twenty four lessons; twenty four years

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I spent my twenty fourth birthday exactly the way I wanted to – reflecting on my last 24 years of life with a chai latte in hand and books all around me. I drove home in golden hour, blaring “Twenty Four” by Switchfoot & then made my roommate come with me to give an abandoned shopping cart a home in our house. It was a pretty perfect day.

This last year of life has been full of change, excitement, new adventures, some real hard wrestling with God, some crying in parking lots and on the phone with my mom, kitchen dance parties, good food, laughing fits, excellently executed pranks, and a lot of growth. There’s a lot more unpacking of this year that I want to do (& that will be coming in future posts!) but for now, here’s a definitive list of things I am learning as I enter my 24th year.

  1. It could be the Instagram algorithm, it could be Jesus trying to get a thought through your thick, thick head. I don’t think that Instagram is where I’ll find all of my life answers, or any of the answers to the questions I have about life. But I was ignoring a nudge from God about something for 7 plus months (okay, also for a number of years, if we’re being really honest) & that nudge kept being openly and honestly discussed in my Instagram feed. Basically, all I’m saying is God is not above using donkeys to speak to the stubborn among us (& I am THE MOST guilty of stubborness), & now I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t the same for Instagram.
  2. Pay attention to the thoughts you can’t seem to shake and the goosebumps you get when it isn’t cold. It’s the thoughts you can’t shake, the goosebumps up and down your arms when you hear something you know you needed to hear, the things that keep being repeated, the lesson that makes you groan because you know this is what you need. And then, don’t just pay attention to it, but act on it.
  3. You can do the things that seem impossible. Like acting on the things you’re trying to run away from. Or running a 5K. Or saying yes to new and terrifying experiences. Or any number of the things you’ve told yourself are impossible. This isn’t supposed to be inspirational – I did something I had written off as not possible, & it has sort of changed my life.
  4. If you’re telling God how things should go, He will do the same thing back to you. I am constantly learning this lesson, but let me tell you – you can be a control freak who’s in a relationship with God. It’s just way less fun for you because He is God & He will win & you will lose your grip & control. I’ve spent my entire life telling God what was possible & how I thought things should go, and I’ve always wound up with rope burned hands, groping for something better. He will tend to your rope burned, grasping hands, and give you something better to hold onto. I don’t know what it will be. Maybe hope. Maybe wisdom. Maybe love. Maybe peace. But from one control freak to another, let me tell you – it’ll be better than the stress, anxiety, and general terribleness that comes with trying to perfectly control and perfect your life.
  5. Letting people care about you isn’t the same thing as being weak. I haven’t learned this lesson yet, because I still yell at my boyfriend when he loving opens the car door for me and shares his concerns that I don’t drink enough water. But it’s been on my mind more and more. It kind of feels like when you don’t let others care about you, you’re not letting them share their giftings, their talents, or their hearts. And you literally can’t do all the things by yourself, even if you try the hardest too.
  6. Discipline is always worth the pay off. I claimed victory in my exercising in the last six months & the discipline it took for that to happen was SO WORTH the pay off.
  7. The best time to call the CRA is 9 am. This is actual practical life advice. Also, I have yet to experience a CRA agent who doesn’t have great active listening skills. They listen deeply to all my five minute stories on how my tax return ended up where it did. You want that in an income tax agent.
  8. Pomodoro the crap out of your life. 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break times three. The fourth time you work for 25 minutes, you get a 20 minute break. Wash, rinse, and repeat. When I follow this to a t, I get SOMUCHOFMYLIFE done.
  9. You can get a lot done if you tell yourself, “Just for five minutes.” Particularly with writing, I get freaked out if something seems like it’s going to take a long time, so I opt for a much less time consuming, mostly unfulfilling activity – I scroll social media. I’ve started telling myself I just have to write for five minutes, and I always end up wanting to do it longer.
