A couple of months ago I turned 29, and so in between my busy schedule of eating avocado on toast and whinging about the housing market, I took some time out to reflect upon the past decade. Here is the twitterised account of life in my twenties: did not go as planned. If you had told my 18 year old self that by 29 I would be a twice married, once divorced, unemployed, perpetual Uni student with an anxiety disorder and special needs child, I would have laughed in your face. Actually, I probably would have had a panic attack, because, well, anxiety. Life has turned out to be more complex, confusing, unexpected, heart breaking, and soul crushing than I thought possible. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some wonderful moments, truly breath-taking and healing moments, when love broke through the all the pain and confusion and hurt and gave me the courage to keep on keeping on. I have an amazing life; and I am incredibly blessed and thankful.
But if I’m truly honest, (and what better place to be honest than on a public blog accessible by entire internet); I thought that there would have been more triumphs and less failures. I thought my degrees would outnumber my marriages. I thought that living in an unpredictable world would have been more exhilarating and less exhausting. I thought my life would feel more like ‘Friends’ and less like loneliness. I thought I would always know the right path to take, and that I would consistently make good choices. I thought that when I did make a mistake, the consequences wouldn’t be so far reaching. I thought I would have greater control over my life and opportunities, and that with hard work anything would be possible. I thought that the way though crises and challenges would be clearer. I didn’t expect to come face to face with so many unsolvable problems, and lose-lose situations. I didn’t expect that my relationships would be so powerful in shaping and altering the direction of my life. I didn’t realise I would need people so much and have to rely others as much as I did. I didn’t expect to have grieve so much and say goodbye so often. I didn’t expect that I’d still be struggling with self-doubt and fear of failure. I thought I would have it figured out how to be an adult by now and have it all together, and not still be googling how to do stuff and losing my keys all the time.
In my teenage years I measured success in a simplistic, linear way. I thought a successful person finished school, got a degree, got a job, bought a house, booked in regular dental cleans and car services, and made voluntary contributions to their superannuation. In my darker moments, I look at the last decade and feel like I haven’t achieved anything. I don’t have degree. I don’t have a job. I haven’t started up my own business. I haven’t made any big meaningful contributions to my community. I’m really, really behind in my washing and keep blocking calls from my dentist. But I have managed to push my way through some tough moments. I’ve been able to regroup after having my life veer dramatically of course, more than once. I have been able to regain hope after seasons of disillusionment. I have learned resilience and strength. I have learned compassion and humility, and how to respond to people with love and understanding and not contempt and blame. I’ve had to learn to discern when to hold onto dreams and when to let go, and make peace with that decision. I’ve had to learn to live with myself, even when I don’t like who I am. I’ve had to learn that life is complex, and there are no simple solutions. I have had to learn how live in an unjust world, neither ignoring it nor being consumed by the hopelessness of it. I’ve had to learn to have faith even when doubt made more sense. I’ve learned God is faithful, even when I’m not, and that it is possible to praise a good and loving God, even when the world is falling apart.
There have been moments when the world has gone dark. Walking up the admissions office at Melbourne Uni to withdraw from my degree. Sitting by my step-father’s bedside as he took his last breaths. Lying alone in the psychiatric ward of the hospital I had given birth to my son in only six weeks before. Telling my husband I wanted out of our marriage. Hearing the words, ‘we’re concerned about your son’s development’. In those moments, life gets thrown off course, turned upside down and inside out. Life seems violent and painful and terrifying. There are very few things I can point to in my twenties that have lasted the distance; My love of tea, my fascination with Shakespeare, the courage of my mother and the faithfulness of Jesus. Even in the darkest moments, when I had lost faith in everything, Heaven never let me go. Somehow that salvation moment, that transaction of forgiveness and surrender, turned out to be stronger than mental illness, death, marriage, failure, fear and hopelessness.
Before I gave my life to Jesus, I had placed my whole identity in my ability to achieve. If I had a plan, and I worked the plan, everything would be ok, but if I deviated from the plan, and didn’t achieve what I expected, bad things would happen. The weird thing is that even though nothing went to plan, everything thing still ended up being ok. The world did not end when I dropped out of Uni or when I filed for divorce. Sure the setbacks and offtracks have complicated things, but my life has not been irrevocably destroyed. When you’re identity is in Jesus, the unpredictability of life can still hurt, derail and confuse you, but it can no longer destroy you; because your hope is in something that cannot be destroyed.
My twenties didn’t go to plan. Chances are, my thirties won’t either. For reasons unknown to me, I have blessed with a chaotic, complex and often tumultuous life. But that’s ok. I have Jesus. I have tea. I have smashed avocado on toast. Life may not always go as I expect, but it’s still good.
What have been some of the big lessons for you from your past decade? How has your view of life, faith and purpose changed as you have grown older?