I’m turning thirty on Friday. Three-zero. It feels like a big milestone, leaving my twenties. I think culture has always made me believe that all the things happen in your twenties so I had better live it up and enjoy the decade for all its worth. I’m not sure I did that. I’m also not sure that I didn’t. Bloggers the world over have created list after list of things you just have to do in your twenties or you have missed out on life— I’ve read a lot of these things and I would say I’m about three for twenty-five on most of them. But I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on life. Actually, I can tell you with all honestly that the twenty-nine year old version of myself is a hundred times happier with who she is than the twenty-three year old. Maybe a thousand times happier. And Lord knows it’s not because I’m skinnier or prettier or more successful. Ha, that is laughable. Let me compare- on paper- the two:
At twenty-three I was rocking the graduate student title in one of the best programs in the country (pride, much?). I unashamedly spent at least a hundred dollars a month at starbucks, sixty on my acrylic nails, and got my hair done every other month on the dot. Friends, I wore business casual every day. With heels when I was really feeling it. I went to happy hour with co-workers each week and to the gym almost daily. I had my own schedule and only a handful of bills to pay. I was single and terrible at flirting but I did try. And I wrapped up that season with a masters degree and a resume I was really proud of.
At twenty-nine I have grown, birthed and nursed two babies and I go to the gym… well, I think went sometime this month but only because my friend Emily made me… so my body is hardly in tip-top shape. I left a great job to stay home with my kids, and although I have loved teaching a class or two since leaving full-time work, my resume is being sustained by the grip of a fingernail, not built. I feel guilty every time I buy any latte because four dollars buys a whole pack of wipes. And I can’t talk about my hair, it’s just too painful.
Twenty-three wins on paper. But you know, no one could pay me enough to go back to twenty-three, because so much of that piece of my life was riddled with things that do not get put on paper. Twenty-three was probably the most insecure I had ever been. I tried to control this with nails and hair and buying new clothes with my credit card but it was all a façade. Or there’s the fact that I was so desperate to meet the right guy that I cried and cried and waited for and made excuses for the wrong guy for almost two years. I look back now at the heart grip the wrong guy had on me and I can only shake my head; but at the time, no one could have talked me out of it, out of him. Until circumstances and divine intervention finally did, and then I met the right guy and went “Oh my gosh, I almost missed out on THIS!” I did feel “accomplished” at twenty-three but here’s the truth: the two little people I spend the most time with are very unimpressed with accomplishments, but they need me. Gosh, it is such a precious gift to be needed. I like it so much more than being accomplished.
I never backpacked through Europe or moved to a big city. I never had a “night life” or got familiar with any bar scene in any place I lived in. I never did a lot of things twenty-somethings “should” do. And I would still say I’m going in to thirty really happy. And without many regrets—I do think the regrets I have are more about what I’ve done that I’m not proud of than what didn’t do. I’m learning that growing up is more about making a life than about making a list. And I think making a life is all about learning, growing, giving, and seeing yourself less and less as you see others more and more.
I am going in to my thirties seeing more. I see my husband who is such a joy to love to and serve every day because he does those things for me a hundred times more. I see my babies who make it impossible to think of myself all day long. I see my friends who are more like family by now, and I see their babies who I love as my own. And I see my community, the people hurting right around me. Once you see, you can’t un-see. But that has been the best part of getting a bit older. It is amazingly refreshing knowing what a small part I play in the world, but knowing that God has given me roles to fill that only I can: a beautiful paradox. I feel like I spent many years just wanting to be seen, and it is an exhausting way to live. But then I fell in love with a real Jesus and realized I am seen, and its really only his view that matters.
I am less of an athlete and less of career woman and less of a lot things now. But I am more of who God made me to be. Not perfect, and I certainly haven’t arrived anywhere in life worth noting. But I can honestly say older is better, more sure, more free. I can’t wait for thirty. (And I’ll write about forty when I get there, but I do know a few kick-a** forty year olds who I would be so proud to be like.) One day at a time though, right? Here’s to being brave and seeing ourselves less.