Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lessons From My Twenties

Hey y'all. I'm turning 30 in like eight weeks. Yes, I am.

I have to tell you, a couple years ago, the idea of 30 scared me to death. In my mind, a person should have her stuff together by the time she's 30. She should have some semblance of an idea as to what she's doing with her life. She should be, ya know, put together and all that.

As the Big Day approaches, I find myself less disappointed about what I'm not, and more excited about where I'm going.

I look back at the past decade - with all its changes and turmoil and challenges - and I think, "I survived." And not just that. I learned a thing or two that I hope to carry into the next 10 years. Not that I have figured out how to do these things perfectly, but I at least learned some truth about them. And knowing is half the battle, amiright?

So lets get this ball rolling, shall we?

10 Things I learned in My 20's
That I Hope to Carry into My 30's:
Part 1

1. Forgiveness is a choice, and often must be chosen over and over again. As a child, most of us were taught that when someone says, "I'm sorry" the proper response is either, "I forgive you" or "It's okay." In my twenties, I learned that "I forgive you" and "It's okay" are actually two very different things. "It's okay" says: what you did to me is allowed and not a big deal. "I forgive you" says: what you did was huge and hurtful and cruel, but I will not be held captive by it - I will choose to let it go. Often, we have to make that choice before we feel it. And then five minutes later, we have to make it again. And the next morning when we wake up, we have to choose forgiveness again. And a week later, and a month later, and a year later, and a decade later, and a lifetime later. And every time we choose to forgive, we take another step toward freedom from the hurt and bitterness. The choice comes first. The feelings follow. It's not about letting "them" get away with it, it's about letting me get away from it.

2. "Haters gonna hate." Or, as Michael Josephson more eloquently put it: "When someone is nasty or treats you poorly, don't take it personally. It says nothing about you, but a lot about them.” Ah, what a hard-earned lesson. When someone says something hurtful to me, I have learned to ask a few questions:
First, does this person love me and have general good will towards me? Clue: if they are talking about you, and not to you, the answer is probably no. If they care enough to talk to you about it, move on to the second question.
Second, is it possible that what they are saying is true? Do those jeans make your butt look big? Does your attitude need an adjustment? Do you really need that third glass of wine? A friend will tell you the truth in love; so if they passed the first question, take a minute to evaluate if what they're saying could be true.
Third, can I (or should I) use this statement to make myself a better person? Some things are the truthful, but still hateful. "Those jeans make your butt look big" is one thing. "You have a huge butt" is another. If the person saying it passes question one, and it's the truth, ask if there's anything you can do to change it. If not, move along.
If something being said to (or about) you doesn't pass all three of these questions, chalk it up to the haters. And recognize that what they say has little to do with you, and a lot to do with them. With that being said...

3. Don't give mental or emotional real estate to the haters. Ok, so I totally recognize that my first three lessons are all about dealing with the world's meanie heads. But for me, unforgiveness and poor relationship choices held me back for a loooong time. And what I came to realize is this - a lot of the hurt in my life could have been avoided if I had simply chosen not to believe what the haters said about me or to me. In my twenties, I had a "friend" who used qualifying statements like "It's the truth!" or "I'm just calling it like I see it!" as an excuse to say hurtful things. I believed the things that were said. I took them to heart.  I believed this person when they told me I was unattractive because I was overweight. I believed when they told me I was a bad parent because my children whined. I believed when they called me a "b**ch" because I was too opinionated. Here's the thing about the haters and the things they say: They are only partial truths. Yes, I was/am overweight. That part is true. But I am beautiful, and my husband is attracted to me. Yes, my children whined on occasion. But they are loved and cared for and taught right from wrong - I am a good parent. Yes, I have strong opinions, but God can and has used my passions and convictions to stand up for injustice and give voice to the voiceless. You see what I mean? Partial truths do not The Truth make. My mental and emotional real estate is valuable, and ain't nobody got time for that junk.

4. I can choose my thoughts. (Prepare for an onslaught of quotes and statistics.) My pastor preached on this topic a few months ago. Here are some stats from my notes from that message: The average person has upwards of 60,000 individual thoughts in any given day. 98% of them are exactly the same thoughts as the ones they had the day before. On average, 80% of those thoughts are negative ones! After hearing those numbers, I decided to start some serious thought control. I was in a serious pattern of negative thinking (see above: believing the haters), and it took (and is taking) some effort to work my way out of that pattern. It goes something like this:
- Recognize negative thoughts and call them out: Hey you! Miss Negative Nancy! I see you lurking in the corners! Get over here!
- Assess them using the questions from #2: Are they in your best interest? Are they truth (and NO partial truths)? Can you change them?
-If they don't pass the test: kick 'em to the curb and replace them with scriptures, with songs (Katie Perry's "Roar" is an awesome mental tool. No joke.), with affirmations, whatever works for you.
- Remember that Miss Negative Nancy will try to come back. Martin Luther said, "You cannot prevent the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." The thoughts will come back, we can't prevent that. But we do have the power keep them from settling in and making a home.

5. Intentions matter. Actions matter more. "It's the thought that counts" works if you are giving a gift that didn't turn out as you expected; it doesn't work if you give nothing at all. It's the same in life. You can plan to lose weight, to remember a birthday, to call someone back, to quit smoking, to be a better friend. And the planning - the mental preparation - does matter. But it only matters if it is followed by actually losing weight, sending a birthday card, making the phone call, putting down the cigarette, or making time for your friend. Clearly, I haven't figured this one out perfectly. But I'm believing that having numbers 1-4 under my belt gives me the mental preparation and clarity to actually move forward and DO it in my 30's.

Want to know the last 5? Come back tomorrow! Until then, hustle on!


Anonymous said...

Turning 30 isn't so bad. I just turned 32 and that was hard and depressing for me. I guess for me it was hard because I am not where I thought I would be in life. Single & living at home sucks when you are in your 30's.
You have your own little family and home so it shouldn't bother you too much.
Sorry for rambling....
Happy early birthday!

DaveJessica Ham said...

Great lessons!
My 30s have been quite a journey, but they have honestly been the best years. So much happens in this weird shift between being "young" and being a "real grown up." It is a great trip, enjoy it!! Keep learning and growing.....and blogging!

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood