|Wow. I’m getting old, huh? :)
Dear 20 Year Old Talie,
You turn 30 today. Remember when you thought people who were in their 30s were way, way old? Well, you’re still going to feel that way, even when it’s your turn. You are going to breeze through your 20s in what feels like an instant, and on your 30th birthday, you’ll look back at the past decade and wonder how so many years could’ve passed without you noticing. Thankfully you still feel about 25, so you at least have that going for you.
Here, ten years down the road, there are a few things I’d like to let you know while you still have those fleeting years ahead of you…
Rest now and be at ease. Life over the next decade is going to be a bit of a roller coaster, starting from the moment you walk through those arches. Enjoy your next few years as a college student. You won’t realize it while it’s happening, but being a student is easy and fun. Don’t wish away those last few semesters at UGA in anticipation for adulthood; they’ll be some of the free-est times in your life. Enjoy your friends’ company especially, because once you graduate you’ll never have them living so close again. It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have so many of the people who know you best within a few steps’ reach, and you’ll miss that once it’s over. Also, I know you can’t comprehend this yet, but a lot of things don’t matter on this side as much as they do on that side–what sorority you’re in (NO ONE will ever ask you again after college, and you’ll eventually learn that it really didn’t ever matter); what your major is (you’re going to end up a self-employed artist, so…yeah); whom you’re dating (you’ll be married right after college and will laugh at all of those past boyfriends); even your GPA, extra curriculars and achievements won’t really be a topic of conversation once Athens is part of your past. I know, I know–those things seem like life or death now, but trust me when I say that their importance is fleeting. What will matter in the long run is the relationships you form.
In fact, you know all of those friends you’re hanging out with now? You’ll be glad to know that a lot of them are still around ten years later. Scotty’s here, and (spoiler alert) she marries Tim Carley. (Yes, THE Tim Carley.) Tim works for Young Life (no surprise there), and they’ve got two of the world’s cutest kids. Her lifelong dream of owning a minivan came true, although Aiwa Wong, unfortunately, did not stand the test of time. (Could you tell her those things for me? I think she’d be excited to hear how wonderful life turns out for her. Oh, and tell her to ignore that current urge that she has to be a teacher, okay?) She’s a constant in your life, and one day you’ll look back at high school and be thankful that she let you be her friend. Alli’s still in your life as well. Even after almost 12 years of friendship you can hardly believe that you barely knew each other before college. (Well done in choosing her as a roommate! Although, be careful. She has a LOT of dirt on you from that time spent in Russell Hall, so watch yourself, and for God’s sake, stop being a Talie Tornado!) She’s a voice of reason in your life, so listen to her advice once in a while–please? Oh, and Ashley D’s here, married to a witty ranch hand who becomes a professional Boy Scout that loves antiques and bakes a mean pecan pie…no kidding. (Mention it to her, will you? I bet she’ll never believe you!) Natalie’s about to have her THIRD kid with Britt Kitchen, and she’s one of the most admirable moms, teachers and women you know to date (still). As it turns out, Beth marries Hot Robert; Abbey marries that guy from her past that she mentioned in 5o5 small group the other day; Katie J marries that friend of Ryan’s from high school and Theta Chi; Sarah Hull moves to Colorado to find her soulmate…gosh, the list goes on and on. Pretty much all of your girlfriends marry awesome guys and make amazing, wonderful life decisions. Your girlfriends are solid, so don’t be afraid to speak encouragement into their lives now. And, one day when being geographically separated from them makes annual or semi-annual catch-up lunches the norm, it’s okay to just pick up wherever you left off last; it’s just a fact of adulthood. Oh, and I have to mention–remember Joe Engert from high school? He’s in your life too (along with Danielle Adams), through a few twists of fate that I’ll leave as a surprise. In fact, a LOT of people you know now will become your lifelong friends, so take lots of ridiculous pictures that you can laugh at in a decade or so, okay?
