As a kid, did you ever wonder what you’d be like as an adult? Did you ever try to picture what you’d look like, act like, be like? When I was twelve, I used to try and picture myself as old, an adult, you know like, twenty-five. Because back then, twenty-five sounded really old. And, honest to Glorious God, I swore I was going to be a different person. Like, I wouldn’t look the same, act the same or be the same person. I just assumed I’d be someone completely different, at least that’s how I pictured it… am I making sense? Like there would be this magical shift and one day you’re a kid and the next you’re an adult, completely new and different from who you used to be. Perhaps I’m not making sense, but I believe all of us thought this way in some shape or form.
I have a friend with brown hair who struggled with weight growing up, and she truly believed as an adult she’d be like tall, blonde and beautiful – a legit different person. That’s how she pictured herself as an “adult.” I’m laughing out loud at the conversation we had. Why we thought we’d be anything but ourselves is beyond my comprehension.
I chuckle at this because we know, now as “adults,” this is ludicrous. If you look back at photos of my twelve-year-old self, I basically look exactly the same, just older and perhaps better at applying makeup and the correct wardrobe (I hope).
And personality wise? Sure, we have more experience, more wisdom and are hopefully more mature, but don’t let all of that fool you. Deep down inside, we are still our innocent twelve-year-old selves with the same fears and wonders, just a little rougher around the edges.
Growing up is weird. Can I just call that out? And can I also say that I never liked it? I was never really that kid who couldn’t wait to grow up. Maybe I just knew at a young age how good I really had it, being a kid, but adulthood just didn’t appeal to me. The work, the money, the responsibilities. Everyone was young and invincible. My parents were young and spry. I didn’t have to worry about them aging. They would live forever. We would live forever.
I can admit this mindset has absolutely played a role in my suffering anxiety and depression now as an adult. I see this and acknowledge it. I struggle with growing up because it makes me sad. The older I get, the older my parents get. The older I get, the older my son gets. The older I get, the closer we all are to, well, not being here anymore…
Hello, I’m Karen and I suffer from depression. I can come up with the worst thoughts, like ever. Sorry about that. Moving on.
So when I turned thirty this week, I needed to prepare myself to feel this way. Most years I do generally get depressed around my birthday, fighting the tug-of-war of wanting all the attention and celebrations to also wanting to hide under a rock and cry. It’s very real for me, and leading up to thirty, I knew I needed to process some things.
Pause right here for a little FYI moment for some readers: I know you mean well when you downplay turning thirty, or any age. I know you mean well when you say things like, “Thirty is the new twenty!” and “You’re going to love it!” or my personal favorite, “It’s really not a big deal! It’s just a number!” I get what you are doing and I appreciate you trying to advise me with all completely logical and rational reasons why I shouldn’t be emotional about turning thirty, but it doesn’t matter. For some people, it simply doesn’t work like that. For some people, logic is thrown out the window. For some people, like me, who take medication for their anxiety and depression, NEED this time to process, grieve and even sulk a little. I know that sounds ridiculous but for some, particularly me, it IS a big deal, it ISN’T just a number and it’s NOT the new twenty. I was twenty ten years ago. So stop it. You’re minimizing people’s emotions and feelings. There is no validation there, only more self-deprecation about feeling the way I’m feeling when so many are telling me not to feel that way. I love you, though.
Okay. Back to the process. Here’s the deal. It’s not always necessarily grieving getting older or sulking about what’s ahead. It’s taking the time to say goodbye to what was. It’s taking time to grieve the past. It’s taking time to grieve change, even if it’s a good change. We all need to properly grieve change, whether good or bad. If I don’t, it sits inside my heart like a brick and I cannot fully give my heart to what’s ahead until that brick is removed. So the night before my birthday, I sat in a quiet, still house with a legit shot of whiskey (okay, Fireball) in my hand – I’m not a big drinker, but I thought it would be fun to commemorate my twenties with how I entered it :). I reflected back on the previous ten years, prayed and thanked God for them and did a virtual “cheers” to Him for all he’s done for me and given me in my thirty years. I’d like to think that just for me, Jesus had himself a little whiskey that night too.
But in reflecting back, something surprising happened. For the first time I can remember, my sadness and depression over a birthday went away. Maybe it was the presence of God, the praying, or the shot of whiskey, but in the moment I felt such peace. I felt even a little happy. I felt grateful for all that happened leading up to this big day. I was grieving, yes, but in a good way. A grateful way. Not sad it was over, but happy it happened (cheesy cliches for the win).
It brought about a single thought that I then told a friend of mine the next day. I said, “I’m grieving my twenties because it’s like this: my life started on the day I was born. But the rest of my life began in my twenties.”
A lot of good and bad happened in my twenties. In my particular life story, the most change happened in that span. In a span of ten years, I went from being a kid in college, fresh out of high school, to married with a kid of her own. SO MUCH has to happen in your heart, mind and day to day for that to take place. The growing, learning, maturing process in a short ten years that needed to happen for me is overwhelming when I look back, and the fast pace changes did inevitably bring about the shift in my mental stability, bring about hardship and emotional baggage, bring about struggles with self-identity and depression and anxiety related issues. My twenties brought about loss of loved ones, loss of self at times, and loss of childlike innocence. It brought about some of my hardest days.
But you want to know what else it brought me? Christ, Adam and Brooks.
My twenties brought me the greatest gifts I have ever received. It brought me the rest of my life.
I started my twenties as a pot-smoker, college kid who didn’t know Jesus, and ended my twenties as a straight-shooter Mama who now works for Jesus…
A lot can happen in ten years. A lot has happened in ten years.
Is thirty the new twenty? No, thirty is thirty. Is it a just a number? Sure, in a literal sense, it’s defined as simply a cardinal number.
But to me, it’s the end of what was one of the most important decades of my life. Does that mean my thirties won’t be just as important? Of course not. In fact, this decade and the rest will be more important. I may have been given my most precious gifts in my twenties, but now I get to spend the rest of my life living it all out, and hopefully not screwing up too much in the process ;). I am still twelve at heart, after all.
Speaking of, if I could go back and have a conversation with my twelve-year-old self, I’d let her know that, first of all, twenty-five isn’t old and second of all, you will still be you; just older and better looking – and we will high five with glee and thank the Good Lord above because that was my awkward stage and I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out – (see photo below). You will still be the Karen everyone knows and you will still have the same fears, dreams, and innocence in your heart that you had back then. You’ll see that life is hard and scary and we are not invincible; that bad stuff happens. But the good news is you will meet Jesus and in a way you will become the new person you thought you’d be, but in a much different, more beautiful and glorious way. You will get married, have a job, do scary things like give birth and become a Mom. You’ll drink coffee and sip wine at dinner when you used to hate the smell and taste of both. You’ll cry and grow and laugh and learn and get hurt and hurt others and try and fail and try again. You’ll struggle with depression and anxiety and be scared of things you never thought you’d be scared of. You’ll say goodbye to loved ones you never thought you’d lose. You’ll pay bills and clean your house and do laundry and care for a little human and answer to a boss and make decisions, share life, and live with a spouse. You’ll be an adult in every sense of the word.
But there are two things that will never change:
You will still be you (this is a good thing, kid).
And no matter how old you get, no matter what number you reach, no matter how many “adult” things you’ll be doing… you will always, without fail, still feel like you’re twelve.
Adulting is basically doing adult things while never actually feeling like an adult, and everyone being super confused as to how they got there in the first place.
“But you’re like, twelve,” my older sister’s exact words as she looked at me in astonishment the day I gave birth to my son.
[Me, 12 years old, and at the peak of my awkwardness]