To say my twenties have been years of change and growth and pain and lessons learned would be an anticlimactic understatement. I remember turning 25 and writing a post about my quarter life crisis and have to laugh right out loud at what I said and what I thought and what I thought I knew. The coming years after that post was written were all situations of a hot mess. In all my 'I'm a graduate, hear me roar' musings, I had no idea who I really was - no idea who I really was supposed to be; so I guessed at who the world might want me to be and I went from there. I made poor decisions, I put myself in dangerous situations, and I found every opportunity to make fun of myself so as to distract people with laughter from the actual mess I really was.
Twenty-five passed and then came twenty-six. And I had learned some lessons; I'd even grown a little. But I just couldn't have fathomed a guess at what this last year would mean for me.
I met Jesus, again. Or, rather, He found me - wading waist high in deep shame and confusion over where I was and who I was supposed to be and nowhere to really turn to in order to figure that all out. He reached down and lifted me up and He took the fires I had been sleeping in, living through, and being scarred from and repaired this broken sinner's heart.
I moved out on my own. I moved out of that large corn field that had found me scared and scarred and running and directed my steps to the city. It was the scariest thing I've ever done - leaving behind my mom and dad and brother, sleeping in a house alone at night with only the traffic outside the windows to sing me to sleep, spending time alone - no TV, no internet, no noise to quiet the doubts swimming, smelling out weakness like bait, in my head.
I said no. I said no to settling and premarital sex and giving in to what I want over everything else. I said no to the girl who had long been fighting to resurface - for male attention and to become someone's wife and to not have to learn how to handle the sadness that creeps in dark and heavy without hesitation. I said no to habits that were trying to break above water, but needed to die. I said no to the girl who always talked about changing but never cared to really do much about it.
I've allowed forgiveness into my vocabulary. Steph, I forgive you for the sheets you tangled yourself in, for the risks you took with this one life and heart of yours, for always saying this would be the last time and, deep down, knowing it never would be.
I began to forgive friendships that had been left open-ended, but never rejuvenated. I began to forgive myself for being at fault for them. I forgave myself for loving someone who wasn't right for me, and what's more, I forgave him for not being who I needed and still coming around. I am forgiving - because it helps me to breathe deeper. It helps me to live, not merely exist.
In Anne of the Island LM Montgomery writes, "That's one of the things we learn as we grow older -- how to forgive." and I just couldn't agree more; life is too short to sit around holding things against people or making mountains out of inconsequential events when we should really be holding each other up and pushing each other forward.
I used to fear growing older. Admittedly, I still do. I often find myself trapped in the confines of a perpetual thought cycle that tells me I will have failed if I've not accomplish x, y, and z by the age of 30. And so that is my prayer -- that I would realize I shouldn't fear growing old - as it is a privilege denied to many; I pray that I would realize the beauty that comes from aging because there is beauty in knowing yourself better each day. Rachel Maddow says it well, "My life is better with every year of living it."
Surprisingly I find it difficult to disagree - standing here, mere days from another birthday, I recall the girl I was at 16, at 18, at 21, at 25 and I must fight off a shudder; there are still fragments of those girls resting within me now - I may find myself taken by surprise when a tidal wave of adolescent emotion gains the upper hand, but it will settle itself accordingly. I must not forget that to erase each piece of who I was then would be to devalue who I've become right now.
Ann Voskamp, my favorite blogger, wrote a beautiful piece and posted it today and she said something that just held my breath from me for a moment: There comes a time when your world gets quiet enough that all you can hear is the beating and the breaking of your one heart. You'd better still long enough to learn the sound of it and let it teach you. Or you won't know the rhythm of your only life (emphasis mine.)I think that is what 26 has been for me - my world growing so quiet that all there is to hear is the splintering of a heart and the realization of the why's behind it; my 26th year has taught me to listen a little better - to what my soul needs, not to what the world will demand of me; to what will heal my heart best - not to what will make everyone else the most comfortable; to what my Savior says I deserve - not to what my 17 year old self desired. 26 found me wounded and broken and bitter and needy for the approval of a world that has no right or knowledge to give it; 26 leaves me repaired, on the mend, searching for the sweet nectar that is at the core of this life, and needy for the only One who can truly see me for exactly who I was, am, and will be and who chooses to love me wildly and without restraint anyway.
Come Thursday, I will not know what to expect of year 27 - only that there is this - change is okay, aging is exquisite, and there is soul shaking freedom in the letting go.