becoming 30

Nearing the end of my twenties is beginning to feel infused with equal parts nostalgia, pride, reflection, and gratitude. I spent this morning sifting through old photographs and recalling old memories leading me to wonder, once again, who am I? Where am I going? What is this crazy life?

It’s funny – isn’t it – how the questions really never change. When I first turned 20, I was asking the very same things. I had no idea who I was, and I certainly could never have anticipated where life took me for the last 10 years. I suppose now things are different – I do actually know much more of who I am, however, in knowing how growth and change work, I also know there will be even more to be discovered in the years to come.

My twenties were vibrant, challenging, illuminating, joyful, heartbreaking, and full of travel to new places. I believe it has been my experiences away from home that have taught me to appreciate what home means and how much the world has to offer. Learning new places, new languages, new modes of transport, and new foods has shown me the delicate beauty of humanity. I learned how to love in my twenties (or at least, how to love better), and I know now this is the greatest gift we can learn. I have learned to love God, the world, others, and importantly, myself.

The best part of my twenties was exploring cultures, places, and my identity. I knew, already, when I was twenty that I was gay. However, I had convinced myself to repress this, to live a different life because the one that I wanted was impossible. I’m pleased – and blessed – to see that as I close this chapter of my life, I am exactly where I had hoped and dreamed to be.

Within the past decade, I made so many new friendships, got to vote in my first election (right before I turned 20), played NCAA field hockey, became an aunt, fell in love, lived in new places, ran a half marathon, helped start a business, gained new family members (via in-laws and families in East Africa), attended a Sooners football game in Norma, and published my writing. More recently, I became engaged and am planning a wedding with the love of my life. Truly – I never thought that would happen. So much of me did not believe in the institution of marriage. However, I will be the first to say, I am grateful to have changed my mind. I have learned the art of doing so; it is perfectly acceptable and even preferable to reconsider what you think about people, ideas, and things. When I was younger, I thought changing your mind was a bad thing. Yet, it is in challenging our own assumptions where we find the biggest growth opportunities.

The most arduous part of my twenties was loss. I lost my grandmother, who in many ways, was the light of my life. I lost my dog, Buddy, too, and this was also inexpressibly difficult. I lost – for a while – a part of myself when I moved permanently back from Rwanda. Moving back to the United States was literally, painful, lonely, and isolating. Easily, this was one of the more grueling times in my life (not just my twenties).

In addition to loss, my twenties were demanding because of the amount of change that occurred. I had to let go of my first love because of distance – that hurt every part of me. I had to learn about building long-distance friendships when I graduated college, knowing that all of my dearest friends would live in different parts of the United States. My brother also went through a great deal of hardship, and as a sister, this was agonizing to bear witness to. Loss and change, I now understand, come with life. As we hold onto love and joy, inevitably, we will also meet suffering, too. It all goes hand in hand.

As I look to 30 and the next season of life, I see hope. I am actively working towards new dreams – dreams rooted in helping others as I work to become a licensed therapist – and dreams of starting a family. I yearn for more ways to make a difference in the world and to always seek personal growth and become the woman I am supposed to be. I want to continue to write, to continue to seek adventures, and to continue to promote love in a world that desperately needs it. I hope to do this with boldness and humility, knowing that my journey now could not be without the journey that has come before.

I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the life I have made so far. I am just proud. Yet, in this pride, I know I would not be where I am without my family, without my friends, without my partner, Chelsea, and without God. I am truly fortunate to have this life, and my hope is that I can give back to the world what has been graciously bestowed to me. I am motivated to live in a world that values humanity, kindness, and community and I aim to push forward this kind of world for my kids, their kids, and the people who will come after me. I am absolutely pumped to be thirty years young and I genuinely look forward to what the next 10 years – and beyond. Bring on the art of living.

Here we go.

As I look forward to the future, it has been deeply rewarding to look back on where I have been. Here’s my favorite photos (and memories) from the last 10 years.

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

change & bowls of oatmeal

It is morning.

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My fingers perch on top of the counter as the sluggish hum of the microwave swirls through the kitchen. The low, faint sounds of humans beginning their day start to flow as night ebbs away. Soon, and not a moment faster, my coffee will be ready.

