My 20s

I am writing this post while driving down the road in sunny, desolate, BEAUTIFUL Kansas.

Well, I am actually riding. Not typing while driving. Don’t be alarmed.

I love this era of vast and accessibletechnology, where I can google the elevation of Denver, type a blog post, or play Angry Birds, all while enjoying the Kansas sunshine.

Oh, wait…one moment… Now it is Oklahoma sunshine!

It occurs to me that I usually do a “night before my birthday” post.  So this year, for my 30th birthday, here are a few important things I learned in my 20s.

Jesus came to get me.  What I understand about Jesus is a sparkle shining on one drop of water in the ocean of truth of who He is.  But what I learned eight years ago is that all of that truth and redemption that I will never fully understand is for ME.

Go to the gym.  I will never have the kind of life that contains enough physical activity.  I am not Laura Ingalls Wilder, churning butter and washing bed sheets in a wash tub.  I need to go to the gym as automatically as I brush my teeth.

Do not get a Kohls card!  Or a Target card, or a Mart card, or a line of credit from the pet store.  You really are allowing your future self to become a slave to your past choices.  Just wait.  Save.  Decide rationally.  Learn how to say no and walk away.

The world is big.  So much bigger than your hometown, wherever you live.  Travel.  Be fearless.  Find your favorite places in the world, and you will be able to go back there whenever you need to, through pictures and memories and another trip.

Onward!

I have ten minutes before I need to leave.  By the time I get home, I will be 29. 

Thanks to someone who signed us up for the run, the Jingle Jam 5K people think I’m already 29…  Not that they care…  😛

One year ago, on the eve of my 28th birthday, I was feeling…late.  Deficient.  Empty.  Sad.  27 was a hard year.  One year ago, it was just me and the emptiness.  But I don’t want to think about that anymore.

28 was a healing year…but I’m not done yet.  I don’t want my 29th birthday yet, not because I’m worried about a number on my driver’s license or anxious about the last year of my 20s, but because I feel like I’m in the middle of this huge project, and I’m not done.  I don’t want a milestone right now, I’m too busy healing.

That’s what life is like, though.  I can relate to the cultures who don’t celebrate birthdays at all, because it’s an artificial marker in the journey.  It doesn’t mean much.  Maybe more for my parents…29 years ago today was their last day of childlessness.  🙂  But for me?  Not a big deal. 

I wonder what this year will bring.  28 didn’t bring anything that you can see on the outside.  Same job, same apartment, mostly the same friends…  New haircut, I guess.  🙂  Everything that changed was on the inside. 

And not as much changed as I would have liked…but I don’t care.  It takes as long as it takes, no matter what day of the year it is. 

So…onward!  Onward to more healing, more happiness, more adventure.  Onward to growth and change and chasing a life worth living!

Ingrained Beliefs

tears-1-1

This is going to be one of those posts that takes you too far inside my head.  Consider yourself warned.

I had what turned out to be a pivotal conversation the other day.  I’ve been replaying it and processing it, and some important realizations are coming to the surface.  I just need to hash it out a little bit.  And for some reason, I feel the need to hash it out in a place where people can read it.  Remember when I jokingly said a line in a song was “everything that’s wrong with me?”  I was being dramatic, of course, but I’m starting to think these things that are coming to the surface really are everything that’s wrong with me…

ONE…  There are certain experiences in my life that have taught me that it’s not okay to be emotionally attached.  To anything or anyone.  It’s not okay to want to get involved.  It’s not okay to want someone to know me deeply, or to want to know someone deeply.  It’s not okay to care.  It’s not okay to want to tell someone about what I’m happy or sad about.  Because it doesn’t matter as much as I think it does, and I shouldn’t be happy or sad about it.

For 27 years, my instincts have been screaming my desire to be close to people, to be involved, to know them and let them know me.  But there’s also this giant voice trying to shout them down, telling me, “A good little girl doesn’t need those silly things.”

Maybe that’s why I blog and let you “too far” inside my head…because I want you to know me.  I almost can’t do it real life, but here, it’s like a loophole in the “rule.”  You can choose to read this, or not.  I’m not forcing myself upon you, so to speak.

Which brings me to…

TWO…  I can’t even imagine how stupid this is going to sound, but I’m going to say it anyway.  The moment that pivotal conversation was over, I had a thought:  Maybe, if someone doesn’t enjoy me or like me or want me around, it’s not because I’m not enjoyable or loveable.  Maybe it’s their issue and has nothing to do with whether or not I am doing the right things to deserve their attention.  See, it’s stupid.  It sounds like something every adult in their right mind should already know.  For some reason, that’s the first time it occurred to me. 

