You really never know what you're going to get when you post, do you?
My thoughts on the previous post were running more along the lines of humor a la ward librarian, and instead this deeply introspective discussion has mostly revolved around the aside I almost didn't include. I was going to add the following remarks as comment #15 or whatever, but they became too lengthy and I felt like some clarification was in order before I mortally offend any reader who comes this way.
What I think is fascinating in this discussion is the overall theme that many different life paths still fall in the realm of "righteous" and that each is unique to the individual on that path. And yet, for all that we've come to many of the same conclusions, each of you here is so different! There are single women, married women with and without children in various numbers, returned missionaries, women who were married before age 20 . . . . heck, there might even be a ward librarian or two. Oh, and men. There are a few brave enough to wade into the middle of the sea of estrogen from time to time.
With my aside, I didn't mean to imply that women should wait until they are 21 to either get married OR go on a mission. I think what I was trying to share is that we sometimes unwittingly reinforce certain stereotypes among our young women. Even with my head rather firmly on my shoulders when I went away to college (I can say that--there are very few here who knew me then. Brooke, Mike and Rachel, you can all just stay quiet if you disagree.), I still was pretty anxious about the fact that I could count on one hand the number of dates I'd been on. As I saw the girls in my ward snatch up the "few really good guys," I was totally convinced that I would never get married. I WAS ONLY 19. For all my practicality and ambition and even some profound experience with personal revelation, I was nearly certain that I was going to be single always.
This fear of being alone prevented me from taking my guy-relationships for what they were worth--wonderful, life-long friendships. If there had been dating or attraction there, many of those relationships would be lost to me now. Another skewed idea that grew out of this fear was that I started to think that if ANY guy ever wanted to marry me, regardless of his religious situation, it would be better to be married than to be alone. (Again, no offense meant, righteous women marry non-members all the time; I'm just indicating that before I'd even had a chance to taste life I was selling myself short.) In addition, my fear caused me to spend a lot of time and energy on a man who ultimately cost me a lot of self-esteem.
In my post-mission, post-first-fiance months, I had a very difficult time just dating for fun. I was just a few months from graduation, and terrified of leaving college as a single. At that time, my grad school ambition was not immediate and the prospect of high school teaching didn't seem all that conducive to finding someone to marry. Most of my friends from my pre-mi days had moved on to lives and marriages of their own. Again, I was convinced that I'd NEVER be married. I was only 23. But again, for all the wonderful lessons I had learned in the alone part of my journey, I was still prey to my upbringing and the stereotypes read in novels and heard in so many young women's lessons.
Now, here is the personal revelation part, voiced so importantly by many of you. Chrisw was teaching school in another city. There was an opening at her jr. high for a science teacher. She told her principal about me and he, trusting Chrisw's judgment implicitly (how could you not?) said that he'd be willing to offer me a teacher internship position. What this meant is that I would bail on my fall student teaching, not have to find a mid-year contract full time job, and instead teach for partial salary the entire year at Chrisw's school. Not a bad proposition. Chrisw and I talked about becoming roommates (which, okay, would have been completely awesome), and she was saving her yen to backpack through China the next year (which, okay, would have been completely awesome).
I prayed and told the Lord this was my intention. I felt like hanging around USU another semester was the equivalence of waiting for the axe to fall on my marriage dream and that by moving in with Chrisw at least I'd be throwing myself whole-heartedly in to my life as a single. (Remember: only 23.) The next morning, I completely forgot everything I had to do in order to make the internship happen. And I kept forgetting. Also, things I remembered to do weren't smooth sailing, and bailing on my renter's contract was going to be expensive. I'd only had such stupor of thought once before--when I was 18 and chose to reject my acceptance to nursing school in spite of no clear alternative. So the next day I prayed again and told the Lord I'd decided to stay.
The peace was palpable.
I met Plantboy the next week at a job I would have left by that point if I had taken the internship.
But I think the Lord knew I might screw it up. By a strange "coincidence" he was also assigned to be my sister's home teacher at his apartment complex several wards away from where I lived. We might have met anyway.
So yes, absolutely, young people, men and women, need to be taught about receiving personal revelation. But maybe we also need to back off the primary use of examples that reinforce stereotypes that, albeit inadvertently, encourage early steady dating and poor choices of companions. I'm sure you all had a friend or roommate for whom getting married was so much more essential than marrying the right person that the result was disastrous. (I think this is what Mike's paraphrasing of the 70 was essentially about.)
If my previous post made anyone feel like I was critical of your life choices either concerning number of children, or marriage, or your spouse of the color of your kitchen, please understand that was not my intention at all. My intention was to encourage us all to create a place where our young people feel comfortable exploring a variety of choices and ambitions, and to remind them that their worth comes from them being children of God and not from their marital or dating status.
When my boys go out into the world to find their wives, I hope they find women who will be true partners to them in every sense of the word--women who have prepared themselves to stand equally yoked as partners in the gospel and truly understand that happily ever after means enduring joyfully long after the novelty of their first romance wears off. The age and life-experience of my daughters-in-law to be matters a whole lot less to me than their commitment to their covenants and to finding the Lord's will in their lives.
And I hope these remarkable young women find the same in my sons.