My, my, there is a part of me that still remembers the woes of being 13, the heartache of being 14, the love of being 16, the excitement of being 18, and the freedom of being 21. Our society marks many of these ages as important milestones. Yet, 30 is presented with a sense of dread. As I will be officially in my thirties tomorrow, without a doubt beyond young adulthood, I thought a short reflection would be in order.
At age 13 I fell in love with God and his Church. I wanted to be a nun. I likewise had a to navigate the terrors of adolescence. Being an artsy, literature oriented, old soul, high school was a place to be tolerated but almost never enjoyed. I served with NET Ministries at 18 and felt the joy of being surrounded by others who wanted to whole-heartedly serve the Lord. At the end of our year we served in the Portland, Oregon diocese and I met others like me, those who have that artsy streak in them that sets them apart, that makes them not cool, but immensely interesting. I found I was not alone. That was a very important time for me.
Soon after NET I met the man I would marry, also artsy, also an old soul, also desiring to serve the Lord with everything. I was never to be alone in that combination of qualities again. But at 19, everything was passionate and consuming. Such turmoil. Such self-consciousness. Such doubt.
After college, I mellowed somewhat. I worked full time. With the wisdom gained from NET, from a serious relationship, from a long distance relationship, I was no longer interested in deep heart-to-hearts late at night. I wanted to sleep. We could talk in the morning. This was the first time I remember the urgency of adolescence calming down.
My relationship and subsequent marriage boosted my confidence in my looks. I never believed myself to be movie-star beautiful. But I always felt I could look pretty, look good, and my husband loved my looks so much that it wasn’t hard to believe him.
Nevertheless, in Virginia, I began to place a significant value on how I dress, how put together I look, how much I dress to impress. First impressions meant everything. Although I knew that my natural looks mattered less, the extra, artificial stuff appeared to matter more.
Though not a big fan of Colbie Caillet, her song, “Try” hit a chord. Irrationally, I had come to believe that if I didn’t appear a certain way people would not like me.
Now we live in an area where this matters less: Casual California. I maintain a certain value I’ve placed on staying put together because my husband appreciates it and it makes me feel so much better, more awake, more ready for action. Yet I worry less. Those things I worried about all those years, matter less.
I still wonder. I still long for the feedback that I am loveable, liked, good to be around. But there are so many more important things to think about. Do I appreciate my husband? What are the needs of my children? How can I enhance or improve our home? How can I am improve my skills?
I heard this about the thirties. I heard it and its bearing itself out. It helps that we continue to be in a good place in life. We have jobs, healthy children, our priorities are straight. We’re willing to see what we do wrong and willing to try to improve. We have a home and a close relationship to the grandparents of our children. We have all the support possible. There is no ill will (that I know of at least).
It’s not perfect. I still worry and wonder about friendships as they are evolving. We have found our rhythm so that transitions don’t shake us up so much. I savor the stability. I savor the stability of our lives. I savor the emerging stability of my emotions, subject to change, no doubt.
For a few months now I’ve lost my breath at the idea of being thirty. It seemed like I was leaving something behind, like I would mysteriously age and lose vitality. It’s ridiculous, of course, but I think that is the climate of our culture. People idolize their twenties and some resist growing out of them. I want to embrace the way my body has changed. I’ve borne children. I will bear more. While I looked at the thirties with some dread, I am tasting a bit of the freedom that lies ahead. I’m grateful for that. Looking forward to the future.