Yesterday, I was talking with a good friend about my upcoming birthday when I coined the phrase YOTTTO—You only turn thirty-two once. It’s silly but it’s true. So in anticipation of the birthday of a lifetime I’d like to reflect on the past year and look ahead.
Based on the post I wrote before turning thirty-one, this year I hoped to:
- Make lots of new friendships
- Get a new drivers license (read: put down roots somewhere)
- Publish in a journal and present at a conference
- Be my physically healthiest & strongest self yet
- Dance A LOT: salsa, tango, swing, Ghanaian, anything
- Travel to Kenya, Bangladesh, & India
- Rejuvenate my faith
- Improve my Korean and learn basic Swahili
Things I did:
Make lots of new friends
I did make a lot of new friends. I moved to DC. Joined a wonderful church. Joined a fabulous small group. Took a lot of (maybe too much) initiative in building relationships both within the group and outside of that group. I tried sparking up friendship with strangers on the bus, at the Maudy Thursday service, at work, and with friends of friends and I’ve had more successes than failures in this area I’d say. Despite being in the midst of a season where I feel lonely, if I detach myself from my current emotions at the moment, I can easily objectively say that I have made a LOT of new friends: friends who I can happily talk about nothing much with and still laugh my head off, friends who I know will pray for and with me when I need it, friends I can cry in front of when they ask me how I’m really doing, friends who call me at work when I’m having a rough day to check in, friends who initiate with me and don’t just rely on me to sustain the friendship, friends who encourage me in my faith, friends who share my burdens. Real friends. And, though they aren’t new, I’ve also done a pretty swell job at maintaining my close long distance friendships. I’ve regularly sent out prayer updates to my inner circle ladies around the world (England, Washington state, New Jersey, Boston, Oregon, Vietnam, California and Finland) and even grown that circle by three women in DC and two old friends and disciplers.
Rejuvenate my faith
This. So much this. The difference is night and day. What a difference 1) being in Christian community makes, and 2) not being in an extended three-year dark night of the soul type situation makes! Two of the hallmarks of rich faith for me in the past have been an appetite for God’s word and faithfulness in prayer. I have seen so much growth in both these areas over the past year. It’s an incredible act of grace and one that I am very, very, very grateful for. Part of this has come via a really solid church that I found and got plugged into rather quickly. Part has come from those regular prayer updates that I send and the prayers of my friends. Neither of those things do I take for granted.
Be my physically healthiest & strongest self yet
This is sort of true but mostly not true. If by strong I meant heavy then yes, this is 100% true. But I don’t think I mean heavy, I think I actually meant strong… I did run a 5K and a 10K this year. That was my first time running a 10K and I’m training for another 5K for next month. I did join a gym and go consistently for a few months back in the spring and I walked to work an hour and a half for the month of May. I also joined my alumni softball team (but only played three or four games). I went four or five months without eating candy. I made efforts. But it’s not exactly what I had in mind.
Things I didn’t do:
Things I did that I didn’t plan to do:
I’ve been, both on my own and through a program I’m doing through my church, exploring Biblical justice. It’s been fascinating so far and I really look forward to continuing to grow in my understanding of God’s call for Christians to care for the orphaned, widowed, alien, and poor.
Reunions and first meetings
So many of these. I saw Alecia, my Gobi Desert roommate, I saw Christina multiple times, I saw Justin and Lauren in NY for the afternoon, I saw the Sawyers and Dave in Charlottesville, I saw Grace visiting from Bangladesh, I saw Nicole who I hadn’t seen since middle school, I saw Heather from Laos, I saw Rebecca from Boston, I saw Jonathan visiting from Seattle, I saw Sarah also visiting from Seattle, Letitia visited from Kansas multiple times, Gabe and Vora at a fundraiser. I also met Ian, the editor for my writing fellowship, who I’d never met before AND, I met my pen pal of three years and explored downtown DC with him for the afternoon.
Meditate on the shortness of life
Does it just come with age? I don’t know, but this year I’ve done a lot of thinking about how short and unpredictable life can be. I read an article about that topic and there was a quote that really stuck with me: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.” So I’ve given a TON of thought to how I use my life. I’ve made an inventory of relationships and decided which ones I should reserve my greatest energy and effort for. I’ve looked at how I use my time when I’m not with people and tried to maximize it. I’ve thought about the things I do and don’t say and the need to be honest but wise. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about time. I also ran across Psalm 90:12 again which says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Become an extrovert (or just embrace it)
I retook the Myers Briggs test and got ENFJ. Both the E and F came as surprises to me. But if I look at how I’ve spent most of my free time here (there were several consecutive months where I was out every night of the week and weekend with people before having a free day to myself) I think its safe to say I’m really an extrovert. Not a hyper extrovert like some people I know, but I get energy from being around people for sure and put myself out there a lot.
I started leading a small group in February and think I haven’t done too badly at it. I also have developed my leadership skills at work as well.
I asked 31 to “Please be beautiful, date filled, bless others and be brimming with hope.” I went on two dates. That’s 2/364 or 1/182. So, not technically “filled,” but really, what does that mean anyway?? +1 for both dates being on the same day. -1 for awkward hand-holding. Hmm, I see room to grow in this area… On the beauty front, this has been a beautiful year filled with some of the highest highs I’ve experienced in a while (as well as some relatively low lows). This year has required me to fight for more friendships than I normally would, but I’ve also felt buoyed by more support than I had in a really long time, in awe of God’s provision for me and others in so many ways, and it has exceeded my expectations. I think I’ve blessed others, but then, I guess others would be able to speak more to that than I might. To the things I can speak about, I think I’ve been thoughtfully generous, I think I’ve been quick to encourage others, and there’s been a lot of intention around thinking about the needs of those around me.
So 32, I have some requests to make of you:
Fall in love—a deeply painful sort detached from rewards and seeking what’s in it for you, that seeks the other’s highest good, that draws on divine courage and strength to execute, that embraces vulnerability, and is not tethered to emotions but makes good on commitments.
Flip your life for justice—be open to radically loving and serving those who can’t repay you and being a voice for people who are marginalized.
Host more—you used to do this all the time. Open your home to others!
Number your days—Figure out how to best use your time, who and what to invest in, how to make sure you aren’t squandering your days on things that won’t last.
Don’t be so strong— embrace weakness—delight in it even.
Relax. Dance. Learn. Serve. Hope.