Something odd happens when you hit 25 years of age. Strangely, 23, 24…they all felt sort of the same. But 25? By no means are you an old person or something ridiculous like that, but at least in my own case, you are in this weird vortex of post-college and pre-adulthood. At least serious adulthood, anyway. Young adult…maybe? Though I still live with my parents so who knows.
My church life captures this awkward phase perfectly.
On Sundays after the 9:00 worship service, I join a lively and talkative group of young Christians in Rooted for orange juice or a Starbucks energy drink (your preference), delicious snacks, and discussion related to life, scripture, and Jesus. It’s often really interesting and challenging, which is what small groups ought to be all about. Yet the group is primarily composed of college-aged kids aged 17-22 and so I’m certainly on the older side of things. In ways, I find myself having flashbacks and nostalgia related to my 8-year old days when I was on the same t-ball team as my baby brother. I was the only girl and they were all 5 years old. But that’s another story.
On Tuesdays, my sweet mama and I head back to Fellowship Community Church for women’s bible study. We just finished a series and study called Why Do You Believe That? which focused on apologetics and talking about being a Christian in a real, articulate, and genuine manner. My mom and I are in separate groups, but I know we’ve both come to value the ladies we pray and study with every Tuesday night. My group has a spunky new Christian, a retired school teacher, a recently relocated New Yorker, a passionate Puerto Rican, and a Harley Davidson enthusiast. Unlike Rooted, I’m like a baby in this niche of women, with most of the members being, on average, 20 years older than me. What’s beautiful is that most of the time I barely notice; these women share stories and impart perspectives that I cannot yet fully understand. Life experience does that for you, I think.
My point is this: finding a defined place at 25 is not easy. Moreover, I think embracing this kind of life transition is almost as other big changes, maybe as difficult as becoming a teenager – just with different issues. I have traded braces for student loan payments and“being cool” (at the time this of course meant having flared jeans, passing notes with boys, and having Friday night sleepovers with girlfriends) for trying to just “figure it all out”. Life’s funny.
The biggest difference now though, is what I have managed to learn along the way.
There’s no reason to settle. Vegetables really are important. People will be unhappy if they want to be. Never refuse ice cream. True friends are hard to come by. Your heart will be broken. Success is having options. Time is our most valuable resource – and it’s the one thing that never stops. Change is hard and it really sucks. But, like time, it’s inevitable. Running actually can be enjoyed. Do what you say you will do.
The greatest lesson, by far, pertains to my family. Besides realizing how strong values like loyalty and love are, I also had a recent epiphany that my parents are, you know, real people.
You know what I’m talking about?
At some point, as you are growing up (perhaps at some point in your mid-twenties), it finally occurs to you that you can relate to your parents outside of their role as your parent, as just your mom or your dad. You get to know who they are as people, understanding their journeys and lives lived outside of parenthood.
My mom is a hard-working women. Nothing she does is less than her best effort. When she was a young girl she honed in on her school work, excelling to such a degree that she was almost her class valedictorian. She’ll still tell you about that darn “B” she earned in gym class. She went to college, and like me, also dealt with her parents divorcing. She worked at a sub-shop sort of place called “The Caboose” to put herself through. Never fearing to go after her goals and to put herself in a position for success, she made a bold career move later in life, entering a much better field for her skill-set – nursing. She is fierce and funny and is one of my most important confidants. I feel totally at peace with my mama. She’s a really good friend. That, I’m realizing, more than anything. She listens well, responds appropriately, and understands fully how to engage other people. My mom, Michelle, is nothing short of amazing. I have consistently commended her abilities as a mother, but like I said, I can now so perfectly see all of the other things that make her who she is. I’m grateful to have a mother like that. I’m grateful to have a friend in her like that, too.
My dad has been at his job for 26 years. He’s a teacher, coach, a lawnmower guy, a brother, a best friend, and most proudly (his words, not mine) a father. My dad loves being a Newell and takes that seriously. He has his own life too, spending time with his childhood friends and “putzing around” as he often says. Dad, Ted, is one of the most optimistic people I know. He can find good in everything. He might be going through multiple upheavals at once but he still goes to bed believing that life is good. How rare is that? That’s not a testament to him as a father – that’s a testament to the kind of person and attitude he cultivates in every facet of his life. My dad is someone I admire and look up to a lot. I want to enjoy my career the way he does; to really love what he does every day. I want to work hard the way he does. From when he was a teen until now and probably until he’s old and gray, he’ll be working hard at something. He didn’t grow up with a strong father influence. I can say without reservation that he reversed the cycle. I have been blessed in the completely opposite way. To know a father, man, professional, and community member with his energy and heart is a special thing.
My parents are strong, real, vulnerable, and passionate people. I see that quite clearly now. It’s one of the better lessons I am realizing in the midst of the “what is going on with my life?” situation that arises every so often.
They aren’t perfect and that’s okay. Because that’s how we all are: imperfect. It’s hard when the realities of life mold you to see this; perhaps that pedestal that you had built so high comes crashing down. But knowing that your parents are real makes you feel assured and better about who you are; despite all of our weaknesses, we are more than capable of leading wonderful lives, with great friends and families, and with each day gaining a better understanding of where we fit in the world.
Maybe our 20’s are tumultuous because we need to step back, take stock of where we have been, and where we are going. Maybe it’s a time where we have to learn tough lessons with struggle, pain, and challenges because they are balanced with gaining insight into the lives of the people who raised you. Even in all this uncertainty, we learn who are parents are and what they have done for you. And guess what? They made it through their 20’s. They figured it out. And so will you.