The clock on the microwave counts down from 1:30, 1:29, 1:28… the perfect amount of time needed to cook the most divine bowl of oatmeal.

I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast for the last six years of my life. It is so habitual to eat oatmeal that when I don’t, I feel out of whack.

Indeed, it’s an art:

1 banana, a dollop of peanut butter, and a sliver of granola (for crunch) and you are on your way to breakfast heaven.

Today, as I groggily mixed my ingredients together, I had a flashback of when over a year ago, I began staying at Chelsea’s apartment and would prepare the same morning breakfast in her mod-sleek kitchen.

Things were different then: I would spend the night, bringing a packed bag (or three) and in the morning, we would wake up, share breakfast (as we read The Skimm aloud), and head into work. I was so giddy with love that I would beam with delight on my commute, almost like someone plastered a smile on my face.

That wasn’t the oatmeal (or the coffee) – I was falling in love.

Now, I still have the same oatmeal for breakfast, but I eat it in our home – usually before early morning calls to Rwanda. In our shared kitchen, I know where everything is, like a sweet song memorized, so I can do it with my eyes half-closed (and sometimes they literally are).

Chelsea and I, at the beginning of our relationship, were so routine about eating breakfast together. It was “our thing.” As I chewed my food this morning, it dawned on me: so much about us and about the rhythm of our life has changed.

These days, Chelsea starts work before the crack of dawn at Starbucks and so the start times to our days are stacked and unsynchronized. And, when she is able to sleep in, I am usually up, on a call, riding the train, or headed to class. I’m working and studying and so when it comes to mornings, there is not a minute to lose. When I look back, of course, I miss those early days.

But, you know what?

Though the newness of our love is fading ever so slightly, the trust, deep knowing, reliability, authenticity, and commitment are coming to bloom. The relationship, I think, is maturing.

For so long, I hated to spend hours (god forbid, days) away from my beloved. And still, I miss her, but now I know what I did not know before: she knows me, she sees me, she loves me – and she isn’t going anywhere. It sounds simple, but the fruit of building a strong foundation is literally just that – a strong foundation. That means that whether or not we are sharing breakfast, I know I get to come home to this spectacularly delightful human each and every day.

This is the woman who:

has taken me to the doctor when I’ve been sick, has run me hot baths on tough days, has stocked my favorite bottle of red wine, has edited my writing pieces, has encouraged me to follow my dreams, has purchased roller blades to accompany me on my adventures, has taken me to the airport at twilight hours, has driven in the snow when I was too frightful, has modeled incredible self-care, has shared her reading list, has sewed my clothing, has dared to be boldly vulnerable and brave, and more than anything, has shown up and loved.

She has filled the spaces of my life and it’s like glue in all the cracks, bringing it all together in a beautiful mosaic. Irrevocably, our lives are intermingled and that is the change I see the most.

We are not like we used to be.

Certainly, that is a common realization upon the process of personal self-reflection, however, it is particularly poignant in the context of a relationship. The relationship has changed, because we – both of us – have.

Our love has been strengthened, too, often by very difficult, challenging circumstances. I never knew that about love – that love doesn’t only grow and beautify because of good things. It grows because even in the murkiest of waters, you know (and choose) the person you want to walk through it with.

Where did the time go?

I think about the swiftness of the year, the months, and the days, as I eat my oatmeal, alone, on the couch before the business of the day arrives. I cannot pinpoint the moment we began to change because we are always in motion, always in progress, always, always learning.

That is enough to know, because I love where we are – whether we share oatmeal, or not.

 

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Moving In 101

Earlier this year, in June, after over half a year together, Chelsea and I decided to move in together.

This was a relatively easy choice; it made sense for us financially, it made sense for where we were in our relationship, and also, as mature, young adults, it would allow us to keep growing in our relationship and sharing our lives together.

When you are not living with your partner, there is a limitation for what you can share.

How long do they brush their teeth?

How much do they snore?

How many times does their alarm clock go off in the morning?

How do they fold their laundry?

How do they plan for the week?

Do they sing in the shower?

Do they clean up after themselves?

Do they have a routine for paying the bills?

Do they cook dinner or eat out?

