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A Thank-You Note to my Twenties for my Thirties
Today I am celebrating my 33rd birthday, and while I've relished this decade, the milestone had me reminiscing about tougher times. And, by tougher times, I mean the entire decade of my twenties. As I flipped through old pictures and journals and remembered breakups or job changes or arguments with friends I started to get a little angry. Why the heck did that whole decade have to be so chaotic, so full of vitriol and insecurity? A whole ten years of my life just sopping the wet dramatic tears!
It seemed a little unfair, but then I began thinking about how each difficult experience left behind a piece of wisdom or a changed pathway in my brain and I realized that I enjoy my thirties so much because my twenties set me up to be content. In fact, in the spirit of gratitude that's marked this decade of life, I really should thank my twenties.
Dear My Twenties,
Thank you for dragging me through the despair of poverty and debt. You taught me what it’s like to choose between paying rent and eating regular meals… and that paying the rent is the right choice. Because you started out with me working two jobs, going to and paying for school, I had to learn about things like refinancing debt, negotiating better prices and cooking on a dime. Thanks for pushing me to do well in grad school and learn to leverage professional relationships. And, thank you for giving me empathy.
Thank you for those unhealthy friendships. Now that I've experienced a big handful of them, I seem to have the ability to smell a poisonous person a mile away. You taught me that it’s okay to end these friendships and, even better, that ending them doesn’t have to be dramatic. I now know how to be grateful for differences, identify a fake or cruel or dangerous person and ultimately how to let such persons simply float away.
Thank you for finally letting me make some money. This was the only way you could show me what fickle and false gods money and possessions really are. I’ve learned that I can own every pair of designer jeans ever made and still want one more pair. I’ve learned that nice cars aren’t good snugglers and new furniture will never give good advice. You gave me the gift of never wanting to love money or things again.
Thank you for horrible insecurity. You let me slosh through the mire of constantly “reinventing” myself and encouraged me to compare myself to the people around me. Then, in your wisdom, you showed me how the "perfect" lives others lead are filled with pain, loneliness, divorce, addiction, fear; broken like mine. You let me feel misery in moments of professional success and joy and stability when I cast off ambition. All the while you were peeling off the false layers of armor I’d created so I could find the real me.
Thank you for crappy boyfriends. And, more importantly, thank you for sending them packing! Thank you for convincing me that I've never actually needed a man to be whole. Thank you for showing me what a man should NOT be and even beating me over the head with that message so when a real man came along, I recognized him and let myself need him in my life.
Twenties, you employed some pretty radical strategies and often left me questioning your wisdom. You’re like the March of my life – you came roaring in full of tempest and excitement and adventure and then one year you just faded away, leaving like a lamb without a tear shed or a big hoopla or a sad goodbye.
Your rather vanilla departure is forgiven, though, because I found the birthday present you left: contentment, health, confidence, and a carefully honed ability to sit in the eye of the storm, prop my feet up on the chaos and grin when the structures around me start to fall.
Thank you for giving me my thirties.
Sarah Pardieck is a 30-something, board-certified foodie, stress-fueled runner, enthusiastically mediocre gardener, corporate communications wonk, etiquette-aholic, Army Officer's wife, and born and bred Southerner living in Hawaii. She blogs at Notice the Dirt, where she is inspired by C.S. Lewis, who said "It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence."