“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:…a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 5-7
Tomorrow I turn 30, which means that for a solid three decades I have bumbled around this fine planet, searching for meaning, and more frequently, pining for what’s next. I really really wanted to be one of those women who could truthfully write that at 30 I feel confident, self assured, and more at home in who I am. And while I feel that way now more than ever before, the idea of it still feels like wearing someone else’s jeans: stretched out in the wrong places, and not quite capable of sitting on my skin just yet. I’ve heard you’re supposed to feel sassy and savvy on your 30th birthday, but that’s not really my truth today.
If your thirties are meant for dancing and high-fiving with the person you’ve become, your twenties must certainly be the decade of participating in an awkwardly abusive, partially parasitic relationship with you.
Think about it, you start the decade off in college. You’re ripped away from everything you’ve known, thrown into living situations with other idiots who are experiencing their own unique brand of this fresh trauma, and you’re forced to begin sorting through the scraps of your heredity, deciding which attributes should stick, and which habits and mindsets should be tossed out with the bathwater. It’s a recipe for broken faith, broken friendships, and so so many broken Ikea water glasses.
You graduate, and you begin to build a career. You find that the structure of institutionalized education you so fervently despised your entire life is actually the only thing keeping you firmly planted in the realm of stability, and sanity. You realize, that as an adult, there really are no rules, which makes it really hard to tell if what you’re doing is really working or not. So you find solace in the measuring stick of other people. You compare salaries, significant others, and shoe choices with that of people you may or may not even know…or like.
You find love and get married. You wonder how it is that someone can be willing to put up with you for the next forever. You try to make space in your heart to do the same, but repeatedly fall short of the expectations you’ve placed on yourself. If you’re lucky, you have the kind of spouse who pretends this isn’t happening and instead chooses to change the subject, like your relationship is just one awkward Thanksgiving table conversation after another. If you’re not so lucky, you come to understand what it’s like to feel alone in a crowded room.
You round out the end of your third decade on this planet by heaving more adult-like responsibilities onto the platter of your days. Maybe you start a business, buy a house, have a child, take a promotion. You are now talking about things you never wanted to care about like the amount of rainfall you received last week, the structure of your HSA, or what kind of fertilizer your grass prefers.
This is your twenties. I moved eight times in my twenties. I have student IDs from three different colleges. Do you even know how many pot holders I massacred in the last decade? I went from 50 to over 1,200 friends on Facebook. I burned my way through 3 MacBook Pros and too many cell phones to count. There’s a season for everything, and perhaps your twenties are a building season—a time for cutting teeth, setting bones, and marking the trail for the rest your life. The twenties are blustery and terrifying at their worst, untamed and invigorating at their best.
So no, on this birthday, I don’t feel sassy and savvy. I don’t feel like greeting myself in the mirror with a fist bump and a, “Hey girl!” to start my day. What I do feel is a little taxed. After a decade where the only constant was perpetual change, I feel like I want to run a warm bath and soak the calluses created by all the friction. The anxiety, the comparison, the long calls home, the cleaving, the constant searching, the doubt—they rub away at things.
I haven’t done my thirties yet, so I don’t know what this next decade is all about, but I hope it’s a time of abiding: of learning how to step back, look at your handiwork, and drink it in—dismissing the notion that the most important thing is whatever thing comes next.
I’m a builder. I’m my best me when I’m crafting structure and concocting new ideas. I will always lust after improvement. I’ll always pine for growth and progression, but in this season more than anything, I’m craving essentialism. I want to edit everything out that doesn’t truly matter. I want to stop running and start strolling. I want to take the time to look deeply into my own eyes and tell myself that I’m really really sorry for the way I’ve treated me over the last ten years. To promise myself that in this next decade of existence, I’ll take care. To believe wholeheartedly that enough, is in fact, enough.
There’s a time to tear, and a time to mend. A time to hustle and a time to wait. A time to wade through the muck and a time to cleanse. A time to overlook, and a time to take care.
Life is built upon a relentless willingness to pass through each season as it comes, violent or tame, calculable or unexpected. I remind myself that the art of becoming a whole human takes a lifetime. There is certainly no harm in pausing for a few quick breaths to take care.