  10. Stop waiting for perfect and just start. I also have a nasty habit of waiting for the moment to be perfect before I start. I get so paralyzed by fear, waiting for perfect moments that just won’t come. Hannah, perfect isn’t coming. Just start creating. Just start reading. Just start doing the things you say you’re going to do.
  11. Give yourself grace for when you’re in the middle places. This past year, I had a lot of beginnings and some really hard endings. But I found that the hardest times was when I was in the middle of the beginnings and endings. I was the meanest to myself when I was an in process version of myself. I don’t want my entire life to be like that.
  12. You will live a less full life if you have one foot out the door. Just plant your feet where you are. Stop telling God you don’t think this is where you should be, and start thanking Him for the life you get to live every day. For the air that’s in your lungs, the adventures you get to take, the people sharing the adventures with you. Hannah Brencher says it best: be where your feet are.
  13. Baby steps are still steps. Take em. You’re good. It doesn’t always have to be big. That’s part of being in the middle. That’s part of saying sayonara to perfect. Take the baby step, and claim it as victory.
  14. Fiercely cheerlead others. Send the text and the snail mail card. Show up show up show up. Move the boxes. Craft a care package. Get excited about their small victories. Celebrate the crap out of all the victories. Dance in the kitchen. Call and use your most excited voices. Help each other stand up when there’s been a stumble. Stand at the finish line and yell, “You’re almost there you can do it go go go!!” Use blue and gold pom poms when necessary. Spoiler alert: the blue and gold pom poms are always necessary. 
  15. If you’re not reading your Bible, you’re not growing. My friend said this to me a few months ago, and it’s been the most oof-worthy thought in it’s truth. I want to be growing. It might not always feel like I’m growing, but if you do the work in the middle places, if you do the work of cultivation & feeding & a bunch of other metaphors, you end up growing. So put in the work, put in the Word.
  16. Ask all the questions – you’ll get somewhere. Even if people avoid answering them, or look down at their plate of food & laugh, or keep looking at anyone but you, keep asking the questions. You’ll end up with some great friends.
  17. Oil changes are not optional. Please don’t ask me how I learned this lesson. (Fred. I learned it from Fred, and I will never live it down. Car ownership is not my spiritual gift.)
  18. Mountains are majestic. ‘Nuf said.
  19. You’ll want to give up between the third and fourth kilometre – don’t. It’s the middle. But you can do it. I think in the middle, it’s the easiest to think this is never going to end. If you’re running 5K, the last kilometre has the promise of being the end. But at 3 kilometers, you’re just over halfway and the promise of the end isn’t there yet. It’s easy to tell yourself un-truths here. Don’t listen to those voices. Don’t give up.
  20. Make time for things you love & forgot you loved. I see you, library nights and whipped cream on my coffee & green drinks & connecting with people & coffee shops & used book stores & painting & journalling & long walks & golden hours.
  21. If you can’t control it and you can’t change it, then release your grip on it. This is a recent lesson, and probably could use it’s own blog post to be written about, but I’ve started asking myself (and my boyfriend) this question when we are complaining or upset about something. First – can I control it? Because if I can’t control it, then it’s time to release it. Second, can I change it? Because if I can’t change it, then it’s time to release it; and if I can change it, it’s time to put all the effort I am putting into complaining into changing my circumstances. It’s not an excuse to roll over and not care about anything – it’s just a practical way to look at what to hold on to & what to let go of.
  22. Use your library card more than your debit card. Every month, I aspire to do this, and every month, I fail but WE’RE GONNA GET THERE.
  23. Listening is loving. Hector and the Search for Happiness taught me this one, and I sobbed and sobbed when I heard it. I’ve been struggling in the last year with how to be a better listener. Am I listening because I’m waiting for my turn to speak, or am I listening because this is a way of loving my friends and hearing where they’re at and letting them speak? Too often, it’s the first. I’m trying, oh so hard, & failing, oh so frequently, at putting the second into action. But this is a way I want to live out love in my day to day life.
  24. Life is too short to buy No Name whipped cream.
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