To the Twenty-Something Who Feels Like Life Doesn’t Quite Fit

Dear You,

I see you.

I see you in the coffee shop, tucked away in the corner, the last little bit of your latte growing cold. Your laptop is out, your papers and books are strewn across the table top. You’re new enough out of college to remember you don’t really want to go back, but far enough out to consider grad school because maybe you’re not quite sure what you’re going to do with your life. You’re smack dab in the middle of this decade of discovery, simultaneously giving it all you’ve got while feeling like you’re standing still. You’ve never learned more about yourself than in these years but the biggest discovery is that you’re mostly clueless.

I get that; I’m here too, nestled up against the window trying to focus on these words but continually finding myself getting lost in the people milling about outside. “These are adults,” I say in my head as I watch them on the sunny street. “These are real adults who know what they’re doing. When do I get to be comfortable in my skin like them? When will I look like I know what I’m doing?

Maybe you’re here in this season too. The one where you’re trying to figure out your place in the world but it seems like life just doesn’t quite fit no matter what you do. It’s like you borrowed your roommate’s jacket for an interview but the sleeves are too long, the buttons are too tight, and it falls lower than it should on your waist. Every time you move you’re tugging at the seams, pushing back the sleeves, and trying to make it look like you’ve got it under control. But no matter what you do, everything just feels awkward. It’s like you’re eight and you’re playing dress up in your parents’ closet all over again.

Does any of this resonate with you? Do you feel like this too, Reader? I can’t imagine I’m the only one in this season, even though when I scroll through social media it certainly feels that way. I’ve asked God a lot of questions about what he’s doing inside of me. He’s asked me to dive into myself, to break walls and barriers around my heart and my mind and to let him in. He’s asked me to go back to a painful past and allow him to show me exactly where he was standing in the room when the pain first happened. It doesn’t really feel good. It makes the feeling of dressing up in an adult’s clothes seem way more real. And to be honest, I really don’t know where he’s taking all of this. I started this whole conversation with him by asking what career he wanted me in, and now we’re dissecting the past and learning how to pour out my heart together. I’m trying to be open-minded but I’ll admit—for a while I didn’t know how diving back into my own trauma answered the question of if I should go back to school or not. But slowly he’s revealing to me the purpose behind it.

Reader, life is really hard. And from what I’ve gathered, it doesn’t really get any easier—we just get more experienced in navigating it. The highs are still really high, and the lows bring us crashing down. But there’s a really important secret I think we’re introduced to in our twenties: we learn how to stay.

We’re introduced to wading into life and letting the waves toss us around without the lifejacket we’re used to wearing. We figure out when to float on our backs and when to swim like hell. When we dive into ourselves and sit in the middle of the things that make life feel like the wrong shape, we are able to explore how the past built us and realize that the future is what we were built for. We figure out how to roll up our sleeves and deal with the awkward fitting situations. We learn about community and how it helps take the edge off of feeling like an imposter because when we get real with each other, we’re all in the same boat. We learn staying is something we’re capable of, regardless of how much it makes us squirm. We learn how to find the lessons and the gifts amidst the chaos of not having a clue. We take a front row seat to what God is capable of, and no matter how many times we see it, it always blows our minds.

Staying is a more of a lifestyle than we’d like to believe. We’d love to think that being asked to stay calls for pause only every once in awhile, but reality would say living in this broken world is a lifelong journey of this practice. It’s not an easy job, but the work is good. The sitting in the middle of a loved one’s mess so they don’t have to go it alone. The watching of the falling apart and rebuilding of a life. The wading through the dark places in yourself to find out what to do next. Stay in it, Reader. Stay present in the hazy, ill-fitting parts of life. Dig up the courage that lives in the marrow of your bones and sit present to what’s happening. Allow yourself to get lost so you realize your feet know the way home. Because they always will. Find out what you’re made of—I promise you it’s good. Because it’s him.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
— Zechariah 4:10

Stay, Reader, with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart. Stay.