What You Probably Won’t Know By 29(ish)

On my 29th birthday I was feeling content. The gnawing existential questions had abated for at least a day, and I was ready to enjoy some pizza and ice cream. Then, for a split second, I perused the internet. In that minutest of time spans I happened upon a blog post that mentioned this article. Since I had only hopped on the computer while Ben put on his shoes, I didn’t have time to read it. Later that night, before I went to bed, I opened it up again and began to read. I was just seeking out a daily dose of food eye candy. Instead of appeasing my appetite for the visual delights of pretty food and enticing recipes, I reopened the box of questions that politely remained shut on my birthday.

Now, to follow what I am about to write you really must read the article’s words of wisdom for the 25(ish) crowd. I actually quite like the author. She spoke one Sunday at the church we used to attend, and her words that morning seemed directed right at me. Not so much this article. I am still learning what music I love, avoid heels like the plague, have no idea how to do the sexy woman tying a man’s necktie business and have yet to give a wedding toast. I do know how to cook dinner, but I could do that at twelve, so I don’t consider it much of an accomplishment. I became obsessive about my skin shortly before turning twenty-six. Though I am not one to advocate home ownership as I believe there are infinite perks to a short-term lease and have no room to criticize those who postpone retirement savings, I would hardly generalize my experience as advice for other twenty-somethings.

And that was just my reaction to the first paragraph. What really irked me was feeling like someone else was selling me a massive bill of goods for a happy living, reach-your-true-potential-by-thirty formula. I get why multimillion dollar corporate marketing campaigns do that. Why, oh why, do Christians feel led to follow suit? I am not impressed with the narcissistic find yourself self-help with a twist of finding God.

I went back to school to get an MSW, worked for almost nothing as a waitress, moved halfway around the world to Rwanda to volunteer teach and volunteered lots of hours for lots of things that moved me, and I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP. Of course, according to the author’s wise friend, I can rest assured knowing that it will come to me in the next three years. Whew. I mean, maybe I will, but maybe I will not, and though it’s sometimes annoying to feel like I still haven’t found my ‘calling’ at 29, I think I need to quit worrying about it. I very much wish that I could be uber successful doing something I love a la etsy or gainful employment through a wildly popular blog, but maybe it’s okay if what I love remains a hobby.

For the most part, I like what she says in the next few paragraphs. The snippet on relationships is not so bad, except the wording reeks a bit of Sleepless in Seattle and the comment on ‘walking away from the ones that don’t give you everything you need’ seems to commodify relationships and is not very Jesus-like in my opinion. I definitely agree that it is a total waste of time to be in a relationship with someone that you know is the ‘wrong person,’ but doesn’t that go without saying? The same goes for the three sentences on counseling. I think therapy is great. I think everyone would be better off with a round, or fifty, of therapy. I do think it takes time and costs money and you’re not going to ‘unravel the knots’ by the end of your twenties. As for church, it was important enough for us to walk uphill most Sundays in Kigali, to leave one when it wasn’t right and to dedicate a year finding a new faith community when we got home. Nothing has frustrated me more in my faith than church, but I have to agree that it was worth trying to find one.

Regardless of your spiritual stance, I think the overall message to invest in meaningful relationships, start working on your stuff and get involved in community is pretty universally sound advice. Except that woven throughout and punctuated by the last paragraph is the message is if you do those things you will evolve into a self-actualized ‘real live’ adult. I disagree. For me at least, asking the hard questions begs more questions. The people who challenge and inspire me do not always share my faith. I’m not sure I know yet exactly what works or what doesn’t, whatever that means. I do believe I have grown. I just don’t think I’m done. And as much as I am enamored with simplicity, I don’t think this particular phase of life can be stripped down to go, explore, become. Life is just more complicated than that.

Okay, I’m done.

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