10 Thoughts on Surviving 26

A few weeks ago, someone asked me how old I was, and I stumbled to say, “Um, I think I’m still 26?”. I realized that, for the last month or so, I’ve been transitioning out of being 26, and into being 27 (which doesn’t actually feel as old as turning 25 did). So, upon reflection of being 26, here are 10 things I learned:

-Your relationships are the most important things in life: At the end of the day, jobs are going to wax and wane, cars and houses are going to fall apart, those really expensive pair of jeans are not going to fit anymore, and all that you will have left in your relationships with others. Being an introvert, I’m always a little reluctant to start new relationships, because it just seems like so much work, and so much time. But, when spring fever starts to set in and you need someone to share your experiences, your boyfriend goes away for the weekend and you need someone to meet you at yoga, or you just need someone to share a funny story with, your relationships with other people are the most important thing–why else would we sing so many songs, write so many books, produce so many movies about our relationships?

-Don’t leave a gallon of Chick-Fil-A Lemonade in your car for a week: Did you know that overtime, your Chick-Fil-A lemonade builds up acid as it sits, and eventually, explodes? Yes, don’t do that because it gets everywhere, and it’s really hard to clean out of your carpets, your speakers, your glove compartment, your automatic controls…But, the larger life lesson here is doing something right the first time will save you a lot of hassle later on.

-Kindness always recovers better results: I received this parent e-mail the other day that basically said, “I know my child isn’t doing well in your class, and I know it’s all his/her fault. He/she loves you as a teacher and you are doing nothing wrong. I’m wondering how we can help him/her”, and I have to say, it made me tear up a little bit. I wish all people knew that kindness, like this (rather than the normal attacking, “you are a terrible human being and are ruining my child’s chance at medical school” e-mail) always recovers better results.

-Appreciate the buffer time: As you all know, I like to like life in the fast lane, and I’m always stacking my commitments with just enough time to get in between each one (so if I hit an unexpected red light, the car in front of me better be speeding so I can make it in time). But this year, I’ve tried to make an effort to slow down–to not cram as many things as I can into one hour–put in more buffer time between things so that, if I run into an old friend in the grocery store, I see an intriguing magazine article on the stand, the puppy needs an extra pet, or my beloved Chapstick rolls under the car, I have a few extra moments to spare. I will say, there certainly have been times where this has been painful–I’ve felt like I’m missing out, or that there is something I need to be learning, but it is often in the midst of these buffering moments that the most important relationships are founded, life altering revelations realized, or spouts of gratitude and acceptance surfaced.

-Book hangovers are real: I can honestly say 26 has been a barren year in the world of books; I’m usually 50 deep by now, but right after my birthday, I finished The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard and just haven’t been able to recover since. Like, I’ve picked up several books and just haven’t been able to make it through because it’s just not as good as Hazzard’s novel. So, for all of you non-believers out there, book hangovers are real, and I’m hoping that turning 27 (and some F. Scott Fitzgerald) will finally save me.

-When to Step In, and When to Step Back: Actually, something I have struggled with for many months during my 26th year is when to step in, and when to step back. In the realm of faith, I felt like I was getting very conflicting messages. In my Bible study, we did Angie Smith’s Seamless (which I would highly recommend), and we read through the Old Testament, in which God commands His people to NOT hang out with certain tribes, because those tribes are corrupt, bring sin and temptation, etc. But, as Christians, in the New Testament, we are also called to go into those corrupt, sinful, tempting environments in order to minister and share the light of God. I found this message a little conflicting, because I felt like there were certainly situations I went into that people did not exhibit Christ-like morals, and often wondered if I follow the Old Testament command of not getting involved, or the New Testament advice, of seeing those as opportunities, and I think that the goal is to be strong in our Faith so that when we are in those corrupt, sinful, tempting situations, we do not waver in our abilities to live true to our morals.

-Thank God for Google Mail Storage: I’ve definitely had a few occurrences this year where Google Mail storage from 2012 saved me (I had to look up an old e-mail, search for something on my calendar, find a flight number that I didn’t save). Thank God for Google Mail Storage and never deleting anything.

-New lenses bring new perspectives: A friend of mine, who battled cancer this year, once said, “You know, this chemo stuff has made me really emotional. I’m usually pretty stoic but I find myself crying all the time. I’m not sure I like it”. I think, in some ways, this can be seen as a gift–I personally think it would be boring to walk around your entire life with ONE solitary perspective–how lucky are we to constantly be changing, learning, adapting–so that we never look at the world in the same way?

-The guy that you marry is different than the guy you date: I wrote about this topic somewhere before, but to be honest, I was kind of just playing with this idea and had no authority in it. Now that I’m done being 26, I can assuredly say that there is indeed a difference between the guy that you date, and the guy that you want to marry, and switching your mindset will switch the qualities that you are looking for. For example, the guy that I want to date might have a really cool car that he can pick me up and I can ride around in, but the guy that I want to marry might not care about the kind of car he drives, but rather that he is safely transporting me. The guy that I want to date might have some really cool and swanky friends that I can hang out with up and up my social status, but the guy that I might want to marry is invested in building our relationship. I might spend a lot of time getting all dolled up to impress the guy I want to date, but the guy I want to marry is going to see me in some unsightly and unflattering circumstances so…

-Be Fearless: On my way to Costa Rica, I sat next to this lady who had never been on a plane before. And, of course, the whole flight, any bit of turbulence we hit, she thought we were going to die. There certainly is always a chance that, when I get on a plane, it will crash, or when I start my descent down the mountain, I will hit a tree, or that the guy I’m going to marry is going to break up with me, but, if I live my life in fear, then I’m really preventing myself from feeling and experiencing the best parts of living. Sure, there is always risk involved, but isn’t that what makes it interesting? I never want to reach a time in my life where I regretfully look back and say, “I wish I would have gone to that place….I wish I would have gone for that degree…I wish I would have written that book”…why not do it now?

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