The red list

I had wanted to write an “ode to my twenties” type of thing… but I just couldn’t get the right feel. As I sit here on my 30th birthday, all I can think about is how very far and fast this past decade has taken me. It’s been a journey to say the least and as this journey has progressed, a map of sorts has formed in my mind.
It is a map that I’ve subconsciously created for my younger siblings, my daughters and others coming up.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was also given maps and directions. Not as transparent as this perhaps, but words of knowledge and forewarning never the less. Most of which I thought didn’t apply to me at the time they were given. However the truth is that every generation has the same lessons to learn from their twenties, but how they choose to learn from them is often the factor of change.

The “roaring twenties” really are about finding yourself. This decade is like a bridge between paradise and reality. Everything you’ve heard about this decade both good and bad are true. I’m very grateful to the Lord, my parents and my community that I reached thirty. I’m also grateful for every year that made up my twenties…

What I refer to as a map, I think most people refer to as a “list.” A list of things to do, become and create in your twenties. Since my twenties were a red hot mess of living and loving hard; I’m going to call this list, “the red list.”
Everyone agrees you should take care of yourself in your twenties and this is one piece of advice I got from everyone. While I didn’t go the party route (due to having babies at home), my addiction was not based in drugs and alcohol. It was based in very toxic relationships instead and the stress/trauma from those experiences very much did take its toll on my body. Taking care of one’s self is so much more than just drinking water, brushing your teeth, getting rest or enough exercise. It’s the mental, emotional and spiritual care that ultimately determines the physical. I wish that instead of someone saying “take care of yourself.” Someone had said, “love yourself, because nobody else can love you as well as that.”
Self-love… the key word for me in that compound word is SELF. It really does take nearly a decade to narrow down your passions, strengths and abilities. Some blessed few actually do get it right; they graduate high school, pick a degree, go to college, graduate from college and go about their life with eagle eye focus. The rest of us seem prone to wander and muse and fret and explore. Knowing who you are is essential to knowing where you’re going. Instead of being told, “the twenties are for finding yourself.” I think it’s more accurate to say, “discover what makes you happy. Discover your strengths. Explore the person God created you to be and love/value those possibilities!”
On the subject of possibilities… another item on the “twenties check list” is to pick a career. Well… it’s been my experience as a consumer of many different jobs… that your most meaningful work is not always something you pick. Sometimes it picks you. The world really is full of possibilities and life will always require you to change something… I didn’t earn a degree in my twenties. I earned a valuable trade instead and while I was good at it, it was not my passion. While it did provide for my children, it ultimately took more than it gave. A job should not define or own you. It should compliment the life you want to live. Again, your twenties are about day dreaming and creating a blueprint of that life. Your core values and beliefs need to align with your job. Otherwise conflict and dissatisfaction will be a constant companion.
Also on the twenties list… relationships. What woman in her twenties doesn’t daydream about a wedding and a home with a white picket fence? The twenties seem geared for a maze of good and bad relationships. I definitely wish I could have loved my twenty year old self into the realization that toxic friendships and relationships are deadly. If they don’t love you for who you are…walk away. If they demand more than you have or are willing to give…walk away. If they make you feel anxious, confused, compromised or afraid…walk away! People are everything. The people you align with will determine your future. The people you talk and share things with will influence your future. Who you date will influence your future. It all counts! Every single person!
I took every “nice to meet you” as a sign from the Almighty that I was supposed to have a best friend/love in that person. I was in love with life and in love with people. Truly successful friendships and relationships don’t come that easy or overnight. Half the folks you meet in your twenties are not going to help you build the foundation for your life. Although some will most likely teach you important lessons along the way.

Relationships, debt, educational challenges, crazy schedules, addictions, parties, questionable friends… there are a lot of things to trip up your twenties. It is a time to grow up, but this should be done gently and with kindness for yourself and others. The most beautiful creations do not happen overnight and neither does growing up. The twenties really are a doorway into the rest of your life. The choices you make in your twenties do not have to define you, but they do build a foundation that may or may not serve you well in the future.
I made so many mistakes in my twenties that I can only now own and see transparently. I don’t believe in regrets, only in lessons learned. Sometimes I learn very well and other times I learn the hard way. If I had any regrets about my twenties, it would be that I was not more kind to myself. I was anxious and always in a hurry for things to come and happen. I invested more time into what I could get rather than in being resourceful with what I had. I cluttered my life with toxic people, places and things. My mid twenties (and second kid) finally forced me to start caring about more important things. But by 28-29 I was an emotional and physical meltdown waiting to happen. Sheer exhaustion from a too-fast paced lifestyle is eventually what happened.
As I look back over the past few months leading to this birthday, I can truly see God’s handiwork. He really allowed me to slow down and even come to a stand still long enough to take in the view.
If the twenties really are “roaring” then I expect (and hope) that my thirties will be gentle and full of grace. A time to really edit, explore and create more of this blueprint for the life I desire and believe God has for me. Because truly, each decade brings another piece of the puzzle. More lessons, more desires, more choices, more building and growing. As long as we are living, we keep moving up and onward.
So… the red list from my twenties in summary:
Be gentle, be kind…to yourself and others. Explore, establish, be open to a realm of possibilities…really, the sky is the limit. Dream big and carry that dream with you. Don’t let anyone take it away. Walk away from the people that take more than they give. Don’t take more than what you need. Work with what you have, be grateful. Give out of your abundance, stay in communication with your parents and with God. Set your values and core beliefs, don’t compromise them for anyone or anything. Embrace the quiet moments, even if they feel uncomfortable. Create. Invest in yourself in a positive way. Take some risks and know that there is no such thing as failure, as long as you learn from your mistakes. Respect, value, love yourself… and enjoy every day.

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