Yesterday was my last day in my twenties. As strange as it seems to let go of this decade (already?!), I am looking forward to my thirties and what the future holds.
This has been a wonderful, frustrating, identity shaping, and tear-jerker of a decade. As I approach thirty, I’m choosing to believe the best is yet to come. Looking back, here are some of the most important lessons I learned in my twenties.
1. You have issues. Start dealing with them. We all have wounds from childhood and past relationships. The sooner you admit this and start working towards healing and wholeness, the more you will have to offer the world.
2. City life as a 20-something is a blast. I finished college in Philly, lived five minutes outside of downtown Knoxville while working my first real job out of school, and spent the last five years living in Hoboken. With endless opportunities for entertainment, food, and culture right outside my door, it would have been had to imagine living this decade of my life anywhere else.
3. God is listening and speaks to us. For years I threw my prayers in God’s direction, and walked away hoping God would later hunt me down and give me an answer. Over the last decade I’ve learned that there is greater value in being silent before God than talking God’s ear off.
4. Heartbreak is inevitable, but can be worth it. It’s pretty much a guarantee that if you fall in love in your 20’s, you’re also likely to have your heart shattered. Still, taking a big leap for love to find out if its worth it (even if its not) can lead to learning your most important lessons.
5. You probably won’t land your dream job. Most of us in our twenties think we will have “arrived” in our careers by now… even though we’ve been working for less than a decade. There are a lucky few of us who have, but the good news is the majority are still figuring out what’s next.
This is the first time I have attempted to tell the whole of my story in one sitting.
While I tell you bits and pieces on a regular basis, I have never attempted to structure it and make it fit into something less than a ten minute telling. I love narrative. I love details, understanding a character’s motivation, and a good story arc. I love the conflict and the triumph. I am also personally far more comfortable with thoughtfully chosen written words than grasping the right ones as they are rolling off my tongue.
Last fall I attended both the Storyline Conference and a church retreat for Dinner Group leaders where we walked through the basics of telling our story. Since then I have sensed an internal nudge that it was time to tell this particular thread of my story to my church community through the medium of video. I recently filmed it for the current series we are in at Hoboken Grace, Chemistry: The Elements of a Lasting Relationship.
It is always intimidating to share the innermost parts of yourself, but I hope that in hearing it, you are encouraged in some way. My story is proof that God can take the most painful heart breaks and use them for His beautiful purposes.
Have I ever told you how much I admire your relentless hopefulness; your capacity to dream in a wild way? Every year you want to start fresh, set goals, and picture a better version of yourself. You crave the taste of milestones met. I want you to stop for a minute, observe, and let all that you learned this year sink in.
This was not a year of particularly exciting news to plaster on your Christmas card. It was a year of deep examination, terrifying leaps, and unmet hopes. It was a simpler year than you first imagined in many ways. In January, you opened yourself to the possibility of parenthood. You hoped and assumed that in a few months, you would experience the terrifying and wonderful news that you would become parents. Finally feeling ready, you were excited to see what lay ahead. That month you celebrated three years of marriage with this soul to whom you’ve said “til death do us part.”
On the night of your anniversary, you were working late in the city and then fighting to make your way home through a blizzard. You arrived home soaked, late, and frustrated and you were met with a gourmet home-cooked meal, candlelight, and an outpouring of love. You slow danced to that song during which you shared your first dance at the wedding. Overwhelmed at the blessing it is to have bonded your life to his, tears slid down your cheeks as all the reasons you married him three years ago resurfaced. That night was a gift you would hold onto through the harder nights ahead.
Most of the winter you spent your nights in tears, returning home from work feeling spent and empty, unable to find meaning or reason in what you were doing 9 to 5. You had what felt like endless difficult conversations with your husband, standing on opposite sides of the conversation about what to do. As spring approached, you parted ways with your job. It was scary but also an enormous relief. You knew undoubtedly that it was the right thing. Then you spent a blissful week of childlike fun vacationing at Disney World. After tax season rolled around, you found out that your comfortable nest egg was disappearing. One wise financial decision for the future meant the pain of sacrificing now, and all of a sudden, the financial fear of living on one salary began to creep in. You both wondered how you would make it work.
In the summer, you finally detoxed enough from the tumultuous winter and spring to finally start finding your voice again. You began showing up and sharing, writing more regularly, and strengthening your perspective. People were showing up and cheering you on, and you began to realize that this thing that you do – saying yes to sharing with the world – perhaps benefits more than just you.
In the fall, you celebrated the birth of a friend’s beautiful baby and the miscarriage of another, and found yourself walking through the darkest months you remember in a long time. Waking up morning after morning, you had trouble recalling why it mattered if you got out of bed. When the barrage of mental insults started before your feet hit the floor, you wondered if this was that familiar intruder depression creeping in again. You felt powerless some days but vowed to not sink under its weight. Finally, you began to make changes and move forward. You hit a breaking point with your beloved and decided to talk to a professional about why you both were unable to move forward in the midst of unrealized dreams. In the best of timing, you then started a new part-time job that in some way allows your mothering heart to bloom: caring for children. Hope gently began to rise again.
At Christmastime, you walked up the stairs of your parents’ house and recalled the wish that this year you would be hauling home a pack-n-play for a little Lenzi. You remembered how last year, for the first time, you thought about how Christmas might be just a bit more magical with a new little life added to the family. The memory smarted, but you soaked up all the conversations, competitions, and delicious meals possible, being genuinely thankful for the gift of a family that truly loves each other.
At the beginning of the year you made a goal to spend more intentional time with God, but what you found instead was that you could not get through this year without Him. He was as close to you as the desperate prayers you breathed daily. You ran to Him, embraced Him, beat your fists against His chest, spat angry words at Him, demanded answers, and finally… you thanked Him.
In 2014, you wrote more than you ever have before in your life. You exercised less, but still maintained an overall healthy lifestyle. You read more. You traveled less. You spent dedicated time with family. You built meaningful friendships. You prayed more. You slowed down, and realized that it is actually ok not to live your life at break-neck pace. You lost. You won. You are better for it all.
I am proud of you. You made it through a vastly different year than you once anticipated. Can you identify how many goals you have met and celebrate them unapologetically? Can you acknowledge the broken dreams of this year, kiss them, and let them go? Dream new dreams for next year? I pray and trust that you will, and that you see ever so clearly that for better or worse, you lived your year intentionally.