“Once he gets his placement we’ll know where, we will be sure of things. You know, where we’ll be living and all that” AG nonchalantly tossed out while telling us about how she had introduced her boyfriend to her parents and how things had already become serious to the point of marriage. It’s only a matter of time, the whats whens and wheres to be decided, but the whos already confirmed. AG’s boyfriend is a year ahead of her in school, so once he gets his job placement they will be sure of where they will be living. She will look for a job in the same location.
Sure? How? I mean, of course, okay, fine, sure of where you will be living. I’m pretty sure I want to be living in New York City once I graduate. But maybe I’d like to live in Paris. But if an opportunity came up in Bombay . . . But she is already sure of the person she would be living with – the person with whom she would be spending her life. A location is something you can change, but a person? Not so easy to move away from that. Sure. How? Did she realize that we’re still just barely sure of our own personalities, our own lives, forget about joining them permanently with someone else’s? I can’t even say for sure where I’ll be in five years. Here she was talking about a lifetime.
Another friend, AM, chipped in and said “Oh ya, R and I, we’ll be getting engaged sometime next year once I finish my Masters.” V and her boyfriend too, meanwhile, are about to broach the topic with their parents. I felt like the only ignoramus at the table. Was I the only one who hadn’t been told that the marriage train was taking off? Why wasn’t there anyone else asking my questions? Then I caught M’s glance and relief flooded over me. I wasn’t the only one. Although the majority of the table found AG’s statement disconcertingly normal, at least there were two of us who felt bewildered and confounded.
I mulled this over in the rickshaw as I went home that night. I mulled it over in the taxi to the airport. I mulled it over in the 16 hour flight back to New York. And I mulled over something else AG said to me – “You know, don’t you think it’s funny, the trend of our conversations? Every year you come and visit and we all get together, and every year one of our topics of conversation is relationships. Earlier it was about thinking boys were cute, then it was about dating, then relationships. And now we are talking about marriage. It gets more real every year no?” Yes. It gets more real, more grown up every year. It isn’t really that bizarre that my friends whom I have known since kindergarten and even before, are talking about marriage. We’re all almost 24. None of us is getting married immediately, but the talk has started. Soon it will be about getting engaged. Wedding invitations. I don’t even want to think about the time when we start discussing babies.
But what about M and me? How come we seemed to be the only ones not waiting for that marriage train to pull into the station? How come we were still hedging our bets with refundable round-trips when everyone else seemed to be investing in non-refundable one-way tickets? As we chatted together later we kept coming back to the same question – how could you be SURE? I’ve met someone I care about deeply, someone who makes me happy, someone who interests me, someone who gives me butterflies in my tummy. But am I ready to say “I’m sure”? Am I ready to say that regardless of where life takes me, regardless of whom I meet and what I do, regardless of how the world changes and what I become, I would be with him no matter what? Am I sure that he’s “the one”? And am I sure that I’m “the one” for him? How can I promise to build a life with him when I don’t even know what I want my own life to be? Perhaps it takes a leap of faith. Perhaps it takes imagination. Perhaps it takes a lack of imagination. I see so many possibilities that I cannot honestly say to someone “this is me, I promise to be with you forever.”
Every day I know myself a little bit more. I grow. I change. Only over the past few years have I learnt how to love myself thoroughly and completely for who I am. And I’ve known me for the past 23 ½ years. How long does it take to be “sure”? Well, judging from my friends, anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. I suppose that gives me some time. Then again, I know of relationships that made it through 5 years and then crumbled after a diamond ring made an appearance.
I suppose in the end it is a leap of faith. It’s one I’m not ready to make just yet, but I’m starting to understand how it might be possible. I still have a lot more growing up to do before I make the kinds of decisions that AG, AM and V seem ready to make. But then I suppose that’s what friends like these are for – to clue you in on when bigger steps are possible and to make you analyze and understand yourself by juxtaposing your life with the lives of your friends.