1. I’m worried everyone thinks I am pregnant
If I got a dollar every time someone asked me if I am/was pregnant, I would have like 25 dollars.
Last week I was out with a friend who also lives in Tokyo; her fiancé is Japanese. Over coffee, I complained how I was sick and tired of that question. She just laughed.
Later, while we were hanging out near Shinjuku station, a guy from Morocco walked up and started chatting with us (mostly complaining about his Japanese wife). He asked our ages; both of us dropped the “I’m engaged” and/or “I’m married” bomb pretty quickly, just in case he was trying to hit on us. She said she was 24 (true) and I lied and said I was 24 (not true).
He did a double-take and was like “Married? At 24? Are you pregnant? Do you have any children?”
My friend cracked up and teased me about it later. I wasn’t joking. I’ve had the old lady who runs an Udon shop I love ask, strangers on the train ask, and our landlady asks.
Sure enough, nine months after our wedding, I posted something on Facebook like “all y’all who thought I only got married because I was pregnant, pay up!” as a joke. What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer number of people who commented saying things like “hahaha, actually, I was expecting like 8 months later, you would have a kid.”
I get really self-conscious that people think the only reason I got married so young was because I was pregnant. There’s nothing wrong with getting married because of a surprise baby – but assuming that’s the ONLY reason a young couple would get married is a bit weird, right?
2. We didn’t just “wing it;” we knew what we were doing
In the months leading up to the wedding (and right after) I got the question “why the rush?” a lot.
Why not just wait another couple of years until we are both financially and economically secure enough to make such a life-changing decision? We got married when we did because we love each other. Your relationship changes after marriage. It’s difficult to explain, but we felt like we needed to take this step to keep progressing.
Before we even got engaged we already decided I would graduate a semester early and move to Japan to be with him. He would work full-time the first couple months while I did job-hunting and blogging. If my blog “took off” and started making more than $500 a month, I could quit (or postpone) job hunting and blog full-time.
If it didn’t, I needed to find a “real job.”
Marriage was the next logical step. Believe me when I say we agonized about the decision for months before he even proposed. We thought this thing through.
So it hurts when strangers just kind of assume we jumped into it without bothering to think through the consequences.
3. I’m not sabotaging my career plans
I was lucky enough to get the Boren Award from the US Government. It paid for my entire study abroad experience in Japan. It also opened up a lot of doors in US Government jobs. I can apply non competitively for government jobs now (this is a really good things).
But then I got married and moved to Japan.
Many very well-informed and caring people informed me that this was an unwise decision for my career. There are significantly less US government jobs in Japan than in America – and I’m competing with a group of people for a handful of very specific and selective spots.
All of this is true, there is no denying that.
However, I also think that as a foreigner in Japan, I have access to a group of jobs that American students in the States do not have access to. Or at least I have access to experiences that I would have missed if I had stayed in the states.
For instance, blogging, comics, and Youtube videos. I blog, draw comics, and make videos about living in Japan, about my intercultural marriage, and about being foreign. Those are topics I can’t really cover living in the US.
Honestly, I thought all this out. I promise you, even if it seems like this is a step-back for my career (grad school, jobs, internships), I promise you that I am finding a way to make myself a unique candidate in Japan. And even if I wasn’t, there are quite a few things that are more important than having a “good career.”
Marriage doesn’t have to get in the way of your “career.” If anything, I have become more ambitious having my husband as my number one cheerleader and biggest fan.
Basically what I’m trying to say is if you happen to meet a couple that got married at the age of 18, 21, or even 24, don’t automatically assume they rushed into it because of a surprise pregnancy or a lack of forethought. And even if they did, you don’t have a right to judge.
Everyone is allowed to follow the path they think will make them the happiest – even if it’s not the path that most people take.