YAAAAAAAS!!

I am in *H*E*A*V*E*N*

Okay technically that’s not entirely accurate. As I’m writing this, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m very immobile on my couch (where I also slept last night), watching RedZone and eating chips for breakfast (brunch?), after a wild Saturday which involved a lot of surprises (e.g., limo for everybody) and a whole lot of fun. I’ve long known this was going to be a memorable weekend, as plans were put together months ago, but couldn’t say anything, lest I be the one to ruin the best kind of surprise. This weekend we raised many a glass to two of my favorite people; surrounded by family from all over and friends who came in without anyone knowing, we raised a glass to a long, happy, wonderful future for my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H.

In the years since it stopped being strange that people I know are announcing engagements, I’ve noticed a pattern in my reaction to the news. If it’s a distant acquaintance, like someone I had a class with freshman year of college, or the obscure friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend I met once that likes everything I do, I feign interest in the ring shot for half a minute, and then usually move on. It’s different when it’s someone I sort-of know, maybe an old friend or someone I don’t see that often anymore; there’s this twinge in my chest, a tug at heartstrings, that speaks of polite and quiet happiness for their next step but is touched with just a little jealousy, a casual reminder of my own single life and how easy it is to want something that secure. Before any of my close friends and family were engaged, I felt a little trepidation at how I’d react to their eventual news – I knew I’d be happy, of course, but I would never want to look at an engagement for someone so close to me with any negative emotions, not wanting to mar any memories with the acrid taste of a jealous single girl.

When I was younger, I always thought I’d be married, or at least engaged, at 26. It felt so old at the time, like I’d have my life completely figured out enough to share it with someone else forever; it felt so possible for a while, as I watched the weeks turn into months turn into years with the same person throughout my early twenties. I’ve been contemplating this during my marathon couch-sitting session today, while surfing through photos from Saturday night, looking at the happy couple, looking at friends who are next. 26 is a really interesting age so far. It’s no longer strange to watch friends get married and have babies, but it’s officially strange to think I wanted that to be me. Don’t get me wrong: I love watching everyone around me fall in love, and I couldn’t and can’t wait to see them celebrate engagements and weddings and beyond. But I’ve barely been single for a year! A chaotic, stressful, at-times painful year, to be sure, but also a wonderful year, one where I cherish all the time to myself and yet still feel like I don’t have enough. I love the idea that someday I might know someone well enough to share what little time I do have, but for now, an occasional text that never fails to make me smile feels like plenty enough.

I’m sure H wasn’t thinking of me at all when he decided to pop the most important question last week, but their engagement adds another layer to what is rapidly shaping up to be one of the most insane and best years of my life. Despite thinking for so long that this might be the time I’d be planning my own happily ever after, I get to channel all of that energy I’ve been saving up into planning the weddings for my twin sister and my best friend, a small slice of heaven to color my daily life. I have a full year of centerpieces and save-the-dates and test-driving the midnight s’mores recipes, a year of showers and bachelorette parties and shopping for fancy things. I have a full year of watching two of the most important women in my life at their happiest, looking towards the rest of their lives, a certain presence in an unpredictable future. And in the rare moments where I’m not thinking about them, I’ll have a full year to figure out what it is that I really want, untouched by long-set expectations, while navigating what 26 turned into in the end.

(Great) Expectations.

When you attend the wedding of someone you’ve known for almost twenty years, you expect a few things. You expect the bride to be beautiful as she walks down the aisle on her father’s arm, looking at her husband-to-be. You expect the groom to look like he’s won the jackpot, shooting looks at his best man like he can’t believe it’s happening, and also can they hurry up? You expect to cry, fighting over tissues with your sister after you both spent over an hour getting ready, having both recently acquired a serious appreciation for fun makeup tips. And you expect it to be a total blast, regardless of silly details like how the food tastes (delicious), what happens when someone else shows up in all white (yup), or whether there’s a band or DJ (DJ, mama B and I did the Cha Cha Slide). What you don’t expect is for your 6-inch heel to break, after you’ve had a few drinks at cocktail hour, at the exact moment everyone has been seated for dinner, and you have no more than 2 minutes to run to the bathroom before the wedding party comes in. No it’s okay, I didn’t need that much skin on my knee anyway.

Generally speaking, I think it’s good to have expectations. There are the basic ones, like I expect you to let me know if I have food in my teeth, and I expect that I’ll wake up in time for work so I don’t break my heels while running late to the office, 2 days before I’m planning to wear them to a wedding (superglue/apparent fail). And I think it’s also good that some people in your life are set to higher expectations, like I expect you to love me even when I’m complaining for the zillionth time about the same thing, and I expect that I’ll always do the same for you and then some. Setting expectations is like a challenge, a dare to meet standards and be a better version of yourself. Expectations create this exciting future, shaping every little thought, like “maybe this time” and “forever.”

On the other hand, expectations can be a dangerous thing. They can be tricky, leading you into false hope and heartbreak, like reading “I can’t” in a text the weekend after everything was said. But in the same way reaching expectations pushes you to keep setting them higher, missing them is equally as powerful, forcing you to reevaluate what seemed easy before. The evil side of setting expectations is you have to manage them; you have to pull back when trying to anticipate what might happen in even just the next few weeks, like whether you’ll have to pick yourself up after getting swept off your feet all over again. It’s a roller coaster, trying to find a balance between setting and managing things you can’t predict, though to be honest, I thought it was supposed to be easier when you grew up.

It’s officially six weeks until the next wedding, for another lifelong friend, and since we’ve been using initials since high school, her’s get to stay my secret. I’m already deep in the wardrobe planning process, with a particular focus on footwear to save my other knee, and of course, already making a few expectations. I expect she’ll be a beautiful bride, walking down the aisle on her father’s arm, looking at her husband-to-be. I expect to be surrounded by love and music and dancing and love. And I’m also just going to expect the unexpected at this point, for everything leading up to the wedding. I may end up with another broken shoe, or maybe another broken heart. Or maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay.