Growing up, people in their twenties seemed as old as it got. They were finishing university, getting jobs, becoming independent and figuring out their lives. They were also, of course, getting married. As I got closer to that age group, I repeatedly made the comment that they had always seemed so much older, so much more in control than I was. I’m now at the stage I had always deemed so old, so together, and I can tell you with absolute certainty I have nothing figured out. This is primarily why I do not consider marriage an urgent priority, unlike many others still do.

And yet, every time I voice that, I am met with the same reactions. Rolling eyes. Shocked looks. Smirks and know-it-all remarks about how it’s all just an act. Marriage is treated like some kind of goal, something to check off my bucket list as soon as possible, the next logical step to my life, something I must be aspiring to right now; the wedding, the party, the glamor. I’ve gotten my degree, am studying for my master’s, working on the side and I’m 24 already. What’s left? The ring. Duh. I get the “3o2balek”s (Egyptian well-wishes focused on marriage) more than I get “How are your studies going” and my answer is always the same: smile politely and ask for a wish just as heartfelt for me to get my doctorate.

With this pressure, both direct and indirect, everywhere, I want to explain, though:

I’m not ready.

At 24 I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I don’t know my innermost hopes and aspirations. I don’t even know what I want for lunch tomorrow. How can I be expected to make such a major life decision as marriage now? I struggle with paper topics until hours before the deadline, my sleep cycle is messed up and I still need my mother to remind me of important stuff and locate all the things that inexplicably go missing in my room and around the house.

The list goes on. Even if you feel that it’s exaggerated or you don’t relate to all of the above, the fact is I don’t feel ready and I know many of my friends and peers feel the same way. Maybe I will be when I meet “the one” or maybe it’ll take me a few more years. The moral of the story and my personal life motto is:

Get married if you want to and if you’re ready.
Don’t get married because this is what society sets up as a goal and expects to be your next step.

This is not a feminist statement (it could be, but that’s not the main point here). It is not a judgment against those who choose to get married young – many of my friends, colleagues, relatives, and acquaintances have made that choice. And it is most definitely not, as some interpret it, a stance against marriage altogether.

Rather, it is an explanation and a plea to be listened to, not just heard. I still have so much to learn about me before I can trust myself to assume responsibility not only for a household but also of choosing the right partner and to work on the success of a marriage. I’m constantly told it will fall into place once I’m married and that one never really figures oneself out, but, for me, that’s just doing everything upside down. I need to know myself at some basic level because I decide to share it with someone else for the rest of our lives and bring kids into this world. Otherwise, I feel, it is unfair to all parties involved.

At 24, I still feel like a kid.
And that’s precisely why I’m not rushing to get married just yet.