And, of course, there are some new people, too–friends you’ve made along the winding road of your 20s. Once college is over, you’ll learn that it’s hard to make new friends, and your relationships are different. Everyone acts much more grown up, doing things like wine tastings and couples’ vacations–things you’ll roll your eyes at now. (Enjoy late night snacks, watching “The Bachelor” with a ton of girls, and hippie concerts at The Georgia Theater while you still can!) Your adulthood friends will be mostly people from your various jobs, several from church and small groups, and a few from random encounters in your life. A lot of these people will be “friends” only during particular seasons in your life, and some will be forever. It’s okay; let those relationships come and go naturally. Regardless of how long they’re around, these people are important in forming you into You, and you’re going to love and appreciate every one of them for that reason. Remember to thank them for that influence every once in a while.
Oh, and that guy you’re dating, Ryan Shove? Well, just to clue you in, he’s The One. I know you already know that deep down, and it’s okay to feel that way, even so early in the relationship. Hold that knowledge close to your heart and guard it with everything you have in you. He is going to be the most important person on this earth to you for the rest of your life, and it begins right where you’re currently standing. Down the road, you’ll be thankful for meeting him at such a young age. You’ll get to grow up alongside one another, and one day you’ll realize that you’re different, better people because of the journey you’ve been on together. Ryan is the man that God made to be your husband, the one you’ll see as you walk down the aisle on a dream-like night in late November; the one who will hug you and kiss your forehead when you reach that altar lit by a hundred candles; the one to whom you will say a resounding, meaningful “I do” when asked the most important question of your earthly life. He’s going to be the man who knows you more deeply than any other person in the world, the person who loves you more than you can fathom, the father of your children. He will come to know you in your fullest, and you will find comfort in that. You two are going be partners in life, balancing one another perfectly, living life more happily together than when alone. You’re going to love him even MORE in ten years than you do now, as hard as that is to believe. There are going to be times when you doubt that your relationship will ever come to this, but listen to that small voice deep within you that tells you to hold on to him. When he’s hundreds of miles away at school for a full year, when you feel like you’re not worthy to be his, when you feel like you can’t fight for him anymore, remember that it all turns out like a fairytale in the end. You will never have a honeymoon phase, because phases are fleeting. Instead you will have a happily ever after, and on that final page of the story there’s a picture of you and Ryan, elderly and looking all google-y eyed at one another.
I know this is going to sound terrible to you in this moment, but one day it will make you so very happy in life: You’re going to be a mom. It’s okay that having a baby sounds undesirable to you; it’s normal for where you are in life right now. Don’t worry or panic–you have many, many years to develop and discern yourself before taking on the challenge of parenthood. However, one day God will put a desire in your heart, and then He’ll put a baby in your belly. It will be a little girl, and you will name her after your grandmother. She will be the light of your life and bring you joy beyond measure. You have a lot of things to accomplish before you’re ready to have this child, but know that being a mom is going to be way less scary and way more rewarding than you ever imagined. I don’t even want to say much more than that, mostly because I know you won’t believe me. And that’s okay–for now.
