We all make sacrifices, whether we choose to or not. Everything we spend our time on has a price tag, and, one day, we get the bill.
I, like many young people these days, chose work over relationships for the past few years. It was an at least somewhat deliberate choice, so, at 28, I have no regrets. But I also have no girlfriend, let alone wife, house, or child, like some of my old friends.
One of the lessons I learned along the way is this:
The older you get, the harder you’ll have to work for love.
In high school, we all feel butterflies for the first time. Everyone is crushing on everyone, and no one knows what they’re doing, but it feels like love is endless. Some graduate with the person they’ll marry, some won’t.
In college or your first job, the microcosm of love is smaller already. We’re more careful. We choose our relationships deliberately. Few people qualify as romantic partners, and fewer still will say yes to us.
By the time you turn 30, you might have one final fresh start, but then you realize: “I don’t feel like I have many options right now. How come?” Well, life happened. To you and everyone else. We grew up and had to focus. And our relationships fell short.
Now, love requires a delicate balance. You have to work for it, but not too hard. Love yourself first, but be present, yet not cling to every shred of romance. It’s tough.
An interesting thought experiment in this context is what you could call arranged marriage roulette. Imagine this:
Your mean uncle kidnaps you and holds a gun to your head. The only way he’s going to let you go is if you promise him to get married. Tomorrow. In front of you, he places a roulette wheel.
It’s blank, but it has five slots. Your uncle says he’s cruel but not evil. So he’ll let you choose whose names to enter into those slots. You can pick anyone you want, but you have to fill all five slots. Then, it’s time to spin and let fate decide.
Whoever the wheel lands on will be the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with.
Like solving the puzzle of love in our 30s, this is a tough nut to crack:
Whose names do you enter?
It forces you to think about the people you’ve met so far. Who was a good person? Who wasn’t? It also forces you to think about yourself. How you’ve changed. Who you’d get along with. Not just superficially, but honestly.
Here’s what’s interesting: With every decade I jump forward in my mind, I find fewer names I want to enter into that wheel.
As we get older, our relationships get weaker. This is normal, but it’s important to stay aware of. In school, you spend time together by default. Later in life, unless you choose to, you won’t magically build a relationship with someone. So choose deliberately.
We all make sacrifices, whether we choose to or not. Make sure the bill you get has a price worth paying.
PS: I know not everyone is single, but you can easily expand this thought experiment. Arranged Best Friendship Roulette, Arranged Co-Worker Roulette, you can spin the wheel on any relationship in life and ask: whose names would you enter?
About Thought Experiment Thursday: Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Science estimates we have about 35 thoughts per minute. That’s a lot of chances to change our thinking. So on Thursdays, that’s what we’ll practice.
A question opens the mind. A statement closes it. Let’s keep ours wide open.
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