It feels strange to be in my late 20s and be where I am in life. I think I always expected to feel more like an adult by this point.
When I was little, I just assumed you got married when you were 25. My parents did. As did my grandparents. And many of my aunts and uncles, too. (Needless to say, I had a moment on my 25th birthday. And my 26th for that matter. Hello, quarter life crisis).
And if 25 was time to get married, then 28 was officially grown-up. Like, have babies, a career, a house and a plan kind of grown up. At the moment, I notably have none of the above.
I have many friends who have all of those things, of course, and I’m thrilled for them. I love being aunt Alison and buying snow suits to make infants look like teddy bears. Those furry bear suits with ears are the best invention of all time, as far as I’m concerned.
I quit my career, but thankfully have been able to transform the remnants into an incredible opportunity to travel and interview and write – literally the best of all possible worlds.
I sort of have a house, I guess, though I’m not living in it at the moment. And I suppose I do have a plan-ish. But it looks an awful lot more like a dream than anything particularly step-by-step tangible.
And you know what?
I feel SO SO SO good to be where I am at 28.
I feel like I’m finally living life the way that it is supposed to be lived.
Because here’s the deal, everyone:
I’ve been a grown-up for as long as I can remember.
And I’m over it.
For my whole life, I’ve been known as the responsible one or the “mom” or the planner. I was careful and methodical and I stuck to every possible rule. I tried to do things “right” (and almost always succeeded).
When I was three, my mom would tell me the list of errands she needed to accomplish in a day, then strap me into my car seat as we headed out to take care of business. She didn’t need a smartphone or a planner because instead, she had an insanely precocious toddler who would memorize not only the list of tasks, but the order in which she had shared them – saying emphatically, “No mom. We’re supposed to go to the dry cleaners next, and THEN the grocery.”
When I was in high school, I followed the rules and towed the line and did really well in school. I had the normal teenage drama, of course, but I was also good and responsible. Or at least that’s what all the adults around me told me.
For most people, getting older comes with some sense of added responsibility. Of forgoing bad habits or regaining some control or making plans. Growing up feels like moving from chaos, whimsy, and fun to something more structured and “adult.”
Or so I’m told.
I feel an awful lot like I’m moving in the opposite direction.
To celebrate my 28th birthday, I re-read two of my all-time favorite books (don’t judge me, I’m celebrating alone in a country where it’s not super safe to walk around alone…I have time on my hands).
These books are on my short list of “Everyone I Know Should Read This” – a list that has been carefully culled over decades of being a book worm.
The first is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
It compares fictional, storybook characters to real lives. It argues that the same principles that make a book or a movie great also make a life great. We need conflict and adventure. We need to figure out what we want and then go after it with everything we have.
As a professional storyteller, I think about a lot of people’s lives as stories. And my own is no exception.
And I’m pretty proud of the narrative that I am creating these days.
It has little to do with the whole quit-my-job-to-backpack-around-the-world thing, though that has undoubtedly been awesome. It has a lot more to do with the individual adventures I’ve had, at home and away. With the people I’ve met and laughed with and loved. With the moments when I’ve leaned fully into the things that make me me, as opposed to the expectations that others place on me.
My story last year, at home, was equally as profound and significant as my one this year on the road. Last year, I built a table and welcomed hundreds of people to my backyard for dinner. I hosted sleepovers for giggling high school girls. I taught a multigenerational small group and I learned to make a lot of new foods from scratch. I helped to dream up (and then lead) the City Hike. I baked easily 100 dozen cookies, probably way way more than that. Life was a beautiful story in its own way.
This year, my life is an obvious story. A backpack and 37 countries don’t need a whole lot more exposition.
Either way, though, it’s a story I’m proud to tell.
And I’m reminding myself that that is what matters. As I look ahead, I’m leaning hard into my story. The story that God is writing for me. The one that combines the things I love and dream about and hope for.
The second book I re-read this week was Love Does by Bob Goff. If you have not read this book, please stop reading my blog right this second and go read it immediately. I will buy you a copy. In fact, for awhile, I ordered them in bulk and handed them out to friends who came over looking for a book to borrow.
I’m serious. Read it.
This book is my aspiration for adulthood.
Because obviously, yes, I am growing up whether I feel like an adult or not. I will (hopefully) hit those traditional adult milestones eventually, and I’m excited about that.
But I don’t want to ever be trapped by the lies of adulthood. The ones that say that life shouldn’t or can’t be an adventure full of whimsy. I want to keep saying yes to things and going big and loving well – whether I’m 28 or 48 or 88.
Re-reading Love Does reminded me that this is the way I want to live forever – loving God and loving people and leaving the rest to sort itself out.
But I’m learning more and more that you have to choose that. You have to be intentional about living the story you want to tell, because otherwise, life is just going to happen to you. It’s easier to just do whatever the “normal” thing is, of course. It’s our default. But it’s way less meaningful, and notably, it’s way less fun. And the older I get, the more I am sure that living a life of purpose with intention and overflowing with love in action is the very best way to go.
So hi, hello, I’m a grown-up 28-year-old without a husband, a baby, a house, a full-time job, or a totally-solidified plan. And I am FULL OF JOY about all of the above.
I do have a couple of adult-y things I’m hoping to do more of this year, though they basically boil down to returning to personal grooming after 10 months living out a backpack. My goals are to iron the clothes that need to be ironed, floss, and start wearing lipstick more often. Because I feel like that’s a grown-up thing to do. I hope to get haircuts more regularly, too – before it’s noticeably necessary. And I know that I need to up my work out game as my body continues to remind me that while my mind may be feeling younger than ever, it is not.
Beyond that, I’m choosing adventure. People. Things that bring joy and life and fun and love.
I’m so excited about the year ahead and can’t wait to see what it holds.