Three Decades of Life

Sometimes, as Friday grows near, I ask my friends what I should blog about next. A few times now, one friend has suggested that I write about my latest birthday.

You see, I turned 30 in March, and they say it’s a milestone. IMG_1801

I’ve hesititated to write about it because in most ways, it felt like any other birthday.

But I admit, in one way,  it felt like a milestone. I wasn’t feeling old or anxious about it in the slightest until the day before my birthday, when it suddenly felt like I was aging the entirety of my 20s in one day. From 20-29, I felt exactly the same. Then, the eve of my 30th birthday, I watched my young adulthood zoom past, and I caught up with myself.

It was rather disconcerting.

The good news for me is that I never pictured myself much past college, so I didn’t have many unrealistic ideals to grapple with as I crossed into a new decade. I have many friends who expected to be married by a certain age, and have had to come to terms with singleness in unexpected ways. As my dating history suggests, I would like to get married but I’m not entirely committed to making it happen. I would love to own a house someday, but it’s not tied to a particular life stage. I don’t make much money, but adulthood didn’t necessarily bring prosperity in my young dreams. I am mostly free from broken expectations of that kind.

The bad news is that I fully expected myself to have more things figured out by now. I did not expect that life would still be so challenging, so…unexpected.

I thought I would know what I was doing.

Don’t we all expect that, to a certain extent? Don’t we expect to somehow finally figure out how to deal with things, or finally learn a lesson that we don’t have to relearn? I know life is a process, enjoy the journey, yada yada, blah blah blah. I’m all for smelling the roses and embracing the process. But wouldn’t it be nice to, just once, in one area of life, actually arrive?

These thoughts brought me around to the serenity prayer, to words embraced by those who are willing to take that first step: admitting and accepting they are in process.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

Honestly, I had forgotten the second paragraph of that prayer even existed. I had grasped tighter and tighter in my 20s to what I could change, believing that my reach would widen, that eventually, somehow, I could control most things about my life.

I can’t.

Which, of course, makes me think of Dumbledore.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

IMG_1819I am, and always will be, in process. But I can choose destinations along the way. I think that’s what I didn’t realize as a kid, dreaming about having things figured out, having my life under control. I’m not going to arrive at adulthood. But I can celebrate ten years of paying my own bills. Why not? Get a cake, invite some friends. A decade of financial independence! So what if I don’t have my financial plan figured out? I’m doing it. I’m living it. I can create my own stops on this journey.

I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’ve been successfully living in a world of total uncertainty for 30 years now, and that is worth celebrating.

What about you? What stops have you reached on this journey that you can celebrate?

 

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What Didn’t Happen

My last two months have held a series of adventures.

From getting stranded in an ice storm in Iowa to leaving my iPhone in a cab in Thailand, my recent experiences could easily be narrated by Lemony Snicket. Some of that just comes with traveling internationally, and some of it was completely unwarranted and just comes with Murphy’s Law. It’s basically been two months of solid blogging gold, and even other people have noticed. Some variation of, “This will be a great blog post,” has been said to me at least five times by different people.

But my blog has been quieter than the Western Front.

IMG_1670 2.jpgThis is not just because I’ve been traveling. I’m currently writing this on a plane, somewhere over Pennsylvania, because you can write anytime and anywhere, Sam I am. (I guess not in the dark, unless you have a charged electronic device, which tends to be elusive when traveling overseas. But unless you’re stuck in a closet with no electricity or technology, I feel like you don’t really have an excuse for not writing if you have something to write.)

And I am going to write about those things that happened. Because they’re dang crazy. Or at least worth sharing. I am going to tell you what happened when I ripped my pants on a 12 hour flight from China to LA. Just not right now.

Today I want to talk about what didn’t happen.

Let’s start with the age old question: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound?

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My not at all old answer: yes, but it sounds different.

(There’s also the question, if a man hears a tree fall in the forest and there’s no woman to hear it, is he still wrong? The answer to that one is, of course, no comment.)

Here are a few things that didn’t happen:

When I couldn’t get the flat tire off my car while freezing rain soaked straight through my clothes, no one cussed the skies with me or lent their body weight to the effort. No one helped me tell the story when I got back, a day later than I had planned, from that spontaneous trip to Nebraska.

When I had an overnight layover in China, there was no female friend to share the hotel room with me, to laugh at my inappropriate jokes about the window between the shower and bedroom. There was only the young woman I met in the airport, and she was already asleep as I explored the foreign room, so I didn’t talk and laugh out loud about this stranger hopefully not being a serial killer.

When I saw a vague message from my mother and knew my grandmother had died, no one at that Israeli restaurant cut through the sounds of raucous laughter and busy nighttime traffic in Thailand to join me in telling stories about a woman who lived a long and amazing life. Whatever I needed in that moment didn’t happen, simply because no one present knew what that was, including me.

