When I was 24 years old, I lived on the gulf coast of Florida. Palm trees, sunsets and white sandy beaches were my happy. My childhood best friend had moved down to Clearwater, Florida after the 8th grade and many years later, when I separated from the Army, I decided to pack up my Ford Focus, pop in some Jimmy Buffett and move on down too. No job, no plan…but that all worked itself out, so no worries either.
Anyway, I remember the conversation we had one day, the day my best friend turned 25. She was all frantic and seriously panicked and said these words to me, “You know? If you round up my birthday today…I am actually 30!!!” Are you laughing? Because every time I recall those words, I crack up. Now, I should tell you that she’s a third grade teacher and loves math. But seriously, NO ONE ROUNDS UP AGES.
We round them down. And then subtract one. Or, whatever formula you have come up.
Which is why I have so enjoyed celebrating being 29…for a few consecutive years. I like that number. For me, 29 years old is captured perfectly in Kenny Chesney’s lyrics, “Too old to be wild and free still. Too young to be over the hill.” That number could be 39…or never…for you. It was “before 30” for me. So while I never understood why my friend thought anyone would round up her age (yet I did enjoy the laugh), she was actually on to something. Many of us assign milestones and goals with certain ages. We are conditioned that way from an early age. Start school at 5, graduate at 18. Driver’s license at 16. Vegas at 21. Undergrad by 22. You get the point. We seem to be conditioned to feel like we are missing some mark if that magic age passes and we don’t have a driver’s license, etc. For a goal oriented person such as myself, I just went right on continuing to create milestones.
For example, I wanted to have 8 years of work experience on my resume, completed a graduate education, gotten married and birthed all of my children before turning 30. I don’t know why I thought those things should all happen before 30. Did I think I was going to shrivel up and keel over after that point? Would my bones turn brittle I become incapacitated? I don’t know?! Yet, it all seemed important at the time. Can you relate or am I just crazy? A little of both? 🙂
People are weird about certain things. For me, I associate age with goals and milestones. Which I think is one reason I haven’t really looked forward to celebrating my birthday these past couple of years. For one, it means I am getting older and come on, who wants to look that in the eye? Not me! Second, most of my (written down) big life goals have been met…which is both awesome and scary.
Not that I don’t have more goals. I do. Such as ordination and visions pertaining to ministry. A beach house in Florida. To write a book. To write many books. I just don’t have any more age-associated goals. Which is freeing and scary all at once. I can finally let go of this crazy idea that goals have to be achieved by a certain point in time. I can stop putting these ridiculous stipulations on what has to happen and when.
For once in my life, God is able to move and direct and drive the train and finally, FINALLY I am the willing passenger. OK, sometimes I am not so willing, but I am the passenger at least. Life is just too busy with family, ministry and seminary to over-think and over-analyze. I no longer try to get ahead of myself. I am able, for once in life, to enjoy the ride and take in the scenery. I am happy to be here, there and everywhere…enjoying experiences, developing relationships, and just simply being thankful for the many blessings in my life.
In that respect, I am excited to celebrate another year. I look forward to another year of surrendering my will to God’s and experiencing the joy that results. Also, confidence and assurance seem to come more naturally these days. I feel strong, content in my skin and I know where my worth and marching orders come from.
Yet, YET, mid-thirties is such an awkward place. It’s kinda like the 8th month of your first pregnancy when you look down at that basketball size belly and realize, in all sorts of panic, that your beautiful baby has to come out somehow. Yet, none of the options seem all that appealing. You are not really sure how this will all play out or the toll it will take on your body, but you also don’t have much of a choice.
Yeah, mid-thirties is kinda like that. In a less dramatic, more gradual, (God-help us) non-pregnant way. While you are not old, you are also not getting any younger. And while you were never getting younger to begin with, this realization…for whatever reason…seems to hit pretty hard. I remember 25 like it was yesterday and yet that chapter of life is but a shadow. A fun, dancing, out-all-night shadow…but a shadow nonetheless. Which has been replaced by real life, real responsibilities and real family. All things I wouldn’t trade for the world.
And so this is the dance I seem to do when I hit that “rounding” age point. Perhaps for you it’s different milestone markers that you have deemed significant for one reason or another. Or maybe, you don’t do this at all and in which case, please share your secrets! Maybe you have found a way to contently let the calendar turn ahead one year and simply embrace the peace and beauty that comes from self-confidence and trust.
Me? I am at some middle place. I almost love this chapter of life so much that I am sad to think of it being gone. Between being able to pick up and cuddle my Littles, my teenagers still loving and seeking me out, and the daily transformation that occurs in seminary and ministry, I just don’t want that to end. And so I try to grasp the grains of sand as they slip through my fingers and hope I’ve captured enough life and love in the process.
What scares me and intrigues me is the mysterious truth that try as we might, we can never hold back the hands of time. And time just seems to pass more quickly each year. Here I am again on the heels of another birthday. And while part of me would love to pretend that it is just not happening, another part of me has been emerging over these past few years. God is developing in me the discipline and practice of being content in the present. And that part of me is super excited. Because in the present, I am a blessed wife and mama of five amazing children. In the present, I am surrounded by love and hugs and screams and whines and kisses all at once. In the present, is where God calls me to be and where God needs me to be. Not in the past and not yet in the future.
Just right here. Turning another year old and another year wiser.