Today is the last day of my twenties.
Wow. It just looks really weird to see that in print.
As I've tried to prepare for turning 30, I've looked back on my last few birthdays and realized that each one was worse than the last because it was one closer to 30. A dear friend commented last night that it's like I've been counting down to this. I have. I'm not really sure why I've been counting down or what I've been expecting. Yet here I am on the precipice of being a 30-something instead of a 20-something, and I feel like I'm looking straight down the edge of a cliff.
For women who are married, I guess 30 is the beginning of a decade of expected milestones - kids, anniversaries, etc. I ache for my friends who are nearing this age without those milestones for which they long. I feel sorrow for my friends who are judged because those milestones aren't the ones they want for their lives, and they must constantly answer the expectations of society with rationalizations for the way they have chosen (or not chosen) to live. It's for all these friends that I'm feeling bold enough to write this. I don't want you to be judged, and I don't want you to live with the weight of others' expectations on your shoulders. I want to fling all our scarlet letters far from us and find a way to live in freedom and authenticity with one another.
For me, 30 is wide open. I've already passed the decade where everyone expects me to get married, settle down, stop going to rock concerts that damage my hearing, etc. I've dealt with the comments about when I'm going to have children and how going for my doctorate is just going to make me "more intimidating to men." Perhaps in my thirties, people will begin to appreciate what I've done with the extra space that God has chosen to give me and stop treating me like I've done something wrong because I don't have a serious boyfriend or children. Maybe people will stop making passive aggressive jokes about me being a lesbian. (Which, for the record, I am not. And which, for the record, is not okay to joke about - whether I am or not.)
I've heard that you get to be more yourself in your thirties without worrying about offending people. Apparently I'm coming out swinging.
This decade scares me because it is, for me, a decade with no road map. I have no expected milestones. I will probably get my doctorate in this decade. At least, that's the plan. I will move to Chicago in two weeks, and I have some fuzzy and idyllic images of me walking around the city, riding trains while reading textbooks, and cooking dinner in my new studio apartment. I want to spend this decade, as all my life, loving those who have no one else to love them. That's really the only roadmap I need.
As I stand on the precipice and look over, I can see nothing. Here's hoping that if I jump into the nothing, I will find myself falling not into an abyss, but into the arms of my Father who loves me and knows what milestones lay ahead. As scary as it is to walk into a phase of life for which I have no expectations, I can't help but think that no expectations means no disappointments.
I have been given a lifetime of gifts in my 30 years, and yet I have lived many days in sorrow and pain. Perhaps as I enter this new decade, I can see gifts for the extra kindness that they are and stop focusing (or allowing others to focus) on what I do not have.
Another dear friend said that perhaps the abundant life we've been promised is so much more than joy. Living full includes the pain. Abundant life - life to the fullest - would not be full if it contained only one extreme of the human existence.
Perhaps 30 will be a decade in which I can be thankful for the abundant life I've been given and stop feeling a pressure to live up to someone else's idea of abundance. The pain is never far off, but joy isn't either. His mercies are new every morning. Even tomorrow morning, when I will awake as a 30 year old single woman about to leave my semi-comfortable world for a world full of uncertainty. His mercies are still new tomorrow morning, and his grace is still sufficient.
I've stumbled many times in my 30 years, perhaps never so much as in these last few years. And in my tripping along, I am beginning to learn what grace is and how much I need it. Here's to a new decade full of failures, stumbles, ascents to mountaintops, descents into valleys, and enough grace to cover it all.