I turned 30 yesterday.
Ok, you can all pick your jaws up off the floor at this revelation…I know, I LOOK LIKE I'M 20.
People literally don't believe me when I tell them my age, like they legit think i'm lying.
But come on people, why would I lie about being 30?
For most of my life I hated looking so young, and would be deceiving you if I said I wasn't massively self-conscious about that fact. But maybe i've turned a new leaf. I kind of like it now. (Just don't tell me I look like i'm in junior high. I got that last year, and i'm pretty sure I NEVER EVER want to look like i'm in junior high again. ever. bad stage. bad school pictures. ok, done.)
But all this turning 30 business has made me rather nostalgic, peeking back into the last decade of my 20's and wondering what it is I gleaned that has made me a better person. Being in your twenties is like being bi-polar. There were some HIGH highs, and some serious LOW-lows. For the first time in your life you are not at the same stage as everyone else, just traveling along, grade level by grade level. No, you get out on your own and you realize life is your oyster, and your little shellfish can look insanely different than others. There are some serious variables that you can't control, like getting married. But there are things you can control, like choosing where to work and live.
I feel good turning 30 because i'm absolutely at peace with where i'm at and who I am.
But it was a long road in getting to this place, a long, but good one.
Here are the most profound lessons i've learned in my twenties:
1) Take Risks: I took a lot of risks in my twenties. I moved over to Thailand knowing no one, traveling around teaching English where ever I could get a job. I started a clothing line that donated over $30K to different organizations working in Africa. I worked on a farm (twice) and drove a massive tractor. I spent a year of my life working for Invisible Children and traveling around the US in a van speaking at hundreds of schools, churches, and venues about the conflict in Northern Uganda. I traveled to Africa twice, one time alone. I got married. I moved into a low income neighborhood without knowing a single person. I started a girls group in my neighborhood having no clue who would come that first day. Kevin and I moved to Nepal, and hit our 40th country traveled to. These risks all changed my life and shaped me into the person I am today. Risks showed me that life isn't as scary as we might think it is, and that God protects us when we are living in his will. Risks propel us into a crazy dependency on God, because risk involves the unknown, and the unknown means we have to give up control. Risk is good, and I recommend doing it, a lot.
2) Don't Glamorize your Risks, they are going to be HARD!: All those risks I took above…they may sound glamorous, but the reality is, they were HARD. All of them. Thailand was lonely, hot, and emotionally draining. That clothing line I started, took hours of my week ordering,packing and mailing shirts- and in the end I closed up shop not because demand decreased, but because I didn't have the time to keep it running. Working the farm was 11 hour days handling heavy equipment, greasing a tractor, being itchy in rice straw, and shoveling dirt off a machine. Traveling around the US for Invisible Children was early mornings, long nights, team conflict, no money, home sickness, and brownies and pizza for every meal (barf!). Africa wrecked me (in a good way), but it was hard. Moving into a low income neighborhood was tough- building trust, living in an apartment with cockroaches, and seeing poverty that broke me. The girls group I started made so much headway, but took physical and emotional work and hours of my week. And moving to Nepal rendered me sick every week. ALL OF THESE were worth it, every second. But I think our generation has a tendency to think that risk should just be adventurous and glamorous and sexy. I carried with me a romanticized view of risk, and it disillusioned me when I was met with a hard situation that involved long term commitment and work. But that's what makes risk so incredible, is that we dedicate our lives to something so worth the investment!
3) Forgive and accept forgiveness: The reality for all of us is that we will be hurt, sometimes deeply wounded. My twenties involved a good amount of hurting and being hurt. We are humans, sue us! It's going to happen (and if it hasn't, what planet do you live on? because I want to move there). I was hurt by some of the closest people in my life, and I hurt some of the closest people in my life. And it was a painful process of learning to forgive others when they hurt me, and learning to forgive myself when I hurt others. But forgiveness is where the magic happens. It is not forgetting what happened, but it is foregoing our right to get even. For so many years I lived with a lot of bitterness and resentment, and it affected my health and emotional well being. When I finally learned (through lots of prayer and intentionality) to let go, I could not believe how much better I felt in every way. Like a wight lifted. Learn to be a person of grace.
4) Don't expect so much: I held on to some crazy high expectations for everyone and every situation. And if people didn't live up to my expectations (which was always) I would be disappointed (which was like always). It took an extreme situation to reveal how cruel my expectations were to others and to myself. When we expect others to be a certain way, we strip them of the way God uniquely crafted them. When we expect such high things for ourselves, we come to despise ourselves when we fail. My husband modeled for me how to just embrace and love people (and ourselves) and events as they are, not as they should be. As a result, life is just a lot more fun!
5) Don't gossip: While in my twenties, I found that when someone hurt me, my natural instinct was to tell all those friends closest to me; partly because I am a verbal processor by nature, and partly because I wanted someone to sympathize with me. But I've realize that it just never does any good to spread negative news. Something small can turn into something big, and then it's out of control and people's emotions are involved. Proverbs has much to say about gossip, but one verse that I love is this, "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever relates the matter separates close friends" (proverbs 17:9). It is good for us to keep a matter to ourself and let it blow over, or to find one person (a husband, parent, friend) to talk through it with and gain some perspective. The last few years of doing this has shown me that if we don't gossip about it, it doesn't affect us as much, and soon the matter passes. We are better friends when we show discretion. We love when we don't gossip.
6) God can redeem the crappy stuff: I had some relationships fall apart that I literally didn't think God could repair. And you know what, he did. Not only did he repair them, but he made them more beautiful. Don't give up on a relationship, especially if it's in your own family. Give it time, prayer, and love, and you will be surprised at what He can do:)
7) Healing is real: I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my twenties, and the first few years were nothing short of depressing and almost hopeless, as my health declined rapidly. Yet when I found a holistic chiropractor, his natural and cutting-edge methods began to revive my body, and in turn, my spirit. I spent almost all of my twenties believing that i'd never get better, but these last few years have been a living testimony to the fact that no one is beyond healing! This goes for emotional healing as well!
8) Have boundaries!: I am a visionary through and through, but this led me to living a life full steam ahead with no boundaries. I said yes to everything people asked me to participate in, I maximized social media to a fault, I worked to please everyone, and I pursued every relationships like people should be my best friend. Somewhere in my twenties, I burnt out and hit rock bottom. I learned to live a more quiet life- our souls need that, you know? I said "no" to people, I got rid of most of my social media outlets, I learned that it was ok if people didn't like my decisions, and I took inventory of the people I wanted most in my life and pursued those relationships on a deeper level (instead of spreading myself so thin). Learning to put up boundaries in my life has been really good. It has allowed my worth to come from the Lord, not others.
9) Enjoy what God has given YOU: In the age of social media, I sometimes wonder if we spend more time coveting what others have, than appreciating the unique life and place God has given us (which is why i've unplugged from a few outlets!). Somewhere in my twenties, I realized that gratitude is where JOY is at. Our hearts flourish when we just praise Him. I've learned (and am learning) that MY situation is God's gift to me, and YOUR situation is God's gift to you. Even a hard season in my life can gift me the opportunity to find out more about God, and more about how He created me. It's all about embracing the gifts and life He's given us!!
As if 30 has really made me a wise sage, it hasn't.
But it has made me wiser.
It's made me kinder.
It's made me more graceful.
And I'm grateful for that.
Here's to another decade of lessons,
and to hoping they aren't as hard as the ones I learned in my twenties, haha!