There is so much that co-habitation can teach you. And, when the time is right, it is a stretching, meaningful, and frankly, incredibly important experience.

Knowing that Chelsea was the person I wanted to fully, 100% commit to, I knew that moving in was the next step in the long journey of a relationship. It certainly was not something we decided overnight. We discussed what that would mean over the course of weeks and months – even while I was away in Rwanda earlier in the year. When I came back, and we got more serious, we began to openly discuss what a shared, co-habituating life would mean for us. One day, after church, we sipped coffee at a trendy coffeehouse in Uptown for several hours as we talked about the different ins and outs of living together. We even wrote up notes on this conversation.

We talked about our expectations, our hopes, and our dreams. We talked about chores, about work-life balance, and about taking Sabbath. We discussed how we would pay for groceries and also, who would cook, when. We brainstormed how we could differentiate for what this season would be in our lives, versus when we get engaged, get married, and the like. From the beginning of our relationship, it has been important for us to take every season in stride, for what it is, and for why it has meaning. For example, when we were dating, we tried visiting new places, often and frequently, so we could learn more about one another. Once we got promise rings for each other, the conversations intensified, and we began to share our dreams for the future and what those could look like if they were fused together.

On our move-in day, I was jubilant. It was happening!

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In seven (long) hours we consolidated our stuff from each of our homes into the new one that we were starting together. We ate Qdoba on our first night in our new place, and I was so happy that “home” was inclusive of a place we shared together. In the months that followed, we learned a lot about each other. For example, Chelsea is a diligent rice cooker (who knew?). That’s her domain, without any question. However, if we need to experiment or change something up in a recipe, I’m your girl. Quickly, we learned our strengths (and weaknesses) and played to them.

Moving in together is a big deal. Moving in together is a huge step and should be taken when the relationship has two, committed people, in it for the long haul. Living together should be an intentional step too, ensuring that both people are on the same page for what responsibilities they have and how it will affect the relationship.

Of course, when we made the decision to move forward in it, old memories of “wait until you get married” and “whatever you do, dont live in sin” came flooding back. These old, traditional mantras always do. There is so much fear-loaded rhetoric for young people to move in with their significant others.

Like the plethora of pumpkin flavors at Trader Joe’s in the fall, unspoken and spoken moral codes are often the most pervasive when it comes to thinking about the “right way” to live your life. And, I get it. Moving in with your partner should be an informed, thoughtful decision. Yet, I think we can do more to educate youth on what that means and the kinds of conversations we can have around those choices.

If we are so busy telling people not to live together, we miss the opportunity to have the conversation about what happens when it happens. Because, that’s the thing. It will happen.

What I have so loved about living with Chelsea has been that we have been able to build a strong foundation for our lives. We, literally, are getting practice for sharing the load of adulthood, and still making space for ourselves, each other, our faiths, and the many other things that we love. Like sports, living together has taught me about teamwork and partnership. It has also taught me how to be present in the best (and worst) times of another person (and vice versa). Living with another human brings down the walls of facades; no longer will you be the public persona of yourself.

In the end, you will just be, you.

You have to be ready to show the “real” you if you’re willing to move in with someone. You have to be ready to be vulnerable, honest, and humble.
You have to be ready to be an active participant in someone else’s life – not just your own.

These are real measures of maturity in a relationship. I am beyond grateful to be experiencing – and learning from them. We have not had a perfect ride, by any means, but we have been open. It has made all the difference.

Relationship education is a growing need our world desires. I wonder what it would be like to emphasize the opportunity for conversation around growing up, adulthood, and partnership. These are the real conversations. I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t had them and for future generations, I hope we can start having them too.

There is no list to follow, there is no how-to-guide. Instead, moving in with another person is about knowing yourself, knowing your partner, and knowing where you are headed. This takes a lot of self-awareness, faith, and gusto – not just for the first few months, but for the long haul. Sharing your life is a big deal. Let’s not forget that.

I have never been happier in a home than I have with Chelsea. Perhaps, ironically, it is because moving in was not only about creating a real, physical, and tangible home together but also, starting (and growing) a home between us. This takes work. Every. Single. Day. However, it is a gift and I hold that close and dear to my heart.

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