Thoughts on Twenty-Three

A week ago, I turned twenty-four. A little over a year ago, I wrote about my twenty-third year of life. Expectant for the coming changes, I penned that twenty-three would be the year everything changed for me. I was getting married, moving cities, starting a ‘real’ job, creating new community, and everything in between. I’ll be clear here, none of these changes were as easy or smooth as I expected them to be. I’m a pretty pessimistic person, but I also stubbornly believe in my own will to do things and succeed at them. In my twenty-third year, I failed myself more than I can write in one sitting. 

Marriage has been an incredible thing, but also an incredibly difficult thing. I think one of the reasons God crafted Matthew and I together is because we are so different. From financial backgrounds to family dynamics to the foods we like or despise to our personalities. We are so different, but so good for each other. Marriage, in my short experience of it, has been a dance to a never-ending soundtrack in which neither of us knows the steps and we’re both trying to lead. It’s magic and an implosion all together. It’s compromise, it’s commitment. Neither of which I’ve been very good at. Through college, I learned how to do it all myself and not ask for help. If I didn’t like something or didn’t feel confident in something, I just quit it. I can’t tell you how many jobs in college I just ghosted, or how ashamed I am in writing that. Now, I’m in something that I’ve said I’ll do for life and everyday I’m working with someone else on how we should hang the art on our walls, how to load the dishwasher, what can go in the dishwasher, if we should go out or stay in, if we should buy that thing or not. I don’t mean to make it sound terrible. I think marriage was the best thing I did in my year of being twenty-three. I love my husband deeply and I’m genuinely not sure who or where I’d be without him and the late nights he spent holding me, the hours he’s dried tears from my face, the ways he reminds me what love is and isn’t, and the courage he reminds me I have. But it was and is difficult. 

Moving cities was something I was truly excited for, but once the excitement of ‘new’ wears off, you’re left with this feeling of not being at home. Nothing felt right in Chicago for several months. There weren’t the local shops I loved, the coffee I enjoyed, the bagel shop I could always count on for good bagels, no friends that knew me, nothing felt right. Now, as we’ve transitioned again to Dallas, it is Chicago I am craving. It became home in the eleven months I lived there and sometimes I cry just thinking about it. But it was certainly not an easy transition. Chicago felt like such a hectic blip in my life that I wish I had more time there where I felt truly settled and comfortable. When Matthew asked me about moving for a job promotion, I was frustrated for days thinking about how I just wanted to stay in Chicago a while longer (like I said, compromise). I also remember telling Matthew that I felt like maybe Chicago was never God’s plan for us, but I pushed it so much that He finally put His hands in the air and said ‘go for it. I’ll see you soon.’ Everything about getting to Chicago and settling in Chicago was difficult - from Matt’s job to mine to everything in between. I’m learning that ultimately, God has the last say, so I might as well let Him control it from the start. 

On starting a real job - if you’re reading this, you may or may not know that I moved to Chicago to pursue a teaching career with Teach for America. I am thankful to you in your kindness for not being nosy about this, as I’m sure you’ve also noticed that isn’t what I’ve been doing in Chicago at all. As my therapist told me, I’m allowed to choose how much I share. My short-lived time with Teach for America is something I’m still pretty ashamed about, so I’ll choose to share just a little & if you’d like to take me for coffee, maybe I’ll share more. Teach for America just didn’t work out for me. Ultimately, it came down to saving myself or staying in a job just to say I’d done it. I walked deep into depression and am still working my way out of it. Every morning on my way to work, I would think about maybe stepping in front of the train instead of stepping on it. Every night, Matthew would wake up to me, barely breathing, with tears running down my face, my body limp, in full panic attack episodes. Every day during my lunch break, I’d lock the door to my room, turn the lights off, and cry in the corner for forty-five minutes until I needed to prepare for the next hour. Every day after school, my mom would call and try to encourage me while I cried fat, heavy tears on the phone. When I decided to quit, there were several people who told me they were disappointed in me. I’m disappointed in me too, but I had to choose myself this time. There isn’t one specific thing that went wrong and nothing ‘terrible’ happened to me. I wish I could explain it, but the only words for it are, it just wasn’t right for me. I did however, start a new job in Chicago which I miss dearly now in Dallas. I began nannying for the sweetest family I’ve ever met and I’m thankful they still send me the cutest photos and videos of their baby laughing so I can cry happy tears in the grocery store missing them. There is redemption in every story and I think they were a part of mine. 

Creating new community was probably one of the highlights of my twenty-third year. Matthew has a deep passion for hosting others and I have a big passion for knowing others. Together, we made it a tradition to open our home to anyone who needed somewhere to go and feel known and warm. Samson made sure they all received plenty of kisses too. We met people who spoke life over us, amazed us with their kindness and selflessness. People who helped us laugh and see the good. People who shared in the sadness with us. People who championed us at every turn. We are so thankful for the people God placed in our path while in Chicago and we miss them so much.

Finally, this photo is of a tattoo I got during our last week in Chicago that my sister drew for me. It’s probably my favorite out of all five I have. I asked her to draw it, thinking that I would get it at a totally different time and place in life. Instead, it serves as a symbol of everything Chicago was to me and a reminder of the things I deeply value. This bouquet is filled with:

fern: a symbol of sincerity towards others

goldenrod: a symbol of encouragement and growth

rue flower: a symbol of regret and sorrow

wallflower: a symbol of faithfulness in adversity

yarrow: a symbol of healing

I picked each of these carefully, all special to me in their meanings. Fern, my reminder to always be sincere to myself and vulnerable with others - regardless of how hard that may be. Most things are better when you’re honest and genuine. Goldenrod, my reminder of those who encouraged me throughout this past year, who spoke over me in love and grace; you’re each so special to me. Rue flower, my reminder that it’s okay to regret some things and to be sad; but that it’s also okay to let things go when it’s time. Wallflower, reminding me of the one who never leaves us or forsakes us, and my sweet husband, who knows my deep dark and ugly parts and still chooses to sleep next to me. Yarrow, my reminder that healing happens when we show our hurt to those who can help us, and that healing is not linear. 

While twenty-three was not my most beautiful year, it also wasn’t my ugliest; and I’m slowly learning that we can’t classify things based on their extremes. Twenty-three was just another year in what I hope will be a long line of them. It had its good days and its bad ones, but I’m thankful for it all the same.