I’m turning the big “Three-Oh” this year and it has me doing all kinds of introspection-y type things.
I don’t hate or dread getting older; in fact, quite the opposite. You see, I’m like a fine wine – I just keep getting better with age. JUST KIDDING. I’m not that annoying. Or maybe I am… In any case, I truly have been reflecting a lot lately, and juxtaposing my life at 20 to my life now at 30 is quite the comparison.
At 20 years old, I was in my second year of junior college. I had no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to do with my life. My family life as I had known it was crumbling and my faith was in question. In spite of the chaos, I look back on this time of life with a special fondness – it shaped and molded me into the person I am today.
I had no idea which direction to go academically, but Sociology sounded interesting so I chose it as my major. As I progressed through college, I fell in love with my major. I dove deeply into the complexities of human society which completely changed my worldview, relationships, and the trajectory of my life. I could no longer find refuge in ignorant bliss as I became painfully aware of the inequity and oppression happening all around me. Every day. All the time.
Inequality weighed heavily on my heart, and I began to hate men – white men particularly – blaming them for everything. Needless to say, my relationship at the time (with a white man) was very rocky as I projected the oppression of women everywhere on him. On the flip side, my passion drove me to want to help the marginalized and do something about the brokenness in the world. In this endeavor, I quickly learned that trying to “educate” all my guy friends about how they were horrible women oppressors was NOT the best route to take – nor was it even accurate – but that’s where I started. As I learned from my “over-ambitiousness”, my passion turned to empowering women. I joined volunteer groups and traveled abroad, seeing how the rest of the world lived. It completely changed my life. You can’t walk through the slums of Kenya and not have it change your heart. Nor can you watch a ten-year-old Thai girl walk hand-in-hand with a 50-year-old white man, knowing full-well what the night holds for that little girl. And you can’t learn about the lepers and outcasts of India without it making you reexamine everything in your heart and life. These things were incredibly moving. And devastating.
Eventually (and thankfully) my man hatred began to fizzle as I matured and realized that loving both men and women was the only way to institute positive change.
You can’t hate the hate out of people.
At 18 years old, the family I had always known was gone, and I was working on adjusting to my new family life. My parents, who were married for 27 years, were divorcing. My older brother moved out, my mom and I moved into a condo of our own, and my little brother spent alternating weeks with us and with my dad. The house that I grew up in was sold and strangers were in it. It was a confusing time.
I was also trying to figure out what love looked like in a romantic way, and I was not very good at that. I was jealous, controlling, and insecure. If 27 years of marriage could end this way, what’s to say my boyfriend of one year was going to work out? I couldn’t handle it. Instead of staying single and figuring out who I was, I consistently entered into long-term relationships hoping they would fix everything.
I was confused about my faith as well. I grew up in a Christian home and attended church more often than not. I went to youth groups and became a youth leader out of high school. Now, I was in a college group with other confused ‘twenty somethings,’ and I questioned everything. I didn’t know what or who I believed and it left me scrambling for something to hang on to. I thank God for his faithfulness and grace during difficult seasons like that.
Even so, I truly treasure this sweet season of life, despite its obvious challenges. The new place my mom and I moved into was closer to my friends. During a season when my family was a mess, I found myself surrounded by a close knit group of friends that I will forever cherish. It was incredibly special (and incredibly needed.)
There are other benefits to youth as well. My financial struggles were basically non-existent. The only bills I had to worry about were gas, phone, and some food. No student loans or rent or diapers or… you get the picture. Life was simple: Go to school. Study (a little). Hang out with friends. Repeat. So sweet.
One of the best things about my early twenties though was my rockin’ bod. I’m so mad at myself for thinking I needed to always “just lose five pounds”! I was skinny and toned and I would take that body back in a hot second! Can I get an Amen, ladies? My mom tells me; though, that when I’m 40 I’ll look back at my 30-year-old self and say the same thing. I’m sure she’s right.
Life at 30 looks entirely different – and not just my “mom body.” I have been married for almost four years and have a sweet toddler boy that my heart aches with love for. My family has transformed into something different, yet beautiful. God is so faithful in taking things that are broken and restoring them into something new. I have six nieces and two nephews. I spend more time with relatives than I do friends, but I like it that way. I’ve realized that friendships – and relationships in general – have seasons. God has planted people in my life for specific spaces in time, and although I miss friends from previous seasons, I cherish the friends that are with me now.
I have finished college and grad school, and have some kind of direction in life with my career, though my bills are higher and life is certainly more complicated. I still struggle with feelings of jealousy and insecurity, which I think is part of being human, but I have become more secure in my insecurities. I don’t desperately try to hide my flaws and have learned that letting people see the “real me” is much more freeing and less exhausting. I still of course attempt to hide my flaws at times, but it doesn’t seem to be as devastating anymore when someone finds out the weird, ugly, and embarrassing things about me. By no means do I feel like I have it “all together” or that my life is nice and tidy. Most days I’m tired, messy, smelly and just trying to make it to bedtime.
Life is short and I know that now more than ever. In the past decade I’ve had family members, friends, friend’s parents, and friend’s kids pass away. I’ve also seen many babies born, marriages healed, and relationships restored. The best and worst part about 30 is knowing how fragile it all really is. It makes me anxious (especially as a Mama), yet it also helps me intensely appreciate and treasure the ones I love. Most importantly, I feel secure in the God that loves me and sticks with me through all the seasons.
Looking back, life at 20 was fun and skinny (and completely and utterly confusing), but I’m excited to take on this new decade. Bring it, 30!