Half-Birthdays Make You Think

This week marks my half-birthday. In six months, I'll be 26. I've always loved celebrating birthdays, and I've never had a problem with growing older. But this year I'm feeling a little more anxiety around it.

Twenty-six means I've crossed into my late twenties. Twenty-six means saying goodbye to being a post-grad and hello to being a full-on adult. Twenty-six means I'm old enough to get married and have kids. It means I only sometimes have to buy Ikea furniture and two-buck Chuck. It means I'm investing in a retirement account, while still dealing with the occasional acne. Perhaps most importantly, 26 means I definitely cannot get away with belting out Taylor Swift's "22" anymore.

When did that happen?

Ferris Bueller was right—life moves pretty fast. I think that’s especially so when you live in a high-energy city. But even if you don't, we Millennials thrive on a fast-paced lifestyle. There’s always something to do, some new goal to strive for, a new rung of the ladder to climb.

People ask me all the time how long I see myself living in New York City, what's next for me career-wise, when am I going to meet a man and settle down, etc. etc. etc. I don't have answers to these questions. And if I'm being honest, when I hear such questions I start to think about my age and my lack of answers and get a little scared. I begin to believe the lie that I need to have a fully detailed life plan. That I need to plot out exactly what I want, when I want it, and then I need to go after it. I need to just do it.

So I had to laugh when I re-read a Verily article of mine from January of this year. I wrote about embracing the new year—by doing exactly the opposite of what I now feel like I need to do. Case in point:

"I am excited to embrace the adventure in 2015—not by creating some five-year plan, but by instead enjoying the journey and trusting life will happen exactly as it should."

Oh. Hmm.

Not only did I write that, but I also wrote that if I were to make any new year's resolution, it would be to start a fresh relationship with myself. To take care of myself mind, body, and soul. To allow the adventure of the year ahead to unfold and to accept the mess that comes along with that.

My words from January ring true now more than ever. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t quite know what’s next. I’ve been striving for as long as I can remember. I’m always working toward a new goal or achievement. As a kid, I did everything I could to get straight As on my report card. I practiced every day to make the tennis team and then to win matches and tournaments. I maintained my GPA and tests scores to get into my first-choice college. I studied my butt off to graduate with a double major. I did the internships, the extracurriculars, the part-time jobs. And for a while, I also worked hard on my eating disorder. If you’ve already been following my blog, you know the story: I controlled my eating in an attempt to control my life and to truly “have it all.” Another goal added to the ever-growing list, another part of myself lost.

The cycle played itself out again when I relocated to New York City. I relapsed in my recovery and had to seek help for my eating disorder. Thankfully the Lord has provided health, healing, and a whole lot of refinement since then, and I praise Him for that. 

Yet the striving continued to play itself out in other areas, especially work. I came to the city for work, and I landed my dream job. But it was a temp situation, so I constantly felt like I had to work harder to be brought on in a more permanent capacity. Eventually the promotion came. Later, a new gig with a bigger title, bigger responsibilities, and bigger dreams.

And let’s not forget relationships. Subconsciously I think I wanted to strive there, too. After moving to NYC, I entered into my first serious relationship. Almost two years later it ended, and not long after that I embarked on another.

Even church was a place to strive. I committed to friendships, community group, a women’s group, Bible studies, volunteer work.

Check, check, check.

You see, working toward a goal is easy for me. Setting my mind to something and going after it has never been a problem. I can look at my past and see God's hand in it. I really try to enjoy the present, and I trust in the future kingdom of heaven. It's that nearer future here on earth that is decidedly more difficult for more to embrace. Twenty-six, 27, 28, 29, and (gasp) 30—ten years ago, I thought those ages seemed so, well, old. Now I'm right there. And don't even get me started on all those lists about the 30 things every woman needs to do before age 30. 

Today, at 25.5 years old, I am a single woman working in a steady job, with good friendships and a church community. I have absolutely have no idea when I will meet the right man and get married, or what my next career move will be, or how long I’ll live in New York City. It’s scary to admit that.

But what if I could be fully satisfied in those unknowns? What if I could, as I wrote, enjoy the journey and trust what happens along the way?

Life would probably be a lot more peaceful, and age would truly be nothing but a number.

The Lord gives us free will. We have the ability to make decisions every single day. We make plans and resolutions and goals. We choose how to live our lives, and we have to take an active role in them. At the same time, God knows the plans that He has for us, plans to give us hope and a future. Ultimately, He is the one who directs our steps. 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21

I'm so grateful that I can make mistakes, and I can have no idea what is next for me—but I can still trust in the Lord in all of that. I can stand in His will and His goodness.

For the next six months, my goals aren’t to get promoted, to become a greater presence at church, or to land a boyfriend. My goal isn’t even to drive more traffic to this website. My goal instead is to surrender. Surrender my mind, my body, my soul to the one who has knit me since before I was born.

Twenty-six, get at me.