their blatant lack of respect for anyone who wishes to lead a different lifestyle than what they view as preferable.

Vanessa hits close to home for me. As another 23 year old who has never been in a serious or long-term relationship, I can attest that watching other people in my life celebrate X number of years together, or plan their weddings, or adjust to the happiness of married life can sometimes feel like a kick in the stomach. That doesn’t mean I think they’re making a huge mistake and wasting their youth and will be bitter divorcees in a few years. They aren’t bored or afraid to transition their lives, they found someone who makes them truly happy. If they want to get married young, that’s their choice to make.

On the flip side, while it’s amazing that some people are lucky enough to find their soul mate so early on in life and are able to get married and be happy at 23 as Katrina suggests, that doesn’t mean they can judge me for not having the same priorities. Wanting to take time for myself before I enter a serious relationship doesn’t make me selfish, it just means I want to be able to understand and deal with myself before I try to do it for another person.

Then, of course, there are the lists themselves. 46 things to do with your life according to two conflicting viewpoints.

Vanessa’s list is the pinnacle of free-spirited youth: vaguely silly, slightly inappropriate, and a bit unrealistic.

Katrina’s list is the foundation of responsible adulthood: dignified, logical, and thoughtful.

Does anyone else see the problem here?

Vanessa can’t say enough to bash couples who make a life-long commitment because there’s nothing else to do, but her viable alternatives include getting a haircut, or eating a whole jar of Nutella, or jetting off to the Philippines for New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, Katrina goes on and on about the selfishness of immature young women who don’t want to embrace adulthood, but expects them to embrace a list that instructs them to check their credit score and purchase vehicle insurance.

These are two different lists. These are two different lists, written by two different types of people at different stages of their lives, for completely different purposes.

So I wrote my own list.

It isn’t a bucket list because YOLO!, it’s not a manual to adulthood, and it doesn’t have an expiration date or contingencies. It’s just a list of 23 things I think I should do at some point in my life.

My point is, we all have the ability to make our own list that will fit our unique situation. Just because someone on the internet said you need to stand naked in front of a window or baby-sit a friend’s kids for free in order to make your life meaningful doesn’t mean they’re right, especially if they say you’re a bad person if you do otherwise.

So write your own list. Or don’t.

It’s really up to you.

2 responses to “23 Things I Should Do Instead of 23 Other Things

  1. I think your points are sound in certain respects and I think I misunderstood what you were trying to say before. For this I really am sorry.

    It seems to me that you don’t like how they are both spitting fire at each other in a polemic manner. I certainly agree that I do not like Vanessa’s statement on marriage and the implications that are derived from the list she provides. In my frank opinion, her list and her ideas are really stupid and immature. And yet, I do not like the manner in which Katrina conveys her opinion. Rather than presenting it in a charitable manner, she does have undertones of judgment which work against her goal of justifying her particular lifestyle before others.

    Obviously, I favor Katrina’s list as I explained above, but even then, I told myself, “I can’t possibly do ALL of these things right now even if I desire to do them.” The particular listings seemed to ignore the fact that reality is much more messy than we all prefer it to be.

    As a result of this, I decided that I needed to read both of these lists from a “principled” point of view, that is, the underlying principles that are informing the particular things found on the list. By this perspective, I can justify my leaning toward Katrina in this cyber debate. I choose to resolutely set myself to follow the truth no matter what the cost because to seek truth is to seek the good of the human person. We all have different goals in life and lifestyles, as you said, and frankly this is all good as long as we don’t deceive ourselves and violate our consciences – assuming we don’t try to remain in willful ignorance to what is true and with regards to what is responsible for us to do. And so, I need to say that I think I agree with you, if not exactly with some variance and that I think your analysis of these two authors deserves attention and respect.

  2. Well said, Lindsay. Lacking from both points of view is the possibility of both getting married AND having fun! Finding someone you want to live out the list with is good, too.

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