My twenty-sixth birthday is tomorrow and I have been thinking a lot about my past. How have I changed throughout my childhood and early adulthood? Where am I right now in my life and what led me to this point? I believe that many things have influenced me and my life, but I ultimately believe God has led me alongside these influences to where I have arrived now. My twenties have so far been highlighted by hard lessons, incredible trials, and both emotional as well as spiritual growth. The hardships I have faced and the blessings I have received in my life have helped shape who I am because I have sought after growth. Simply going through a hard time or having a rough experience does not necessarily produce good results. You have to be mindful, open, and aware. You have to question and seek. You have to have grace with yourself and, at the same time, push yourself to continue moving forward and growing larger. While my individual hardships may be different from others, I don’t think that my experience in my twenties is entirely different from the experiences of most of in my cohort. This age is a season of growing and learning. It is a season of setting expectations and goals, then maybe learning how to readjust to reality without settling. This is a season for tending to our own personal soul-gardens: sowing the right seeds, uprooting what doesn’t belong, and taking diligent care of the things that we choose to let grow.
I use the metaphors of a garden or seasons very often in my life. When a friend seeks advice or a dear friend gives advice, our language always moves toward “garden” and “season” language. This metaphor just grows stronger every time I apply it to my life. As I prepare to turn twenty-six, I’m looking over my garden and thinking about my new season to come. The last few years have consisted of a lot of weeding and uprooting. I’ve lost many friends who could not or would not contribute to my growth. I’ve uprooted a lot of negative mindsets and insecurities I was holding onto. I dug up old dirt in some places I had been ignoring and put down fresh soil in its place. After all this uprooting I could feel in my heart how bare my soil was. Have you ever felt totally ready for something but you didn’t know what it was? That’s what I call “bare soil” in my garden. I’m ready to plant new seeds in place of the old roots and weeds, but I don’t have the seeds yet.
I feel like my journey toward knowing myself fully and completely has been more than just a little awkward. I’m extremely passionate and intense, so this isn’t really a surprise to me. Once I feel like there is a direction I should be heading in my life, I take off that way as quickly as I can. I also believe I need to have many experiences in order to fully understand something. I either need to see the situation from many angles or I need to try out all the different components myself. This leaves me running around a lot mentally and emotionally. In my twenties I have come across many mountains standing in my way of discovery and self-actualizing. These mountains have been large enough that I needed to devise a strategy for approaching them, climbing them, and coming down from them. My inclination to rush made me feel like I shouldn’t have to climb these mountains or overcome these hurdles. I wanted to feel that they would just go away eventually or become smaller with time; this was denial, of course. As I have grown and learned more about myself, I have found it easier to take my time with things. If you try to rush over the mountains in your life, you will only be tired once you get to the top. If you take your time you can be more sure of every footstep and you will have clearer perspective once you reach the top. Fully overcoming something means you can come down from that mountain and leave it behind you.
I have overcome many mountains in my life and have tended carefully to my garden, but I am certainly not where I thought I would be. When I was young I thought that everyone got married at age 21. I’m extremely glad that I am not married by now and, while it is something I greatly look forward to later in life, I am not thinking about getting married in the very near future. I also thought that I would have a full-on career by now, because I felt like most people did by age 26. There are many things about my current situation that are different from what I had imagined, but it’s not a cause for disappointment or shame. Everyone’s path in life is different. Some people marry young, some people marry old, some people never marry, and some people marry many times. Everyone’s career path is different, too. People need to value the journey more than the destination, especially here in the Silicon Valley. I know that I am on my way to everything I need in life, and that I am privileged with opportunities and resources that will aid my effort. For now: I have a beautiful garden growing, I have mountains behind me (and the confidence to climb the ones ahead), and I’m going to eat at least five cupcakes tomorrow. Good-bye, twenty-five. Hello, twenty-six…