Before you become a mother, you have a lot of growing up to do. Your 20s are going to be characterized by a lot of trial, error and evaluation. There’s going to be a lot of self-exploration–and a lot of self-doubt. A LOT of self-doubt. Life isn’t as clear cut as it seems to you now. It’s not all black and white; there’s a lot of gray out there. A LOT of gray. (And a lot of wonderful, vibrant color in life’s experiences, making the world a beautiful place to be.) The next ten years are going to challenge you and reward you, knock you down and help you back up, bring you a lot of disappointment and a lot of joy. It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it WILL be hard. Really hard. There are going to be many days where you wish that you could just go back to school, where the terms of “success” and “failure” are clearly defined. In the real world, no one has the same definition, and you’ll struggle with that–especially in your career. Figuring out your life’s calling not going to be a quick process. You’ll go through a lot of jobs and bosses, hoping that they’ll be the answer to your lifelong question (“What am I going to be?”), and I hate to tell you this, but no one and no job will ever answer that question for you. You see, eventually that question will go from “What am I going to be?” to “WHO am I going to be?” and all along the road to figuring out the “what,” you’ll begin to develop the “who.” I wish I could go ahead and tell you now the exact answer to that question, “Who am I?,” but unfortunately the only thing I can tell you is that you still won’t fully know even at age 30. Perhaps this is the purpose of your 20s, to realize that the “what” is meaningless without the context of the “who,” and that the “who” takes longer than a minuscule decade to be defined.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re also going to have SO much fun in your 20s. You’re going to travel around the world, meet interesting and crazy people, discover passions and talents in yourself that you can’t even comprehend yet. You’re going to visit China and Africa and Eastern Europe and South America and Hawaii; see miracles and curious things and amazing sites; eat strange delicacies, run farther than you think possible, live in places you can barely imagine now. You’ll spend days driving around the wild South African countryside, being inspired by people you hardly know. You’ll spend evenings cozied in your big, comfy bed in suburbia with Ryan, content to imagine away the world outside. You’ll spend nights out on the town, surrounded by city skylines and friends, laughing until your stomach aches. Your 20s will have a lot of high notes, and the thought of each one will bring a smile to your face and a lightness to your day.
I wish I could tell you what regrets I have so that you can avoid them, but, here, where I have the opportunity to warn you of all the pitfalls that lie before you, I’m at a loss. In writing down the decisions I wish I could change, I’m realizing that I don’t want to change any of them. I don’t have any regrets because life has turned out wonderfully thus far, and without those seemingly regrettable decisions, life might not be so wonderful at 30. There are going to be many times that you will have that feeling in the pit of your stomach, the desperation of wishing that you could change a decision you’ve made, but know that in the end, they all turn out for the best. It will not feel so hopeful in the mist of those storms, but do not lose heart–hope arises at the end of each dark time in your life. I know this to be true. And I would tell you to not worry so much, but I know that you will anyway, so instead I’ll tell you this: Follow your intuition and heart; they are guided by the Holy Spirit and will not fail you.
Oh, 20 year old self. I wish at times that I could go back and be you again, but then I’m keenly aware of what I’d be giving up in return and decide that I am content where I am. In ten years you’ll be me, working for yourself (finally), married to the man of your dreams, mother to the most amazing little girl God could’ve ever given you, hopeful for a wonderful new chapter in life. You’ll have a lot of life experience, but still feel like a child; a lot of wisdom, but still not know what the future holds; a lot of contentment, but still desire more out of the coming years. You will mourn the loss of your youth but rejoice at the promise of life yet to be lived.
Enjoy the next ten years,
Talie at 30
P.S. I suppose there are a few specific pieces of advice I should give you… :)
Don’t buy the red couch. You won’t understand me now, but remember this: DO NOT BUY IT. You will regret the choice later. Just trust me…
Please resist the urge to get bangs (both times). Or go blond. These will be very bad decisions and take a LONG time to be fixed.
When see a dog and think to yourself, “That dog looks like his name should be ‘Oscar,'” adopt him on the spot; he’s going to be your buddy for life, and you’ll be glad to have three more weeks to love on him than I did. Oh, and when your second dog comes along, it’s a “she,” not a “he,” an “Olive” not an “Oliver.” (You’ll understand it when it happens.)
Take a few dollars (skip a couple datenight t-shirt purchases or something) and invest this new-fangled thing called “Facebook” and that computer company Ryan likes, “Apple.” You’ll thank me later.
Yes, buy that townhouse you fall in love with after college. HOWEVER, resist the urge to say to Ryan, “Oh, we’ll just sell it after a year or two. You don’t want to be 30 and living in a townhouse, do you?” because you will jinx yourself in a very bad way.
And, finally, remember that you’re Talie Freaking Aquilio, but you won’t always be. One day you’ll be Talie Freaking Shove, which is way, way better.