27 years of experience, those are some tall and strong walls.  If I have made a friend in the past 27 years, it’s thanks to their wonderfulness, not mine.  And their willingness to push themselves into my life, despite my walls.  If marriage is in God’s plan for me, it’s going to take a really great guy to break down those walls, because I’m not the one who built them.  They were built for me when I was too little to understand.  What I knew was right, was.  People are made for relationships.  It’s a strange and seemingly childish place to be, to want to have relationships, but to feel the need to pretend not to need or want them.

God put me on this earth to love and be loved.  I know that for sure.  So, I can also be sure that I am loveable and that I should want to love and be loved!  I’m just not yet sure how that translates into real life…

(photo credit: SL Searson)

Complacency

I thought I knew what this word means, but dictionary.com tells me a little differently… 

Sidnote…It’s interesting how new vocabulary is processed.  I’ve been “studying” a couple of new words in the past few years.  Complacency is one of them.  Another one is idiom.  How I got through high school literature classes without really understanding idioms, I’ll never know.  But now, I’m constantly noticing phrases that I think qualify as idioms. 

The first time I encountered the word complacent, it was in a voiceover quote during the ending montage of an episode of One Tree Hill, spoken by the character of Nathan.

It’s been said that we just don’t recognize the significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. We grow complacent with ideas, or things or people and we take them for granted and it’s usually not until that thing is about to be taken away from you that you’ve realized how wrong you’ve been that you realized how much you need it, how much you love it.

For some reason, I thought complacent meant that you stay with what you have because it’s easy, because it’s more convenient to keep everything the same than to change.  Now that I read that actual quote again, I see that it matches the dictionary.com definition:

a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

It’s a subtle difference, between shades of meaning.  But I think that both the assumed definition and the correct definition fit what I’m experiencing.  It is easy to stay in the present situation.  There is no need to jump out and take a risk, because nothing is wrong.

The correct definition also fits.  I’m feeling secure and satisfied, because I take for granted the good things in my life.  That’s probably true for a lot of people.  The point here is, I don’t follow my philosophy of doing things well, because it’s not like I’m trying to get a good grade or make a good impression for people who could give me a job.  I have a job.  The problem is, even though I was never the girl who would argue for every point on a test, not having that motivation pushing me to do better…  It’s really testing my internal motivation.  “Why do something poorly when you can do it well?”  It makes me feel really good to do things well.  And the only reason to do something well is to have done your best on it, that’s enough of a reason.  But the evils of laziness and complacency make me forget that sometimes.

Idealism

**Okay, when I said, “tomorrow”…  🙂  Anyway, here it is, the continuation of the thought process.**

I am not one who will argue for two more points on a test so that I can get an A instead of an A-.  I also have a rebellious streak a mile long.  So how did I manage to succeed in those “smart girl” endeavors in high school and college?  Well, because…

Why do something poorly if you can do it well?

That philosophy has been a part of me…forever, I think.  Idealism is a spectrum.  I grew up in an environment where I was pretty much the least idealistic person in the conversation.  The problem with extreme idealism is that you have decided how things should be, and you absolutely can’t accept anything else, so you just give up if they can’t be that way.  I’m more pragmatic than that.  If we can’t have it the way it should be, my first step is to move on from “should be.”  What can we do to make it better than it is?  What can we do to take a step in the direction of “should be?”

The phrases “Oh, well…” and “good enough” have no place in my vocabulary.  Even though something I’m doing is not going to be perfect, is probably not going to meet the ideal, I’m not going to stop working until I can say, “Okay, this is good.  This will work well.”  If I can do better, then I’m not done yet.

That doesn’t sound like the last couple of years of my life, does it?  Find out why not tomorrow…

Smart

**Okay, people, listen up.  This post has been in my drafts for a few days now.  I am having the hardest time publishing it, but I need to.  I have been in a funk, so nothing is going to seem rosy and happy on my blog.  My perspective is off, I am losing sight of what’s important to me.  That’s what happens when I’m “in a funk.”  It’ll pass.  But for now, I apologize for this post, but I’m posting it anyway.  And even as I post this beginning exploration of the topic, I am working through it and have more to post tomorrow.**

Ten years ago, I was just turning 17, fully engaged in my junior year of high school, working very hard to accomplish all the homework and projects, working in customer service at Hy-Vee, getting ready for confirmation, fumbling my way through boys and body image and college visits.  And I was smart.

And I wouldn’t go back for the world, because once through high school was enough!  🙂  But I was smart, then.  And now, I’m “just a preschool teacher.”

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to spiral into, “Oh, no, I’ve chosen the wrong career!!!”  I am right where I’m supposed to be.

