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Grateful for Unmet Expectations

As my thirtieth birthday looms on the horizon, I find myself spending more and more time reflecting on the last decade of my life. I don’t have anything particularly poignant to share today (got to save stuff for ma book), but on this day of thanks, I will say that I’m grateful for my twenties and the people who have filled them. These last ten years have been filled with some of the most important parts of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving family, friends, and followers!

No I’m not actually sitting at a writing desk today. When you’re reading this, I’m in a cabin near a lake, taking a much needed break from social media for a few days. But, by the power of robots and scheduling buttons, I’m able to share this from the past. It’s okay to be very impressed with my very impressive robot-using skills.

You on the other hand, if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, are probably trying to look busy while others are cooking. Or, you’re scrolling as a respite from your well-meaning, but exhausting family. In either of those cases, thank you for reading, and you’re welcome.

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As my thirtieth birthday looms on the horizon, I find myself spending more and more time reflecting on the last decade of my life. I don’t have anything particularly poignant to share today (got to save stuff for ma book), but on this day of thanks, I will say that I’m grateful for my twenties and the people who have filled them. These last ten years have been filled with some of the most important parts of my life.

It’s inadequate to say I learned a lot about myself over the last decade. Obviously that’s true. If you go 10 years without learning something about yourself, you’re not awake. 

What I mean to say is that my twenties weren’t simply a kind of extension of what I already knew about myself. I didn’t grow into the vision I’d always had for myself. Instead, my twenties challenged all the things I was sure I already was. Those years called bullshit on all the expectations I’d had of life, and specifically, my life. 

My expectations of life have largely not been met. That doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for who I am, what I’m doing, and the people who surround me. It simply means that when I was 20, I saw this decade playing out differently. I won’t use cliches and tell you that instead, these years have exceeded my expectations beyond what I could have dreamed. They haven’t. They’ve been hard work. They’ve been deep heartbreak. They’ve been humbling.

And yet, I’m grateful for all of them, because they’ve taught me who I am in ways no checked-off list of life plans ever could have.

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For the last year of my life, I put all my “before thirty” expectations aside. Sure, I tweeted about it and made some faces when I whispered about the impending milestone, but I took a break from expectations. Instead, this control-freak-planner lingered in the middle of decisions and life plans and precipices. I’ve explored different options and collected them like cards. I’ve put eggs in many baskets, avoiding favoring a single one (this is metaphor, not innuendo, don’t get weird). 

While this may be a wishy-washy way to live your life longterm, it’s been a healthy way to live mine this last year. It’s let me see that before I take another step, I first wanted to know who I am. In this year without dating, without big career changes, without moving across the country as sometimes mused, I’ve learned that I have lived a lot of life not knowing who I am.

My twenties showed me that I’ve largely been a mirror… not a chameleon—I don’t think I’ve ever really blended in exactly… but a mirror. 

I’ve mirrored those closest to me. Those that I’ve loved. Those that I’ve wanted to make proud, or keep close. I’ve melded to become the person I thought they wanted or needed or were themselves, because they always seemed better versions of people than my own.

This is a good way to fall in line, and a really bad way to feel at ease.

Have you ever looked into a mirror reflecting another mirror? It’s a deep pool of everything and nothing all at once. Anxiety. Overthinking. It’s a prison that goes further than you can see. 

And so my twenties were me—the mirror—trying to get a good look at myself. It’s been a deep pit of trying to figure out where I was in all those reflections. Which one of these is real? Which one of these isn’t like the others? Which one belongs?

I’m grateful for ten years of asking questions. I’m grateful for ten years of getting disappointing answers. I’m grateful for the last year of indecision and wandering. I’m grateful for an approaching birthday that still freaks me out, but gives me an occasion to look beyond the hall of mirrors and wonder what’s on the other side.

Above all, I’m grateful for not having to be perfect at anything or having to get this life “right.” I’m grateful for a savior who loves me when I don’t much love Him. And I’m grateful for the friends and family who have been with me at each stage of the past three decades.

I really hate the hashtag #blessed, because I think it’s the cliche of this century, but at moments like this I do long for a way to communicate my sincerest contentment with the cards I’ve been dealt. #Content just doesn’t have the same fanfare.

Whether you’re celebrating this day with family, friends, or serving those less fortunate, I hope you have a moment to stop and consider the days that have led to this one.

Life goes by very fast the older we get, the more dependent on expectations we get. Slow down, consider why we’re even here, and eat some turkey. Because turkey is delicious (and very high in the protein to calorie ratio).

I love you all. Thanks for reading. And if you need more time avoiding the ones you love, there’s a list of recent publications below:

Happy Thanksgiving,
Michelle

 

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  1. […] you missed my Thanksgiving post, please check that out here. If you’ve already read that and are fairly sure you don’t want to read it again for […]

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