20 Things I Learned in my 20’s

I was kind of an expert of everything in my twenties. Especially my early twenties. (I think everybody is. It’s a rite of passage.)

I’m entering my thirties this week, a fact I can confirm not just by the date on the calendar but by how different my mindset is today than it was two, five, ten years ago.

Now, I hear a young twenty-something person provide invaluable, irreplaceable expertise on life to an older adult and I smile. I was you, like 1 second ago.

I knew it all, until life proved I didn’t.

I was an incredible wife before I got married.

I was an excellent businesswoman before I started my first job.

I was an amazing parent before I had children.

It’s adorable, really. How much I thought I knew, how much I really didn’t, and how much I’ve grown in the past decade.

I have no doubt each new decade brings similar revelations.

As I hit the big 3-0, I’ve come up with a list – not exhaustive, but substantial – of lessons my twenties have taught me.

20 things I learned in my 20’s

  1. Pistachios are very expensive. Honestly. No one tells you how much bulk nuts will cost in adulthood.
  2. Life plans should be held with a loose grip.  If I were to compare my original five year post-college plan with my post-college reality, we’d all have a good laugh. So much of life is accepting and adapting to the unexpected. (Like 3 kids in 4 years. That kind of unexpected.)
  3. Contentment cannot be bought. It’s easy to think that when we hit the next level or stage or salary in life we will find contentment. The truth is, if we aren’t content with a little, we won’t be content with a lot. Gratitude is the antidote. (I started to say “Gratitude is the best attitude!” but then I threw up in my mouth a little bit. Though I’m positive that phrase is on a t-shirt somewhere.)
  4. I don’t have to be someone I’m not. I had a very liberating confession the other day: I don’t like ice cream. Yeah, I said it. And in my 30’s I’m going to quit pretending I do just because the truth is a wildly unpopular opinion. We’re all gifted uniquely, with different passions and desires, and each gift is important. You do you. Because you is the only person you can be.
  5. Life is messy. No one has it all together, no one has all the answers. Not a one. (And if they act like they do, they are lying.) We never ever ever know what others are secretly carrying, battling, or in pain from. Instead of going in to a relationship with all the answers, go in with good questions, a listening heart, and a humble transparency. Being authentic in relationships leaves you a little dirtier than when you started, but there is raw beauty found amidst the mess.
  6. A faith community is key. Especially a diverse one. Friends of all ages, backgrounds, opinions. This is how our worldview broadens, our view of God deepens, and our understanding of truth solidifies.
  7. God’s goodness isn’t on limited supply. I don’t have to be jealous of the good things in your life or the success of your business or the talents you’ve been given, because God doesn’t run out of good things. He has an endless supply for us both.
  8. Marriage requires intentionality. I always thought I’d love my husband just because he is my husband. And I do, but I don’t always like him. Healthy marriages don’t just happen, they are made. They are fought for. They are nurtured. They are doused in mercy.
  9. We are absolutely, 100%, not in control. Of anything, really. Our kids, the future, our spouse, other people…no control. We fake ourselves into believing we are. But if you have experienced death, or health scares, or disobedient offspring, you know: you are not in control. (See #10.)
  10. Daily walking keeps us sane. God operates on the daily. He gives us enough for today. Not for this week, not for this quarter, not for ten years – for today. And we can handle anything life throws at us if we walk with the Lord one day at a time.
  11. Children have birthdays, like, 28 times a year. I can’t even express how many birthday parties we attend each Saturday of the year. It’s fun with the first round of kids. By the third? You can’t even remember the kid’s name, let alone why he’s already having another birthday.
  12. Everyone needs a safe space. If our couch cushions could talk, you’d learn some things. Our home has turned into a place for people to share life. Real life. Painful life. Good life. I told my friend recently that I wonder what God is up to bringing all these people through our door. Her answer: “Maybe he just wanted you to make a space.” That, we can do.
  13. Having kids doesn’t make you unselfish. “I’m not ready to have kids. I’m too selfish.” Really? Because I have 3 and I’m just as self-centered as ever. Having kids doesn’t make you unselfish, it just makes your selfishness obvious.
  14. Partying is imperative. When you hear the name “Jesus”, do you think “throws a good party”? Probably not, but he did. Celebrations for people, covenants, God’s faithfulness, friendships…he threw a mean dinner party. With all the ugly in the world, our family is done waiting for The Biggest Moment to celebrate life. We celebrate all sizes of beautiful all the time. Finishing swim lessons, going 3 months without an ear infection, turning 30, pooping on the potty (not even being fully potty-trained, just one little poop is fine), wrapping up Q4 (or whatever it is accountants do).
  15. Social media makes a cheap friend. It has amazing potential, it can be used to do infinite amounts of good. It will also never take the place of or satisfy our desire for true, face-to-face relationship and intimacy.
  16. Busyness is a cop out. If something is important enough, you will make time. We are not slaves to our calendar by default. We choose to be. (Or don’t choose not to be.)
  17. Being cool is overrated. I’ve been on this shift for a while. When you have one kid, you’re the cute people with a baby. Two kids, the people with a cute family. Three kids, the couple with “ALL THE CHILDREN”. We’ve been easing out of relevance for a few years now and…it’s amazing. The older I get, the less time and desire I have to care about being “cool”. (Do The Youths even still say “cool” anymore?)
  18. Lamenting is an important part of life. We don’t lament well as a culture. We don’t grieve well, we don’t cry well, we don’t do hard things well. We want a pill, a fix, a solution. But when a baby dies, a marriage falls apart, an addict relapses, the depression turns suicidal, a friendship betrays, a job is lost, you don’t need a pill or an “everything happens for a reason”. You need a hug, a “this sucks”, and an “I’m not going anywhere.”
  19. A body is made for a lot of things; defying age is not one. My 30’s body is very different than my 20’s body – a lot lumpier and saggier and stretchier – yet it has done the most amazing things for me and my family. If I hold my body to an impossible standard of never-ending tightness and beauty, I will destroy my joy and gratitude and contentment and understanding of true intimacy in the process. It doesn’t matter who’s comfortable about my skin – I’m the only one in it. And it fits me quite well, thankyouverymuch.
  20. It really does come down to love. Like, good love. Authentic love. Messy love. Hard love. Love when it’s easy, love when it’s not. Love when we don’t have the answers, love when everything isn’t all wrapped up in a pretty bow. Love when the other person is in the wrong, love when we don’t feel it. Love God, love others. That’s it. Sounds simple, requires supernatural grace and grit.

So, how do I feel about turning 30?

I feel awesome about it.

I can’t wait to see all the ways I grow and stretch and meet God in the next 10 years.

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