As a kid, the concept of adulthood was this huge mystery to me. I was very intrigued by what it meant to be a grownup and how I would get there. I would observe my parents’ interactions with other adults — at the bank, at the store, at the doctor’s office. I was especially observant of the things they tried to hide from me. The way they never talked about money. The way my dad poured over the bills at the kitchen table writing checks, sighing heavily and rubbing his forehead. When I would ask if he was stressed he would fake a smile and tell me no.
“You don’t need to worry about any of this,” he would say.
I always imagined 25 to be such a glamorous age. I would flit about in my high-profile career clicking my heels and going to important meetings. After work I would drink martinis at happy hour with all my friends. On the weekends I’d go on mini vacations with my husband, and we would talk about buying a house. I would be so cool and chic and laughing all the time like the 20-somethings in television shows. Adulthood would no longer be a mystery, and I would have it all figured out.
Well, as you might imagine, life isn’t exactly like that. My 25th year brought an abundance of change and growth, challenges and achievements. I think in many ways, adulthood is still a giant mystery to me. It seems it always will be. I read a quote a while back that said something to the effect of….everybody’s faking it. Some just do it better than others.
I got to know myself a lot more the year I was 25. I wrestled with issues of success, ambition and what I want out of my career. I don’t have it all figured out just yet, but I think I have firmly decided on people. People over everything. Since graduating from college I have craved the kind of golden achievements that come with school — an A+ here, a scholarship there. The professional world isn’t set up that way. And yet, I also found myself shying away from the career success I thought I always wanted. But I think it has taken a huge amount of self reflection and soul searching to realize my values are actually not about gold medals, lines on a resume or promotions. My values are about people and relationships. Balance, wholeness and health. I care more about seeing a beautiful sunset every day than I do about climbing some professional ladder. To feel connected to the world and to all living things. To become the best version of myself. To build lasting relationships on foundations of trust and loyalty. To seek out the highest moral ground and to anchor myself in goodness, kindness and love. These are my life’s ambitions. Unfortunately, while these may be things our culture claims to value on the surface, they are not ideals we value in practice. The year I was 25 I often felt like I was standing alone. A bold island exclaiming there is more to life than work.
When I think back on my 25th year I remember a lot of good things. Mainly the trips I got to take with my husband — visiting my cousin in St. Louis, traveling to South Bend for a wedding, spending a week in the Smoky Mountains. These are memories I will look back on fondly for many years.
I experienced hardship too. Loss and stress. It hasn’t exactly been the carefree glamorous life I imagined for myself. This grownup thing is still more a mystery than an exact set of instructions. (If anybody finds those instructions, could ya let me know?) I may never have it all figured out, but I do learn more about myself each year. The more I get to know myself, the more I kind of like me. That’s cool.
Scenes from my 25th year: