Last year, I really enjoyed writing about what 24 taught me, so I figured I’d take a go at again this year. My recent birthday was sweet and encouraging. Gratitude, messiness, freedom in Christ, working hard, settling into friendships, having fun with Garret, pressing on in creativity in my full-time work, continuing to grow with photography, and trying to live and communicate out of grace and freedom in Christ… this is where I’m at these days… as a 26 year-old.
Also? 26 just sounds weird. 25 sounded like fun. I’m having trouble getting it in my brain that I really am this age. It doesn’t feel old, but just… odd.
Being in your 30s looks appealing. It looks appealing because some days I just feel ready to be older and wiser, maybe not making the same ‘ol mistakes over and over again, maybe having a few things figured out.
I’ve written this list of what I’ve learned in the past year, but it’s just not the whole story. The whole story is that I have learned some by trying new things this year, but I’ve learned a ton by reading and listening and thinking – which has been great, I’m reading more books than I ever have before – but I’ve got this list and now I’m feeling convicted and pulled that this next year’s list? What 26 taught me? I need to learn those things by doing.
By loving through actions. By taking chances and trusting the Lord. By following rules that need to be followed. By traveling when possible. By really “making a go at” photography. By not procrastinating. By being mentally tough and faithfully doing difficult things. By practicing hospitality even with a small, messy house and a little stack of go-to recipes.
Not exactly sure about all that yet, but something along the lines of reading less, acting more is brewing…
So. That being said. This is what I think I know at 26. Many of these overlap with last year’s lessons learned. I’m a little slow on the up-take sometimes.
What 25 Taught Me
- I don’t know much, and I need to remember that.
- Having a husband who gets enthusiastic about my dreams, interests, etc. is such a gift. And getting excited about his dreams right alongside him, cheering him on, too, is really fun for me.
- Christian marriage books are helpful and needed. But, personally, I watch out for formulaic marriage advice. We follow Jesus, and read and follow the Word, and then together lovingly figure out what works best in our marriage. This is all I know really – we try to love and serve each other selflessly, are lead by the Holy Spirit, accommodate each other’s personalities, give each other a break during hard seasons, ask questions about our days, budget, listen, goof-off, and work hard at it.
- Listening and growing and reading – and in all of those, being guided and molded by the Holy Spirit – means that I change my mind about things sometimes. And that’s a good thing. We’re not rocks, we’re people. We change. I love this, actually. I love watching myself and others evolve as the Lord molds us through the Word, experiences, knowledge, service, friends, travel, etc.
- Start where you are. This has been excellent advice for me. My camera and gear are less than ideal, but taking a risk and taking beginning steps into photography has been worth it. I’ve learned so much and gotten to serve some wonderful people.
- I need to figure out what makes me happy and refuels me, and then actually do those things more often, when I can, purposefully allocating time, money and space for them. Gardening is one of those things for me. It makes me really happy.
- Roasted sweet potatoes, lightly sprayed with olive oil and seasoned with garlic and salt, are delicious. (Thanks for teaching me that, Mom!)
- My go-to, make-ahead, weekday salad is: mixed greens + ham (or grilled chicken if we have some) + chopped green onions (if we have it) + shaved parmesean + tiny apple slices. No dressing.
- My favorite, easy, dinner for nights when cooking just isn’t happening is: pistachios + slices of aged white cheddar + apple slices, and a glass of white wine. I’m pretty sure I could subsist on these four things for the rest of my life, actually. (Garret is fine with making his own simple dinner sometimes, too. Hooray for my sweet, flexible husband.)
- Work is hard work, day-in and day-out. With that in mind, keep seeking out wise women, events, resources, books etc. on how to do the 8-5 life well!
- It’s A-OK to read blogs, books, etc. of different views than mine. It’s good and challenging. I want to embrace my voracious appetite for words and use it for good.
- And, while I should use my God-given brain to not be swayed by everything I read, I should also practice reading other people’s life stories with an open heart and open mind. Doing this allows me to increase my understanding and empathy for PEOPLE, helping me put humanity and faces on controversial issues, instead of overlaying them with politics and assumptions. (Shout-out to A Deeper Story for their wonderful work!)
