For one glorious year, I was almost-no-longer-twentysomething – but 29 is still twentysomething.
Alas, those days are behind me.
I desperately wanted to write an uplifting post about how excited I am about this new decade of life. But milestones seem to lend themselves to melancholy – they’re about past achievements rather than future hopes and dreams.
Birthdays provide me with a forced moment of reflection. Not that I’m the kind of person who needs an excuse for introspection.
So if I have to say just one thing about my twenties, I’ll say this: I learned a lot.
But why say one thing when I can say 30? This is my blog after all.
So here goes: 30 lessons on my 30th.
- I have somehow managed to become and continue to exist as a functional human being. I know how to do a tax return and pay bills; backpack solo; get a job and leave a job; make small talk and also go deeper.
- I have learned to drink beer and wine – responsibly, and with a degree of discernment.
- I have realised I don’t like steak. Sorry not sorry.
- I’ve come to understand that there are a lot of things I’m good at. There’s also a bunch of things I’m not good at, and I’m also very capable of failing at things I’m normally good at.
- I’ve developed convictions – about faith, justice, politics, football. I also enjoy having educated discussions about all of the above.
- I have learned to be wrong. But I need to be better at being right.
- I’ve experienced the fluidity of the introversion/extroversion scale, having moved from one end of the spectrum to the other.
- I have learned to accept and work through my emotions, rather than fearing or feeling bad about them. I’m trying to stop immediately rationalising them.
- I have discovered both the value and the limits of reason.
- I have learned to be okay with awkwardness. When it comes to awkwardness, there’s no other way to be. Get over yourself and embrace it. Laugh about it.
- I have come to see clearly how my family and my formal education have shaped me in ways that I cannot and would not change.
- I have learned the value of the moments that make up forever. Here, now, eternity.
- I have learned the value of connection and relationships. I have discovered that friendship can be fleeting yet sweet. I’m still learning how to be good at this and I don’t think I’ll master it anytime soon.
- I have learned that boys will be boys – and sometimes you gotta accept it, sometimes you absolutely gotta refuse to accept it.
- I have learned that pretty much everybody is insecure. This gives me a truckload of confidence.
- I have learned to be all things to all people … though I’m not sure if by these means I might save any.
- I have accepted that nothing is actually about me.
- I’ve always said I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks. But I actually do, dammit, at least some of the time. And y’know what? I’ve also come to understand that caring what you think isn’t always a bad thing.
- I am not my achievements or my points of difference, nor am I necessarily who other people think I am. Stripping myself of these created identities has been a difficult but edifying reminder of my true identity.
- I’ve always wanted to be different – but I’ve also discovered how seriously lonely the road less travelled can be.
- I have learned how to thrive as a foreigner. I’m still exploring what it might mean to be a permanent stranger, even at home.
- I have acquired another language in which to interact not just with other people, but with God. I’d like to go for a third.
- I have discovered music as worship. As in when singing in church is more than singing in church.
- I have learned to pray. Not that He didn’t hear my teenaged attempts at prayer, but I think I kind of get it, now.
- I have learned that yeah the world is a big, bad place. But because God is bigger and better, I can make a difference and no difference is too small to make.
- I have learned not to feel guilty about my privilege, but rather to leverage it in favour of those less fortunate.
- I have learned submission and obedience – and the freedom that flows from that. On the other hand, I’ve also discovered that I need to better understand my own desires.
- I have learned to walk by faith, to see God at work even when I don’t necessarily see the results.
- I know now what it feels like to long for eternity.
- I have learned gratefulness and the joy that comes with it. I have learned to be content, to savour what I have – and also to accept other people’s generosity.
To tell you the truth, I struggled to put this post together. Generally I try to find a unifying theme, so I was thinking of drawing a parallel with the fact that my birthday happens to fall on Anti-Slavery Day (justice, y’all!), or of doing a retrospective and telling you about how I felt turning 18.
It’s just another example of me trying to give my life structure via literary cohesion. But the truth is that 30 lessons for 30 years is about as neat as it’s going to get.
So let’s ditch the structure and add Lesson #31:
Life is messy and rather than striving to arbitrarily make it fit some sort of order, I have started to trust that the perceived chaos of the present is already aligned to an eternal pattern.