I got married about six months ago, less than one month before my 30th birthday. Last year at this time, I was both in my 20s and unmarried. I feel geriatric when I realize how my identity has shifted. And when I say things like, “I’m 30.”
The fact is, I’m still mourning the end of my 20s. Though I know (and hope!) I’ll never stop learning, I’ve come to accept that I’ll never have the level of innocence and freedom that accompanies those years between 20 and 29. And I’m a little sad about that.
So here’s what I learned during these 10 years of awesome-infused-with-mayhem.
1. Go on adventures.
When else are you going to be able to save a giant wad of cash, and then go somewhere far away for a year? OK, people do this all the time when they retire, but 65 is a long ways away. When I was gearing up to go backpacking around South America, or when I was planning my working holiday in New Zealand, people would constantly shake their heads, sighing, “I wish I did that when I was young.” So before you get settled and too comfortable in your life, go somewhere. You will meet amazing people. You will get the chance to encounter creation in a completely new way, and you will learn a ton about yourself while doing it. And just think of all the stories you’ll be able to tell your grandkids.
2. Live with your besties.
I know there are enough nightmare roommate scenarios to create a year’s worth of horror flicks, but sharing a flat with a best friend can lead to unparalleled greatness. Ordering pizza (again) for supper? Check. Late night debriefs that include pros and cons lists about relationships/jobs/school? Check. Laughing your faces off while you dig your car out of the snowed-in parking spot? Check and check. Going through the everyday with your friends is pretty amazing. It might just cement your friendships for years to come.
3. Work somewhere you love.
Even if it’s not your ideal career choice. Because why would you work somewhere that makes you miserable? Unless of course, you’re saving up for a big trip (see point #1). I understand gaining experience is good and necessary, and you have to start somewhere, right? But if it’s just so you can get a lot of money “someday,” and if you’re in complete agony every day you go into work, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities and consider what you’re doing with yourself. I learned this lesson the hard way; I got a mental breakdown out of the deal. So don’t be like me. Breakdowns are bad.
4. Questions are your friends.
Maybe it’s because that’s just what you do when you get an arts degree, but during my 20s I asked a lot of questions. Not only about God and religion, but about my culture, politics, and injustice. Though many times I felt like I was suffocating under the ambiguity of it all, asking questions led me to a rooted understanding of my world and of my faith. And they prompted me to gain a deeper knowledge of and trust in God. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always have questions. And to stop asking them means I’ve become apathetic to the possibility of change, or that I’ve insulated myself from the other. Or the worst of all: that I’ve given up.
5. Enjoy the solitude.
Henri Nouwen says this: “Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.” He goes on to say that allowing our loneliness to grow into solitude is a lifelong struggle. So try and cultivate this discipline now. Spend time with yourself. Get to know who you are, and become comfortable in your own skin. Strive to be content in your solitude, so that you can in turn honour and provide community for the people around you.
When I reflect on my 20s, I wouldn’t change them one bit. Out of the fiercest loneliness, God gave me a depth of community I had never before experienced. And because I allowed myself to be spontaneous, He developed not only within me confidence, but exhilarating thankfulness for the world around me.
So now that my 20s are over, I can look back and see how these years have shaped me into the person I am now. And besides, I’m counting on more adventures. I am both excited and terrified for the lessons God will throw my way in the next 10 years.
Because 30 is the new 20, right?
Flickr photo (cc) by rock.paper.scissors.