I'll be 29 years old in a few weeks. I know I'm not exactly at a ripe old age where I can impart deep wisdom about aging, but I am getting older every day, just like you, and along the way we all learn serious life lessons that are worth contemplating. Aging, especially as a woman, is difficult. I see the physical aspects of it - bags and lines under my eyes that weren't there five years ago (thanks, kiddos!), skin that isn't quite what it was, and a metabolism that seems to be getting lazy. We hear constantly about all those things - the horrors of aging and how to prevent it.
But even if I was given the choice, I would never go back.
An older man, actually he was a surprisingly wise gap-toothed truck driver, once told my husband that your 20's are a particularly difficult time because you are still discovering who you are, but you are also making huge decisions and going through major transitions. He said your 30's are smoother. You are generally more settled, more secure in who you are, and have a better idea where you are going in life. Well that sure rings true with me, even as I approach the last year of my 20's. I love where I am today so much more than where I was in my early 20's, and I want to share just a few of the reasons why.
You learn to just accept yourself.
As funny as it sounds, it was a life-changing moment when I watched a well-known beauty YouTuber (shout out to any other Essie Button fans!) unashamedly call herself a homebody. I spent too much of my life feeling awful for and fighting against how much I love a simple life with a lot of time just spent at home. The extroverted, driven, can't-sit-still person is the typical ideal in our culture. I wish I could have realized earlier that who I am is perfectly fine. We can't all be the same or this world would be awfully dull. Yes, there are plenty of things I still wish I could change about myself and many areas I need to grow in, but I'm learning to embrace some of the foundational things about my personality. As I get older, I'm seeking to learn what I actually enjoy doing, rather than trying to fit in to what popular culture says I am supposed to find fun at my age and life stage. I have experienced freedom and joy in discovering who God made me to be.
You learn what a true friend is and how to be one.
When I was a kid, I found it very easy to make friends, and I was proud of the fact that I could be friends with everyone in my class. Even though I was naturally shy and reserved, as a people-pleaser, I found ways to adapt to just about anyone and be on good terms with them. But this approach to relationships did not serve me particularly well as I got older. Through some very painful situations over the years, I learned a lot about true friendship and a lot about myself. I've learned to tame that people-pleasing instinct that adapts who I am to be liked by others, and to just be myself. This wasn't simple to do because I had been supressing my own personality for so long that it took me a while to figure out who I was! I discovered that my true friends love me anyway, just like I love them, and not whatever return I get from our friendship. Even though the number of people that I consider close friends has dwindled significantly in that past ten years, I have no doubt that I am far richer for it. I am blessed beyond belief with a handful of women who I love, who know me, and love me more deeply than I ever thought a friend could.
I would also like to point out that while my definition of a close friend has narrowed, there is also a freedom I've discovered in allowing new casual friendships to develop naturally. You can be open to new friendships forming at their own pace while leaving all the expectations that can complicate relationships out of it. In knowing what a true friend is and how to be one, you can love people more genuinely because you aren't always looking for how they can serve your needs. You can appreciate each wonderful person you meet in your life for who they are without feeling like it needs to become more.
You find your voice.
Being a people-pleaser, I've always struggled with being open in certain situations or with certain people, particularly about my faith or stances on moral issues. I am deeply sensitive to other people's feelings and I care about them. I generally do not wish to make anyone uncomfortable, but I especially never want to make someone feel judged or condemned when I genuinely love them. For years this has often left me feeling paralyzed and unable to speak to some of those I love the most about what I think is most important. Inside I have so much to share out of a place of love, but I hold back due to fear of what it might be taken as, or a fear that I won't express it properly, or that I will come off as an angry, self-righteous elder-brother type of Christian.
For example, one of the ways this played out is that I would never share a thought-provoking article on Facebook about abortion because I knew people who have had one, completely understood why they did, had deep compassion for their reasons, and knew that without my faith in God's care and love for me I would likely have done the same. It's scary to take a stand when our culture automatically says that to disagree with someone's actions means that you hate that person. I truly love these people, and their abortions in no way made me love them any less, nor do I think that I am any better. Yet I still believe passionately that abortion is completely wrong, and all the more since my experience of holding my own little bean-sized baby after my miscarriage at just 7 weeks.
Another way this expressed itself would be if we had guests at our house who weren't Christians I wouldn't want to pray at dinner for fear of making them uncomfortable.
What this holding back had led to is me never feeling like it's okay to just be myself and live my life the way I feel convicted to live it. There is something about growing older and learning along the way that has released me from the need to please everyone and worry about everything I say or do being taken the wrong way. Spend about two seconds looking in a comments section on a blog post about anything remotely controversial and you'll see that anyone can twist anything to make it sound horrible if they want to. The bottom line is that I know my own heart and motives - I know when I do or say something to someone out of love or when I sinfully slip into hypocritical condemnation and need to ask for their forgiveness. Now I just pray that I will act in love with everyone and that they will sense that. I am still sensitive to others' feelings, but a part of loving someone is being honest with them about who I am. I'm learning to stop worrying about the possible negative outcomes and just focus on loving them from my heart without restraint. This new approach has empowered me to be far more bold, not only in sharing my faith and my convictions, but in affirming my love for people.
Those are just a few things I think are worth loving about getting older. There are likely so many more, and I may keep sharing them in future posts as they come to mind. While I sure don't love the physical aspects of aging, what matters most is who you are and I think there is so much to look forward to as we continue to live life and learn. What about you? What has getting older taught you, gained you? I really want to hear you share what you love about getting older and life lessons you've gleaned in the comments section below.
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