- Friendship is hard in adulthood, in my experience, because it can take more effort than it did in college. But that’s alright! It can be a beneficial difficulty, actually, and I still have seriously wonderful friends!
- It’s starting to look like broken-heartedly regretting things that I said to people back when I thought I knew everything (side-eye to you, college years) may happen more often as mature. It’s kind of painful.
- Unmet goals are not the end of the world. Goals just help us stay on track and do things on purpose.
- To lose weight and become healthier, what works for me is changing BOTH my diet and exercise purposefully over months and months – and the exciting part is that it really works! (Common sense, I know, but I’m having significant success health-wise lately for the first time in a long time. More on this another day.)
- A heart-felt email or text to a friend or loved-one is way more important than a blog post or any other social media thing. (Shauna Niequist’s recent article knocked the breath out of me on this. A very needed reminder. Still working here.)
- Ask for help. Offer help!
- Memoirs are my jam. I have around 10 of them on my nightstand right now. Can’t get enough of other people’s stories.
- Poetry. I need it. I’m looking at you, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, Amy Turn Sharp.
- People will surprise you. They’ll change your mind about them, and it’s awesome and humbling and convicting.
- Jesus is bigger. Bigger than denominations, politics, labels, false dichotomies, hate, assumptions – all of it. Jesus is bigger, and He loves er’body. (A la Gungor.)
- In reading and in conversations, giving some nuance and acknowledging the variations in perspectives and layers of complications in issues are a big deal to me. I love reading about politics and Big Issues, but my number one turn-off is people writing about complicated, difficult, intense issues without a single shred of thoughtfulness or compassion or acknowledgement that there’s room for discussion or a nod to the fact that their perspective might not be the only legitimate one. Give me some carefully chosen words, kindness and grace, and I’ll keep reading. Otherwise, not so much.
- Feminist isn’t a dirty word. (Saving the most pseudo-controversial for last. Be gentle, please. I’m speaking here only for myself and on what I have learned. No prescriptives, just my experience.) This year I learned that it really bothers me when leaders say off-hand, derogatory, dismissive things about feminists or feminism. (Another example of zero nuance! Ha.) I was born into a relatively privileged life, but even with those privileges intact, my life would be different without the hard work of so many women towards equality; and frankly, I’m thankful for the opportunities that my generation of girls has had! (Not trying to discount the fact that some have had more than others. Lots of work still to be done towards access and equality.) SO, I’m tired of people flippantly bashing feminism. It makes me feel small, and I think it wrongly dismisses the legitimate and needed work of so many women. It gets really, really old. I know feminism is complicated and imperfect like anything else, and like any other movement has had some negative effects along with positive impacts. BUT, I do tire of people portraying it as wholely useless, or even evil.
- That said, I know feminism means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so, to be clear, the kind of feminism that I’m for is this: equality and agency for all. I think that feminism means women having agency in their lives, making decisions for what’s best for them and their people – i.e. be a stay-at-home-mom if that’s what works for you and your family! Or be single! Or teach! Or travel! Or work -full time, part-time, whatever! It means letting go of tradition-based prescriptives: women should literally be quiet, women should follow, women should wait, women should stay home, women should only be teachers or secretaries or nurses, women should wait, women should be covered up, women should be weak and demure. It means that I’m convinced that feminism and Christianity don’t have to be enemies. Freedom in Christ, y’all. Equality and agency. (For more on this, see: this post by Annie B. Jones – I’ve had a similar experience, Suzannah Paul‘s work, Sarah Bessey‘s work, PBS’s recent Makers documentary, Women in the World.)
Like I said, this time next year, I want to be writing about lessons-learned from trying new things, creating more and consuming less, taking risks, loving well and big, and serving in new ways. I want to be surprised, again and again. I want to stay blazingly aware to this world and how God is moving and how He is changing me, you, us.
Here’s to another year learning and growing and changing.
What have you learned in your last year? Do you feel like you’re learning more by doing/creating or by reading/consuming?