Discovery / Fulfillment

What I’ve Learned At 29

I’m just about two weeks in of being 29, so I’m thinking that officially deems me as the foremost expert on all things 29-ish. Ha. But seriously, being on the cusp of the big 3-0, there’s really been no lack on my end of reflection and consideration of what I’ve learned thus far. Three decades on earth. 10,585 days (#blessed).

The road getting here without a doubt has been fun, crazy, challenging, painful… and every other adjective in between. At 29, I know I’m a completely different person than I was at 9, 19, or even 27 if I’m being honest. I don’t like to think of myself as jaded or bitter, so I’ll just say that at this point, I’m more aware of the less-than-pretty things in life.

  1. People will let you down. Yup, that includes your favorite parent, your closest sibling, your sweet lover, and your bestest friend in the world. At some point, they. will. let. you. down. Your job is to not to let your identity or well-being rest on the actions or words of anybody. No matter how much you love them or believe in them. Because guess what: the person that you respect the most in this world is just as flawed as you are. Don’t expect them to be super humans. I have been let down (in a huge way) by the people that I love the most and what I’ve learned from those experiences is that I shouldn’t expect too much from anybody. And again, that’s not to encourage jadedness or bitterness, just a healthy dose of reality and managed expectations.
  2. You finally know what you want. I work as a freelance writer. Words are my currency. I used to call it my dream job, and for the last few years it has been, I just don’t feel that way anymore. In the last decade, my heart has always beat for social justice organizations, causes, and the like, I’ve just never been able to find a job in this sector. It’s either that, or they’ve never chosen to hire me.

So now after almost four years of working from home, I’m on the prowl again. Because I know what I want. If you’re in high school, college, or even your mid- or late-20s, don’t worry. It’s likely that most of the people around you don’t know what they want either, or they just may be some of the lucky few who do. This is the time for you to figure it out. In the meantime, give yourself room to explore, discover and make a few mistakes here and there.

HINT: find out what makes your heart beat fast and see if you can do that for a living. Then it will never feel like a job. Your passions, gifts and talents are a huge indicator of what you should be doing.

But of course, knowing what you want isn’t limited to career paths and what not. You also know what you want in a relationship. In a partner. In a future spouse. You know what I hate, even though they mean well? When a friend tries to force a guy on me that I totally don’t see myself with. Because at this age, I know what I want. I’ve seen what love looks like, and I’ve also witnessed what it doesn’t look like. In the words of a very wise woman named Christine Caine, “Don’t settle for relationships that require losing your voice, your self-respect, or your dignity”.

I’m just not willing to sell out to the first guy that comes around for one less lonely night. For the most part anyhow, being lonely is a choice. Or maybe I’m just past that point. And that’s not to say that I demand perfection, I’m just done wasting my time. If you haven’t figured out what non-negotiable traits you’d like in a partner, now would be a great time to get started on that list. I’ve read that 80 (or 90%) of a person’s happiness is contingent on the person that they marry. So you want to make that decision with careful consideration. Don’t rush. You’re worth it, and chances are, you’re the person who’s putting the most pressure on yourself.

  1. You’re done with the BS.

At 29, you just get to the point where you’re completely done being someone’s doormat, or who don’t treat you the way that you deserve. Because this isn’t high school or college anymore where if you rocked the boat in your social circle, you’d have to eat in the cafeteria all by your lonesome. Now there are no more excuses for spending time with people who don’t deserve you or who don’t better you in any way. It’s all on you.

  1. Forgiveness will set you free.

In relation to the aforementioned, with pain come scars and wounds. Guess who enters an invisible prison when we choose to harbor hatred and bitterness towards others? It’s us, not them. So take a couple days to sulk but once you’re done, move forward. And allow yourself time to heal. But don’t leave the relationship on the wayside. If you can salvage it, do so.

  1. I don’t know everything. In fact, I don’t know that much at all.

The more I learn about the world, the more it dawns on me just how little I know. And the best way to keep learning is to keep an open mind, and to be humble enough to admit that you don’t know everything. Doing otherwise just makes you straight up annoying, and you also strip yourself of the opportunity to expand your knowledge.

  1. Bad things happen.

Bad things can happen to you no matter how much money you have or don’t have, how much planning you do, and irrespective of how good a person you are. There are no exceptions — life can screw us over at some point, and our job is to roll with these punches as they come.

  1. You realize how crazy beautiful life is.

And because I’m aware of how negative (or realistic??) this entry is getting, let’s end this on a positive note. This year two friends of mine passed away, I’ve had to deal with very challenging situations concerning people that I love dearly, and a lot of terrifying events occurred around the world. It made me reevaluate the purpose of life, question whether God truly is in control, and go to sleep tearful and afraid. And yet… despite the craziness of it all, in spite of the fact that there are still so many things I don’t understand, a barrage of questions in my mind that won’t get answered on this side of eternity, I still think life is beautiful. And yes, that God is in full control. We just choose to point the finger at him when something bad happens.

I’ve just had too many first-hand experiences of grace, love and forgiveness to believe otherwise… not to mention the countless “coincidences” or “happenstances” that have manifested in my life.

Yes, there are people that make life ugly and that continually make the choice to hurt others, but if I let that get to me, it will literally drive me insane. I believe, unequivocally, that genetics + environment + uncontrollable factors aside, this is how the spiral of depression often starts. With our thought life. Tell yourself something enough times and for certain you will start to believe it.

So tell yourself this whenever you feel you can’t go any further:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Desiderata (Max Ehrmann, 1927)

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