This image perfectly captured my excitement at my engagement ceremony in Accra a couple of years ago. It was the day I got married and joined the prestigious order of men with rings.
A plethora of thoughts raced through my mind when I came across my engagement pictures as I was packing today.
It’s amazing how memories have a way of flooding back when you are in the process of moving. The process of packing and moving forces one to take stock of almost everything you own as you make decisions on what to keep or discard.
With the pictures in hand, I suddenly found myself reliving the day I got married. I found myself reminiscing about who the man in the pictures was versus the man I am today.
I still remember the two lingering thoughts I had that day.
“Oh shit! The party is over and I’m really getting married was the first thought.”
Building and maintaining a strong relationship with my soon-to-be wife and future children was my second thought.
That day, I did not think for one second that getting married was not the best decision I was making for myself. I was in love with her and there was no evidence to show that she was not in love with me.
That day, divorce wasn’t something I thought would ever happen to us. How could it?
Oprah Winfrey once said to her audience;
“Life always speaks to us in whispers and we have to listen closely to the things that whisper to us.”
There were whispers behind that beaming smile that day; whispers I tactfully ignored.
Staring at the man in the pictures now, it’s easy to turn up the whispers and hear them clearly. So here I am, conducting an autopsy of my thoughts on the day of my engagement ceremony.
That smiling man in my engagement picture is still me today; just magnified and proudly bearing the bruises and scars of this thing called life.
I never thought incessantly about marriage after college. I was 22, just landed an excellent job, purchased a 4-bedroom house with two cars parked in the garage and, I had a string of girlfriends.
Life was a party and marriage to me was that annoying neighbor who constantly complained that the music was too loud.
When my friends, colleagues and family members started to get married and pregnant, I set out on a path to discover life and all its finery. The marriage had to wait, I said to myself. What was the rush anyway?
At 30, I felt something I did not expect; pressure to get married and have a kid or two. Suddenly the pressure was constant and coming from every direction. Everyone I dated brought up the ‘M” word quickly and often.
It felt like folks wanted to check the “married” and “children” boxes for me. The inherent bachelor inside me responded to the pressure with a rebellion.
I had very good reasons for rebelling. The loved ones applying the pressure presented marriage, not as a concept for finding a lifetime partner, it was about social validation.
I hated the thought process of having to conform to societal norms just to feel validated as an adult.
Well, my rebellion did not last as long as I had hoped. Before long, I started thinking I may need the validation after all. I felt a need to be part of the masses and toe the line.
The whispers questioned if I was ready to be plugged into an eco-system made up of men with rings, kids and a life of suburban bliss. I ignored the questions because the whispers were not loud enough.
Looking at the pictures now, I realize that I was excited about life as a married man. The excitement was not a result of my propensity to ignore the whispers, I simply had no fears and no worries as I went through the ceremony. I was confident that my marriage would last an eternity.
I kept thinking, “Oh wow! I’m getting married! I’m registered for adulthood now! I successfully checked the box! I’m in the club!
If the whispers were loud enough that day, I would have thought more about what I really wanted out of life, who I was and where I wanted to go. Instead, I was more worried about how to make the marriage work and what I can do for her.
Like most, I did not see my divorce coming. I assumed it wasn’t in the cards when you join the club. We had been together for seven years and weathered some shit. Why would we get divorced? Then again, life happens.
Oddly enough, my marriage ended up being a catalyst for discovering who I was and what I wanted out of life.
After the divorce, it took me years to fully understand what the whispers had said all along.
You have to discover who you are and what you are first before you find love. You have to find love before you consider marriage. Finding love for the sole purpose of marriage makes a mockery out of marriage.
I felt like a failure after the divorce and everything felt dark. The darkness faded away with time.
I didn’t realize that there was an amazing person inside me waiting to come out.
My marriage was not a failure as others including myself, had described it over the years. This type of reasoning places one on the highway of regret.
My marriage did not turn out how I expected it to be. However, I can’t help but be grateful that I am an ex-husband to my ex-wife. My ex-wife was an amazing person who is responsible for the lessons which continue to keep me out of trouble today.
The man I am today could not have imagined how much better life could be on the day of my engagement.
With that, I placed my engagement pictures in a box marked “do not discard.”
By Kwadjo Panyin