I’m surrounded by boxes: organizing, packing, discarding, all in preparation to move into my new house. I’m awake with to do lists, my thoughts, and the summer night heat. It occurs to me that movement may be the theme for this year, although the irony of the theme throughout my twenty-something life thus far is not lost on me.
-Bachelor’s degree by 21.
-Married by 25.
-Homeowner by 26.
-Mother by 28.
I’d always have it all by 28.
I’ve always been a checklist person. Lists for groceries, running errands, lists of tasks to complete each day at work, checklists for packing, or camping. Color coded labels, a closet organized by piece and then by color, It goes on and on. I turn 28 this November and my life is far from the organized checklist I had in my head through my early twenties.
I suppose each of us has had a version in our head at some point of how our life was supposed to look, the career we should have at age X, the life moments we should be celebrating at what point, etc. After all, we are part of a society that demands perfection rather than movement, praises results over pursuit, and strives for status rather than exploration. Often, we allow relationships, social norms, and various pressures to sap the energy and wonder veering from the traditional path can have on our disposition and our psyche. We allow disappointment, perception, and rejection to stave off any further attempts to go, to try, to be. We allow our circumstances to impede our ability to seek what it is we want to accomplish that isn’t on the master checklist, the universally accepted one as right, normal.
I think about my dreams growing up, what I wanted to accomplish, where I thought I would go, where I thought I’d be living right now, the kids I assumed I’d be starting to have by now, and the marriage I always dreamt of. Direction is not always linear.
If I’ve learned one thing in my adult life, it is that life is not always linear. We’re each laying the foundation for our lives during this decade, and that looks different for everyone. It’s an important time, this decade, but to live fearful of rejection and failure is to not live at all. Sometimes it means deep breaths, starting over, beginning again.
Growing up, my career aspirations varied widely. Teacher. Stay at home mom. Actress. Journalist. Fashion Designer. Rescue Diver. Boutique Owner. Interior Designer. Personal Assistant. Lawyer. Author. Event Planner. Lifestyle Blogger. Travel Writer. I’m none of these things by trade today. It took me several tries and multiple dreams to find what I love professionally in sales, and find the balance with some of the others as hobbies. Careers are not always linear.
I was married 6 weeks before turning 26 and single again 6 weeks after turning 27. It was extremely painful in many ways but necessary in countless more ways and the past 5 months have been the happiest I can ever recall being in my adult life. Relationships are not always linear.
I recently starting dating an incredible guy, the type of man I’ve prayed for all my life, the one that I refused to believe I needed to settle for less than. But he’s even better; I never could’ve made a checklist to encompass all of the amazing qualities he possesses. It’s scary, dating; to be vulnerable, to let someone see your flaws and scars, to trust that they still want you. It’s scary because it matters. It takes courage and faith to let your guard down, to try again, to risk getting hurt. Scarier yet, I don’t think I will.
God’s plan always proves to be better than anything I could’ve ever designed for myself. Always sweeter, more significant, filled with tiny moments that connect the plot lines of my life beautifully.
The boxes are starting to pile up haphazardly. It’s my 11th move since graduating college six years ago. The moves range from college girlfriends, to my own apartment, to my boyfriend’s then back at my mom’s. Chicago and then back to my fiancé, and now a house I’ve purchased myself. I couldn’t be more excited to establish my own home, my own story, after many tries elsewhere. Movement isn’t always linear.
I’m no longer measuring my life moments according to age or a master checklist, but instead in shared experiences, meals around the table with those I love, honest conversations, personal growth, and exploring as much of God’s beauty on this earth as I can. I’m defining my life by how well I love: when it’s easy and convenient, and when it’s painful and confusing.
I’m focusing on a different sort of checklist these days for myself:
It starts with loving myself and being in love with my life. Every aspect, every twist and turn, every moment and situation that has led me to where I am now. Every failure, every disappointment, every time I’ve veered from the traditional path. Every time I’ve started again. Life isn’t linear, but there certainly is a lot to love today and every day.
Life is made in seasons. From a long season of hurt, confusion, and uncertainty has emerged a season of immense growth, resilience, love, and movement. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the harsh seasons, for without them, life couldn’t possibly be this beautiful, this storied.
I’m so thankful for all that 27 has taught me so far, the adventures I’ve been able to have, the growth within myself, the passions I’m exploring, and the people that have walked into my life. There is movement taking place all around and the best are the things that could never be contained to box, a label, or a checklist.
Forget 28. I already have it all.
Such a beautiful post! It resonated with me in so many ways. I am also in my twenties and realizing that life doesn’t always go the way you plan. You have a beautiful writing style and I hope everything goes well for you in your future!
Dana VanTongeren says
Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate it greatly!
So inspiring, this is great to read as a ’20 something’ year old. Thanks!
Dana VanTongeren says