I could go on. But my point is not to depress you, or me for that matter.

My point is that over the last two months I’ve noticed the things that didn’t happen, the things that are missing.

And almost every time it’s actually a person that’s missing. Not one specific person. A kind of person in my life. The kind of person with me who could say, “I’m in this boat with you,” or, at the very least, “I see you and I understand you and what’s happening.” Those things didn’t happen because the people directly around me couldn’t say that, or because I was alone.

(A brief note: absolutely none of this is a complaint against the people I was with, or the people who helped and comforted and laughed with me from a distance. I am incredibly grateful for the way my friends, coworkers, and even strangers supported and cared for me. You did what you could in the moment, and I appreciate that more than I can say.)

I have had the good fortune to have at least one of those persons with me on many of my life adventures. But they’ve been noticeably absent in the last two months, and it’s made my adventures less fun, less funny, less light-hearted, harder to to accept as especially colorful pages in the coloring book that is my life.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 9.11.14 PM.pngI have a notepad given to me by one of my favorite persons; we used it to log our travels on a particularly adventurous road trip. The cover says, “You be Thelma. I’ll be Louise.” The story of Thelma and Louise wouldn’t be a story without both of them together. They were in the boat together, right up to the end.

My thought for the future: whenever possible, take that person with you. The extra baggage fees are definitely worth it.

Fear Factors

Oh, hey! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?

I purposely did not post for the month of March because I was out and about, running communication stuff for a large conference, and trying to do any extra writing would have likely resulted in spontaneous human combustion.

Then, when I returned, I fully intended to start again. But I got scared.

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Two fear factors:

  1. Once I stop something hard for a while, it gets incredibly difficult to start again. What if it’s too hard? What if I’m not good at it? What if it hurts? That’s true of most things – working out, playing music, being honest. The gap between my last victory and today grows too large for my memory to throw me across.
  2. I’ve experienced some weighty relational tensions in the last two months, and I feel too vulnerable to bear my soul to the public. What if people who are upset with me read it and think it’s about them? What if it is about them? As an introvert and a people pleaser, my worst-case-scenario involves me being honest, someone misunderstanding my honesty, and said person becoming upset because of the misunderstanding. (This falls right after the scenario in which I am late for an important social event and get kidnapped by giant spiders.)

So, now what? You know why I’m afraid to write. What do you think I should do?

Yeah, I was afraid you’d say that. ThinkstockPhotos-638654162

Sigh.

Fine.

Here I am, starting again.

As a reward for coaching me through my fear, next week I’ll update you on my dating life. (Teaser: there are snails involved.)

If there’s something you are dreading or putting off this week, join me in doing it anyway.

Good Enough

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It seems that someone (who I suspect shares a large portion of my DNA) recently reminded my grandmother that I have a blog.

I say “reminded” because she definitely knew at one point, but apparently she forgot and stopped reading. I know someone reminded her because she’s been in the hospital, and when I called her to check on her earlier this week, she said, “I just heard that you are writing and when I get out of here I’m going to go home and read all about you on the internet!”

My first thought was, “Dammit, Jan!” which is a phrase we use in our house that basically means, “I can’t believe I got myself into this mess and now I have to deal with it,” and actually has nothing to do with a wonderful woman we all know in real life whose name is Jan. Just trust me when I tell you that’s the short explanation.

All that to say, I felt slightly uncertain of what to do, because my blog isn’t really grandmother appropriate. I mean, it certainly could be worse. I could be blogging about my side job on the stripper pole. I’m not. I’m writing about my life.

thinkstockphotos-606675604And although my expensive college education didn’t teach me helpful things like how to change my car oil, I did learn that you can write about anything, and get away with any language or uncomfortable topics, if you are good enough.

But, of course, that means you have to be good enough.

And so, since I am an anxiety-prone individual, my immediate concern of my grandma-appropriateness quickly spiraled outward to the worthiness of the whole enterprise of me blogging. Is this okay? Am I okay? Am I doing something worthwhile? Am I doing a good job?

This week I went to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and her young daughter put on a comedy show for me. It was as awesome as it sounds. (Why do golfers wear two pairs of pants? … In case they get a hole in one!) After the show, my friend said to her daughter, “I think maybe I should send you to theater camp next summer.”

The little girl smiled quickly, but then in the space of a second her face changed to uncertainty. “Do you think I’d be good enough?” she asked her mother.

Oh man. We learn so young to question ourselves. To doubt that we can measure up. To say, “Should I even do this if I can’t do a good job?”

I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth coming back to.

You don’t have to be good enough. You just have to do it. You just have to start. To try. To step forward. No matter who is in the audience, and no matter what you think they may think.

Don’t let the people watching decide what you’re “good enough” to do. 

I will continue my grandma-inappropriate blog. Because “good enough” does not control me.