24

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Anyone who reads my blog knows time is a big theme for me. I’m not sure if it’s simply who I am, or if I’m at a point in my life that I’m particularly sensitive to how time has an impact, but I constantly find myself pointing to time in conversations with friends and family.

On Tuesday, I turn 24. I’m young for my class—my birthday is two days before the kindergarten cut-off at St. Paul’s—so just as I turn 24 next week, my friends will almost immediately begin celebrating 25th birthdays. That’s a quarter of a century. 

Wow.

Two days before my 23rd birthday, I wrote the following blog post but never posted it:

"I am, by far, the youngest person in my office.

I have one coworker who was just two years ahead of me at Iowa, but aside from him, the vast majority of my coworkers were likely learning how to drive and heading off to college around the time I celebrated my 10th birthday (and the rest were already raising teenagers by then). So over the past two weeks, I've reverted back to an elementary school mindset and taken to reminding everyone that very soon, I am turning 23. (Most of them, at hearing this, laugh out loud.)

I can hardly believe how old I am. My friends from home are surely so sick of listening to me repeat over and over "I can't believe how old we are," every time we're all together, but it's just true—I can't believe how old we are! When I think about the version of myself that I most identify with (is there a psychoanalytical term for what I'm trying to say here? Probably), I still feel like the awkward 7th grade girl who wore basketball shorts and a Notre Dame volleyball camp t-shirt to spring musical practices three times a week. (I was a tree for Halloween - seriously, it was awkward.)

So I certainly feel much more glamorous saying I'm soon-to-be 23. As a little girl, 23 is right about that age you dream of being. 23-year-olds wear all the pretty clothes, have boyfriends with perfectly side-parted hair and very white teeth (I had very specific taste as a little girl), drive around in a hot pink Corvette convertible (the lies that Barbie tells us... SMH), carry a purse, have things to put inside said purse, have enough money to buy all the shoes they could ever want (LOL), and don't ever have to listen to their parents because they are 23 and they know it all!

(For the record, I gathered all of this information by playing with Barbies, watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and listening to my 17-year-old babysitter talk about her ex-boyfriend. I'm pretty sure I thought she was 23.)

Fortunately for me, the 22 years I have under my belt set me straight. Nevertheless, I suspect that 23 is going to be a big deal.

This past year was pretty groundbreaking. In terms of material accomplishments, I was blessed with an incredible professional opportunity that will continue to open doors for me as I move forward in my career. I've made a pretty comfortable home of Des Moines, and although I often miss Joliet and wish I-80 wasn't so long and bleak, I really love living here. I've met some pretty impressive people, made a few good friends, and more recently, become reacquainted with my sister (and now roommate), which has been life-altering in the best possible way.

As for internal growth, I've found I'm changing daily.

Coming to the realization that I actually have an impact on what my life looks like from here, moving forward, was monumental in many ways. I realize it sounds obvious, but when you spend your first 21 years following the status quo (ie: grade school followed by high school followed by college followed by a job), you're subject to a certain level of culture shock upon discovering the freedom to live your own life. The day a person wakes up and realizes she could sell everything she owns, buy a one-way ticket to a foreign country, and have nothing holding her back (aside from the potential language barrier and a few legal documents), is both a liberating and terrifying moment. Suddenly, every day I spend sitting behind a desk feels less like what's expected of me and more like a choice I'm making for myself - which asserts the question, "is this what I want?"

And it's been a question that's lingered since.

Is this what I want?

In the context of my Catholic faith, this question takes on a whole new meaning. Growing up, my mom often reminded my sisters and me that, "you will know God's will for you by the deepest desires of your heart." So as I consider what makes me happy, what feels like toil and gives me anxiety, and what satisfies my deepest yearnings, I am forced to consider it in the larger context of my life, my future, and God's plan for my existence.

When Sunday comes, it will be just another day. I will wake up in my parent's house in Joliet, now able to say I'm 23-years-old, and will go on with life as usual.

But as for year 23, I predict I'll be thinking of this often. There's a saying that goes, "there are years that ask questions and there are years that answer." I anticipate this year will be one with a question, and I'll pray daily for guidance in finding that answer."



When I reflect back on 23, I think “humbling” best defines this most recent year of life. God broke me down, in more ways than one—in my career, in my relationships (friendships, familial, and dating relationships alike) and in my spiritual life. In introspect, I’ve realized this year that my own pridefulness often gets in the way of allowing others to love me. In introspect, I’ve realized my own pridefulness often gets in the way of my effectively loving others. In moments of sheer helplessness, I’ve been forced to surrender to God and accept whatever He’s given. And in anticipation of the future, I’ve chosen ambitious paths, knowing they’ll not be without their challenges, but trusting that the Lord does not abandon those who love Him.

And I was right in that year 23 was a year with a question—rather, a year with many questions. The whole notion of “choosing my life for myself” was also a major theme. It’s like once I realized I was in the driver’s seat, I hit the gas and haven’t let up since. 

Friday night, I had dinner with a close friend who I hadn’t seen since January. As I drove to meet her, I replayed the conversation we’d shared over breakfast 8 months ago and cringed, shaking my head at how I’d thought I had it all figured out then. 8 months ago, as she and I talked about work, dating, and friendships, I had just recently made the choice to leave Iowa and move back home, had been through a series of dating scenarios that had left me somewhat disenchanted with dating in general, and was turning a corner in my spiritual life that had required my surrender to God more so than ever before. 

As we talked that day, I relayed all of this. I thought I knew what was ahead, what God was preparing me for, and where I was going. I thought I knew what to expect, I thought I knew what needed to change about myself, and I thought I had a handle on my life. But as I walked into dinner on Friday night, I realized I was in a place I’d never in a million years expected to be at that breakfast. And in admitting that now, I think it’s true that God knows our hearts better and His timing is always right.

So 24, bring it on. I’m ready for whatever you’ve got for me. Whether this is a year of questions or answers or joys or sufferings, the Lord is in control and He knows my heart. Let’s do this.

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