Numbers are a funny thing, aren't they? When you were little, counting to ten seemed like a huge feat, then in no time you're boasting that you can count to infinity if you wanted to (or was that just me?). In kindergarten we celebrated the 100th day of school by bringing 100 of something to share with the class.. pixie sticks were my choice, in case you were wondering. You try to reconcile why in 1st grade you're six-years-old and wonder what it will be like to be in 12th grade and the ripe old age of eighteen (or seventeen for us young ones). I counted down the days to Christmas and my birthday with great anticipation, and numbered the turns I was supposed to do in ballet class. We measured in numbers.
Somewhere in there we start marking firsts and lasts, and tallying everything in-between. First boyfriends, last performances, first kisses, last seconds of the game. Grade point averages, the number of minutes it takes to get from Journalism to English, how many times your picture was in the yearbook. Our worth attached to these numbers. We sent numbers and transcripts to colleges hoping for an acceptance letter (or five). The tuition numbers climbed with each school you considered, and points on your ACT's and SAT's dictated the number of scholarships that would or wouldn't come in. We were measured in numbers.When we got to college... it was much the same. How many hours we were taking, how many lines we had in what play, how many guys gave us roses at serenade, and how many weeks were left in the semester. Graduation loomed in the distance and everything appeared to be piling up, all of the numbers included, only for them to go skittering to the ground after you walked the stage.
So why am I writing to you twenty-somethings, myself included, about numbers? Because that label in itself is JUST A NUMBER and I think it's easy to forget sometimes.
This decade baffles, excites, and frustrates me. I'm certain I'm not the only one. Turning twenty was startling. The safety net of "-teen" at the end of my age disappeared. I was twenty. I was growing up. I was on the other side of adolescence and naiveté and the acceptable age to be carefree. The expectations fell on my shoulders (most of them from myself) as though I had accidentally walked onstage during the middle of a circus act, replacing the strongest man on earth. And I felt like everyone was watching.
I know I have so much left to learn at the ripe-young-age of twenty-three, but what I'm learning right now is that twenty-something is just a number, and I can take it or leave it. For me, taking it is a burden I don't want. There are hundreds of articles out there about "The Twenty-Something's Guide to...." or "10 Things Every Twenty-Something Should Do/Know/See/Be Before Their 30's". I don't know if I can read another one of them for quite a while. And I don't want this to be one of those. But I know I need to get some of these words on paper --or screen-- before they eat my heart alive.
On my last birthday, yes twenty-three, I joked that Taylor Swift had twenty-four hours to write me a song telling me how I should feel, because otherwise I'd be completely lost. Well, six months later (almost to the day) I'm still twenty-three and doing just fine without her (but let's be honest, 1989 is my jam!). The past year she had described twenty-two as an age of being "happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time" acknowledging that it's both miserable and magical. I'd have to say that felt about right, and it didn't change all that much when I turned twenty-three. Sometimes I feel happy. Others I feel confused. At times I feel all of these and more simultaneously. And that's perfectly okay.
So, Twenty-Somethings, let this letter serve as a break in your day and a quiet reminder that it's okay to feel it all. It's okay not to have it figured out, and it's okay to have your ten-year plan. It's okay to make the bucket list, and it's okay to live with spontenaity. It's a decade for discovery, trial, error, success, failure, dreams, comfort zones, and courageous efforts. It's YOUR time. No matter what my twenty-three looks like or what TSwift's twenty-two appeared to be, being a twenty-something is what you make it.
It's okay to have your Christmas tree up in January. It's okay to make ten mistakes before getting that project, announcement, post, or relationship right. It's okay to take thirty minutes for yourself during the day to relax. It's okay to lay the same heart hurt at God's feet twelve times, asking for healing and grace. It's okay to count down the days until your nearest vacation. And it's okay to throw the numbers out altogether. They don't define you or this season. You define it.
I need this reminder as much as anyone, and I hope it left you with a little encouragement. To be honest, I found this quote floating around Tumblr yesterday (yes, I'm twenty-three and still have a Tumblr, thank you) and it spoke right into the heart of what I was struggling to put into words:
"What I really mean to say is that I hope you aren’t held back because of a number. And that you don’t rush into things because it feels like time is slipping by. I hope you do what’s right for you. Hold on. Slow down. And breathe in. Your age is your age. But more importantly, your life is your life. Don’t change your journey so that it matches someone else’s. We need to walk different paths so the whole world can be explored. Revel in the differences. And enjoy where you are."
Enjoy where you are. Breathe in, breath out. Let this release you.
Let this refresh you. Savor your season. Let's do it together, shall we?
Linking up with Amber @ Mr. Thomas and Me.