Lessons from my 20s
Lessons from my 20s
Four points to ponder
I recently turned 29 and have been reflecting on closing in on the end of my twenties, an incredibly formative and shaping decade. Little lists seem to be all the rage at the moment, so here are four lessons from my 20s:
1) Be available
When I turned 20 Facebook was just starting up, Twitter hadn’t been invented yet and the smartest thing about my phone was that I could travel through the walls on Snake. There were fewer distractions. Whether it’s a friend in need of a chat, a colleague after some information, a toddler that needs attention or even a passer-by on the street, I want to be available. I want to recapture the art of eye contact and show love by being fully present. There have been a couple of popular videos recently that address this poignantly but more than just a ‘like’ or a ‘share’, what is our response? Maybe it starts with switching off the TV, getting off the phone and doing stuff.
“My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen
I’ve learnt a lot about this from one of my heroes, Bob Goff. Bob lives a life of extravagant and whimsical love and his commitment to making himself available has made a real impression on me. He even put his mobile number in the back of his New York Times best-selling book! Naturally, I called the number to check if it was real and sure enough Bob answered and we had a brilliant and inspiring short conversation! If he can make time to speak to anyone who wants to call him, I can make time for friends.1
2) Cynicism isn’t cool
Life has its ups and downs and we can all get jaded, but the challenge is not to let disappointments breed cynicism. Many of us left education or returned from a gap year feeling ready to tackle anything. Nothing was going to stop us … then there were distractions, bills, difficult relationships, career setbacks and family problems. As we pick up knocks along the way there’s plenty of room to get disillusioned. Whilst I now know that I can’t change everything for everyone, I am more determined than ever to live a life that matters. I want to give away more high fives, more hope and more joy.
Cynicism is easy, contentment can be revolutionary. We can waste so much of our lives waiting for that holiday, that job, that pay rise or that relationship. The grass isn’t always greener. Similar to living fully present is choosing to make the most of today; knowing that our past has been dealt with and our future is secure.
“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Ecclesiastes 7:10
3) Friendship is a gift
School is a ready-made hive of social possibilities and university provides a great opportunity for community living, but after that things shift. Maintaining relationships requires effort and good friends and genuine community is harder to come by. The older I get the more I treasure those that I get to journey through life with. A few people will inspire you and draw the very best out of you, find them and stick with them. Friendships take effort, vulnerability and sometimes cause pain, but they are one of life’s greatest blessings.
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” Anon
There is also something wonderful about having someone older and wiser pour their wisdom into your life, and equally when we do the same for others. Who is helping you grow? Who are you helping to grow? There’s a salt lake in the Jordan Rift Valley where water channels in but there’s nowhere for the water to channel out. As a result, the lake is nine times saltier than the ocean. We know this place as the Dead Sea, and when we don’t pass on the blessings we receive, in effect we are dead too.
4) It’s not that big a deal
It’s easy to be self-absorbed and the temptation is to make everything about ourselves. With this worldview even a small hiccup can seem like the end of the world. A helpful way of dealing with these situations is to think, ‘will this matter ten minutes, ten months or even ten years from now?’ The answer is often no. Having a little perspective and reminding ourselves that we are citizens of heaven can go a long way.2
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” Helen H. Lemmel
It’s time to let go of my fear of failure, my fear of what people think of me, my pride and misplaced identity. It’s not all about me, after all.
1. Check out Bob’s book Love Does.
2. Philippians 3:20 / Colossians 3:1-3