This weekend marks my 25th birthday. How do I feel about turning 25? Well, since you asked…honestly…I’ve been a little nervous about it. Twenty-five is a big deal. It’s a quarter of a century, it’s officially old in the eyes of kindergartners and it’s a little too close to thirty. But, then I remember that age is just a number and it’s all about making each day count. When I was a teenager, I really thought I’d have it together at 20 or 22 or 25. But, the older I get, the more I realize you actually never truly get it all together. And that’s kind of a relief. I do know that you never stop learning new lessons and you never stop needing God’s grace.
So, in honor of this very big birthday of mine, here’s a look at what I’ve been learning over the past year and how God’s been working in my life. I promise, it’s worth reading. 😉
The truth about jobs and being entitled: When you grow up as a middle class American kid with just about every privilege at your fingertips, perspective and humility can be hard to come by when you’re a young fresh out of high school kid. And then the real world can also be a little tricky to navigate. It’s like your whole life was mapped out for you through high school and college, and then you’re just kind of dumped into this big wide world. I often picture myself and most of my friends right after college panicking and hoping one job application or another magically connects us to our dream job. That time was kind of a nightmare for me and I was stressed all the time about which direction my life would go. We just knew that once we had our dream job, life would totally fall into place. We could afford nice things, the kind of life our parents have and all that jazz. Ha! No one really tells you when you’re a teenager or in college that you have to go through a lot of not so great jobs to get your perfect dream job. Oh, wait. There is no such thing as a perfect job. There’s literally going to be something wrong with every job you ever take, so it’s all about learning that you’re not entitled to perfection or the best job or whatever you think you deserve just because you went to college. It’s all about perspective, making the most of the situation and adjusting your expectations. So, after this entire mind-blowing concept sunk in for me, I realized that the real world wasn’t so bad. Sure, taxes are tricky and who wants to even think about a 401k!? But, I also realized that God gives you the job you need for the time and place you’re in.
On that note, do something you love: When we have kids one day, I only hope we can be even half of the parents that my parents were to me. One of the best things they ever did for me was encourage me to do something I love. I watched tons of classmates get pushed into careers they hated because their parents wanted to be able to say that their kid was a doctor or whatever. My parents encouraged me to go to college, but that I should do something I love, and something that will make an impact. I was often reminded that money wasn’t everything, in fact, more money doesn’t fix your problems or make your life more rich. I can’t even begin to explain how important it was to learn these lessons from my parents, because now I see what a blessing it is to get to do something I love every single day. I chose a career path that isn’t glamorous or high paying. I work in the early childhood education field, which is more snot and shoe tying than dollar signs and status. But, you know what? I’ve learned that having a job you love, a purpose that you know you’re fulfilling and meaningful days is worth more than all the money or status in the world. There’s so much more to life than money and all the things we’re promised in the American dream. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt (and Leslie Knope…haha), “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Don’t worry and seriously, it’s not the end of the world: Worry has just always been something that I struggle with. I especially have this really annoying fear of the unknown and this desire to make everything go the way I want it. And honestly, I think God probably laughs at my plans all the time, because he knows his plan is so much better than mine. There are too many examples of it in my life. Matt has been so good about encouraging me not to worry and it really does help to have a partner in life who puts your perspective back in the right place. I’m beginning to realize that every failed plan is not the end of the world and it’s going to be okay. Being anxious or stressed or worried about life is really just one of the many ways that pride comes out in our lives. God always has and always will provide. It’s as simple as that. The verse that keeps coming back to me over and over again is this: Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Boy, do I still have a lot of work to do on this one.)
Keeping up with the Jones’ is a lonely place: Growing up in modern America with all the comforts and privileges also meant that I met a lot of people who thought they were entitled to something because of their status/name/income/title in life. And let’s be serious…we’ve all been one of those people at one point or another. It’s a sad, lonely place to be and I’ve begun to realize this type of attitude does absolutely nothing for mankind. Think about it, God can’t use a self-righteous person to show humility and grace towards others. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to actually love people for who they are, because we’re so busy trying to show them how awesome we are. It’s really not about being the person in the room with highest salary, the prettiest car, the biggest house or the one who accomplishes the most stuff in one day. Because, you know what? One day you’ll walk into a different room and you’ll be the one with the lowest salary, the oldest/ugliest car, the smallest house and the least amount of accomplishments. It’s all about realizing that there’s way more to life than being better than everyone around you. It’s like watching your dog chase its tail and then hitting a wall. Sad, lonely and really painful.
So how do we still live in our modern, upper middle class American society with all of its expectations and demands? The answer. We don’t. We have to realize that we weren’t made for this world. We have to be in it, make an impact in it and love the people in it for the time being; but we were created for something far greater. Keeping up with the Jones’ is just a big waste of our precious time. We weren’t meant to find our worth in the eyes of people around us or in fleeting things. C.S. Lewis said it best in his famous quote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
I’m so grateful for the past 24 years of life I’ve been given and all the lessons God has taught me. There’s something so sweet, humbling and comforting about knowing you’re exactly where God wants you to be. I am so excited to see what this new year brings. The other day, I was reading a story about a woman who lost her fight with cancer at the young age of forty. And then I think of my own mother who lost her life in her thirties. I’m reminded of the fact that we’re not given all the time in the world and we really aren’t as invincible as we often think. In fact, time is the one thing we can never get back. This year, I’m challenging myself to make it count as best as I can and keep trying to live a life that aims to love others well.