25 Was Not My Year
Before my 25th birthday, I had a major freak-out.
I always thought that 25 would be the year I finally had my life together. When my parents cautioned me not to get married until I was 25, I always sighed and envisioned myself beating the men away with a stick between the ages of 18 and 24. In reality, no stick was required.
And to add insult to injury, earlier that year I lost my “perfect job” along with the paycheck that paid my rent, and landed back in my childhood bedroom for the third time since college graduation. Everyone knows 25 year-olds aren’t supposed to live with their parents. 25 year-olds are supposed to have apartments and jobs and significant others and a real life of their own.
My life hadn’t gone the way it was supposed to go, and I was angry about it.
I wanted to yell at God, to argue with him, to tell him about everything he had done wrong. I wanted him to show up and defend himself. But instead, I got the distinct impression that he knew something that I didn’t know yet. I didn’t know yet that my own expectations were holding me back.
I think we all want there to be a magic age when we suddenly make wise decisions and have money in our bank account and become irresistible to the opposite sex, but it doesn’t work this way. We’re always going to make mistakes. We’re always going to have struggles. We’re always going to learn by trial-and-error.
I always thought that “real life” as an adult was so big and important, but I wish someone had told me it’s okay to fail. There is more than enough grace in the world to forgive ourselves and keep trying.
Every year is an opportunity to start again.
We can’t always choose our circumstances, but as we learn to embrace failure, as we make hard decisions, as we grow older, we can decide what kind of person we want to be. We can be a person who stays angry, or a person who forgives. We can be a person who feels hopeless, or a person who looks for small blessings in difficult circumstances. We can choose to stay home and think about everything that has gone wrong, or we can choose to go out and laugh about it.
Maybe my life wasn’t meeting my expectations because my expectations were too small. Each year of our lives, we see only part of the truth. Paul says in 1 Corinthinas 13, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. “ (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV)
We see “in a mirror dimly”. We can’t possibly predict the future, but yet we form expectations based on our skewed perspective.
When I learned to let go of my own expectations, I opened myself up to a life I never could have expected.
When my 26th birthday came, couldn’t help but notice just how much difference one year makes. 26 doesn’t look anything like I thought it would, but I’m learning that it’s okay. I’m beginning to see my life as an experiment in adulthood. If I knew the end result, what would be the point? What would be the point in trying, in taking risks, in stepping out in faith?
I think we are stronger and braver than we think we are, but we can’t truly know ourselves until we’ve gone beyond our own expectations. Life can be crazy and beautiful and surprising at any age, whether you’re 25 or 26 or 47. Sometimes, we just need to let go and admit that we don’t know the whole story yet.
Becca Nelson is a music teacher who recently left Chicago behind for the mountains of western Guatemala. Her current hobbies include squeezing into tiny over-crowded buses, painting, writing, and smiling and nodding when other people speak Spanish much too quickly. She writes at For Want of Wonder (link to forwantofwonder.com) where she is hosting a blogging series called Life Experiments. You can also follow her on twitter @beccaliz.