It’s the image.  Ten years ago, the first thing people usually knew about me was that I was taking honors and advanced placement classes, that I was competing for some fantastic college scholarships, that I was nearing the top ten of my class, that I was an all-state musician, and that I was doing it all while I was the most responsible 17-year-old you’ve ever met in your life.  And yes, it was as embarassingly “goody-goody” as it sounds!  I didn’t like the image at all.  I wanted, with all my heart, to blend in.  I didn’t want to draw everyone’s attention, for any reason.

But for all my desire to be completely forgettable, I couldn’t help but also desire to acheive.  I didn’t want to go up in front of the school to accept an award, but I wanted to win the award.  I didn’t want the recognition or attention, but I did want the accomplishment.  I can’t for the life of me fake anything at all.  And my standards for myself are always higher and more impossible than any goal anyone else could impose on me.  So I continued to accomplish.  And I continued to have the image of the smart girl.

And now, I have the image of a preschool teacher.  Here is the usual reaction: “So, you’re a preschool teacher?  Well, you must not be very smart, and you must have a lot of patience!”  Okay, not in those exact words, but you know.  Well, guess what?  I am smart.  And I have to work very hard on patience!

Be careful what you wish for.  When I was in middle school, I was the tallest girl in my class and I was the first girl to wear a bra.  So I prayed for small boobs and I prayed to be short.  Well, guess what happened?  🙂  I also wished to be mediocre and forgettable, and I think I’m experiencing that right now.

I appreciate the experience.  And this job is perfect for me, because I’m learning patience, which is something I needed.  But it’s just…strange…and a little sad…that the image of me ten years ago is now the last thing people would expect.

What is the smart girl supposed to do when she grows up?

I’m here all the time, and I won’t go away.  Yeah it’s me, and I can’t get myself to go away.

“Long Day” by Matchbox Twenty

Self-Centeredness and Contentment

Maybe I’ll never really know what the hell I want.  Maybe there is a reason.  Maybe what I want isn’t as important as what God wants from me.

Okay, now change all those maybes to probably.  Or to certainly.  Now we’re getting at the truth!

Yesterday I read an article over at girltalk entitled The Homemaker’s Secret of Fulfillment.  As always with the girltalk bloggers, I find that what is applicable to godly homemakers is applicable to a godly woman in any other situation.  Are we not, after all, homemakers?  Do I not make a home?  Even if I also teach, even if there are no chilren or husband to live here, it still is my home to make.  It’s like my “other” job.  I’m moonlighting as a homemaker!  🙂  Or, teaching is my “other” job, perhaps.  In any case, the article hit the head of the problem.  When I get selfish, I become discontent.  When I focus on what would make me happy, I become less happy.  When I think that I can solve all my problems with my own actions and choices, I end up with more problems.

The point is, seeking personal fulfillment is not the answer.  The answer is to ask what God wants of me, at this moment in my life.  Feeling personal discontent could be a sign that all is not well, that God wants something more or different from me.  But leaving Him out of the solution is a direct road to finding no solution whatsoever.

Today I stumbled upon a list of “Things That Don’t Make Sense To Me” by another blogger.  Many of these I knew to be true, once upon a time.  Exercise gives energy, and not exercising makes me tired.  I discovered that at the age of 18.  Focusing on my husbands’ needs results in my needs getting met.  I began trying this consciously with coworkers, friends, and boyfriends a few years ago, and it’s amazing!  I can only assume it works in a marriage as well.  How spending time with God results in me accomplishing more that day, not less.  Oh, yeah.  Definitely. 

Why having a lot of “me” time makes me more self-centered, not less.  That’s the one I’m discovering again every day of the past few years of living alone.  I’m happy to not be married right now.  I’m happy to wait on God’s timing, or His will for it to not happen at all, if that’s what He wants.  I’ve learned to be content living alone.  I’ve actually learned to look forward to certain things, such as no one messing up a clean house, or seeing a dirty one, or judging me for watching Discovery Health, Animal Planet, Lifetime, and the Disney Channel, or caring that I leave dairy products in my fridge until they are at least three colors.  🙂  (Now you know, in case you visit.  You are MORE than welcome to any food you may want, but please…CHECK THE DATE!!!  Much more pleasant than opening it to find a surprise for your eyes and your nose, trust me!)  But as much as I’ve adapted, living alone still isn’t good for me, I think.  I have too much “me time” to get me selfish.  I have too much solitude to get addicted to t.v. on DVD and cheesecake.  I have too much freedom to get lazy about laundry and clearing off the kitchen table.  It’s easy to take care of other people.  It’s not so easy to take care of myself.

And the real kicker…  How I can know all of these things are true, and too often behave as though they are not.

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