I turned twenty-seven twenty-ish days ago. I like birthdays. A LOT. Mine, yours, doesn’t matter. I like the excuse to eat doughnuts with sprinkles, if I want. I like the candles and the cards. I like purchasing gifts and wrapping them with brown paper and tying them with ribbons and bows. Birthdays, in my opinion, should never be overlooked.
I work with college students and I hear a lot of negative connotations about being an adult—you know, a “real adult”—the post-college kind of adult that works a full-time job to pay for things like rent and cell phones and student loans and amazon prime and food and wifi. I try hard to counteract the belief that aging is dreadful by celebrating my own adulthood well. I want my students to see all the wonderful and beautiful things that come with getting older. I will not lie, adulthood is hard. But it’s also rich. I’ve found that my relationships grow deeper as time passes. Each year, I learn a little bit more about myself. I trust that I’m becoming a slightly better person with age as God continues to sanctify me.
I have to be honest about twenty-seven, though. This birthday was hard. I exchanged mid-twenties for late and it’s quite probable that I’m having a quarter-life crisis two years too late. The week I turned twenty-seven I interviewed for a new job, was offered said job, accepted said job, promptly quit previous job, and packed up my life for what feels like the millionth time. I will save that story for another post, another time. The point is, turning twenty-seven made me doubt this whole adulthood thing. It made me wonder if I’m any good at being an adult. It caused me to question the decisions I’ve made. It made me worry that I’m making all sorts of mistakes and that I’m doing this adult thing completely and totally wrong. I never imagined twenty-seven but, if I had, I would have imagined a young lady with some direction regarding her career. I would have imagined a young adult who’d at least begun to put down some roots, building a life for herself. Confession: I’ve yet to stay committed to a job for more than two years at a time and I’ve yet to reside in a space for longer than one year. I’m quite unsettled and still grasping for direction.
Perhaps you can relate, and perhaps not. I tend to inflict hard things on myself and make everything more difficult than it needs to be, I know. My ambitions drive me to crazy. I said yes to crazy amounts of grad classes. I said yes to crazy work hours. I said yes to multiple jobs. I said yes to promotions that didn’t pay but only worked me harder. I said yes to uprooting my life and moving across the country, more than a few times. I’ve lived in 3 different states, in 13 different places with just as many roommates while working my way through 11 different jobs over the past 9 years. Crazy, clearly. I try to pretend that I’m not a millennial but my life story screams otherwise. I’m still trying and failing and learning and growing. I’ve been reflecting on all the different seasons I’ve walked and there are a few things that I wish someone had told me, truths that I still preach to myself as a twenty-seven year-old.
1. Paint the Walls
As previously mentioned, I have moved A LOT. I’ve lived with family, roommates, and also alone. I’ve done my fair share of couch-surfing in-between moves. I can’t tell you how many times I refused to settle and refused to unpack. I didn’t think I’d be there that long or, let’s be real, I didn’t want to be there very long. I was waiting for what was next. I’m horrible at living in the present, especially during a transition. What I’ve found, though, is that my whole life is being built on a compilation of seasons that all feel like transitions. Sometimes seasons stretched out much longer than I thought they would and other times they ended more abruptly than I’d ever anticipated. I can tell you that I have never regretted making a space a home even when it was a super short season. I have, however, always regretted the times I refused to settle and refused to unpack. Paint the walls, so to speak. Open your heart to the ones you’re living with. Make traditions even if they only last a few weeks. Believe that you are home for that moment and that you belong and that God has you right where He wants you. And if you literally do paint the walls (which, I think you should) I’m here to tell you to use frog tape, it will make all the difference.
2. Forever is a Lie
I spent a lot of my twenties in despair by listening to the lie of “forever.”
“It will be this way forever.”
“I’ll be stuck in this job behind this desk for the rest of my life.”
“This difficult season will never end.”
“Family will always and forever be hard.”
You’ll be blown out of the water at how quickly the season you’re in can change. Sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call or an e-mail and your whole life will change, just like that—like mine did the week I turned twenty-seven. Other times the change is slow, but I promise it’s there. I spent a year faithfully showing up to my therapist’s office Every. Single. Tuesday. FOR A YEAR. I feared it wasn’t helping. I doubted that I was making any progress. And then, I faced a huge transition in a way that surprised even me. I knew then that those Tuesday evenings hadn’t been in vain. I’d planted seeds and watered them faithfully and they’d grown, and I’d changed. Forever is a lie. Don’t listen to it. Plant seeds and watch them grow. Whatever season you’re in, I assure you, it isn’t infinite.
3. Name Your Fears
Name them out loud to yourself, first, and then to someone you trust. Naming your fears immediately releases the tightness of the hold. It will allow you to face them with greater courage and clarity, I promise. You’re stronger than your fear. One of the bravest things I did was name that I’m afraid of needing people. Naming it gave me permission and freedom to fight that fear. It allowed me to choose to open my heart and to resist the temptation to live in isolation. My dearest and closest friends wouldn’t be my friends today if I hadn’t named that fear to myself, and also to them, and fought to let them in. Name it, and fight it with all the courage and strength you can muster.
4. Let Your Hopes and Dreams Shift and Change
Millennials. We get a bad rap for being non-committal. In our defense, there are so many places to travel, so many jobs to apply for, so many new things to try, who can blame us? We like to dwell in possibility, it’s true. I had very specific hopes and dreams in undergrad. I entered grad school with an ever-so-slightly different set of hopes and dreams. Then, I turned twenty-seven and I’m realizing that my hopes and dreams are changing again. I’ve persecuted myself for not anticipating that this would happen and I’ve beaten myself up for not making decisions accordingly. But how on earth was I supposed to know that my hopes and dreams would change?? Further, how was I supposed to know what, exactly, they would morph into?? How am I supposed to remain true to myself if my desires keep shifting?? Here’s what has helped me: I’ve decided to choose wisely, the things that are most true to who I am right now, and then commit to those things. Pursue your hopes and dreams with your whole heart, but don’t be surprised if those desires shift and change with time. What I thought I wanted when I went off to college isn’t the same as what I want today. My hopes and dreams right now probably won’t be the same when I turn thirty. It’s okay. Simply pause and reroute. Redefine your hopes and dreams and then continue chasing them with your whole self.
5. He’s Faithful
In retrospect, I have to laugh at myself. If I don’t laugh I’ll cry over how many days I spent drowning in confusion, full of anger and asking all the questions. It’s always the same. The season ends and all of the sudden I can see with clarity that God knew what He was doing. That whole “lamp unto my feet” thing, it’s actually a thing. I feel like I’m walking in the dark a lot, but with time I’m able to realize He was leading me all along. I hope someday I’ll get better at this trust thing, but probably not, despite my best efforts. The Israelites certainly never did. This I know: you’ll find yourself amazed each year, even through the hard ones that you’d rather not walk again. He’s faithful, always. Every. Single. Time.