23 Things I've Learned By 23

So ya, I turned 23 this week. Twenty-flippin'-three. And honestly, my family and friends made it one of the most joyous birthdays yet. I have some pretty incredible people in my life. They seriously made me feel so loved and celebrated. However, I can also say that this birthday might have been the strangest for me internally.

My friends and I went to Babalu's. A supper yummy tex-mex restuarant in downtown Knoxville. They might have the most epic birthday surprise ever for their guests. A patron bottle with massive sparklers blasting out of it. Go if you're in the area! And you too will have this face.

My friends and I went to Babalu's. A supper yummy tex-mex restuarant in downtown Knoxville. They might have the most epic birthday surprise ever for their guests. A patron bottle with massive sparklers blasting out of it. Go if you're in the area! And you too will have this face.

For the first time ever, I actually felt old. I’m sure anyone older than 23 is laughing at me right now, but for me I’ve always seen 23 as the “okay, time to adult”-year. Which in reality, I’m like (maybe) half-adulting: aka still in grad. school, 75% relying on my parent’s income, and single… so yeah not exactly to that fully adulting stage yet.

Although I didn’t voice this to anyone at the time, Monday night- the night before my actual birthday- was really difficult for me. It just felt like my sinful flesh and Satan were tag-teaming to try and create a whole mess of insecurity and self-pity in my heart. I knew I had to give it over to the Lord right then and there or those thoughts were going to consume me. Without sounding super-spiritual about it, in that time of prayer I felt extremely lead to pick up my journal and start writing about it. I didn’t know what to journal so at first I was just going to write out my current prayer, but then I very clearly thought….

“instead of dwelling on everything you haven’t learned or experienced by 23, remind yourself of everything you have learned and experienced.”

I knew that thought wasn’t from my dramatic head. Not because I heard God’s audible voice saying it or anything, but I knew it was the more productive and positive route for my thoughts. And I totally know that is not the route my anxious heart would naturally take.

As I started to think about what I’ve learned over the years, I got the idea to narrow it down to 23 things I've learned, in honor of my 23rd year.

It was so reflective and honestly just therapeutic for me. I hope if not all 23, at least one will resonate with you. And maybe, just maybe, you can learn these things a little quicker than the 23 years it took me to.

1. Instant gratification is rarely, if ever, the better route in comparison to the longer, more tedious route.

Just think the tortoise and the hare. Heard it a million times, still have a hard time saying I wouldn’t rather be the hare and finish the race quickly. I literally crave time-efficiency and despise waiting for literally anything- yeah, a pretty crappy personality combo, I know. But over the years, I have learned that the things I cherish most, have taken the most time. My friendships, my degree, my current place of health. All required time and intentional effort.

2. True joy really cannot be found on earth.

If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve been told this. A lot. I know you have, because I have. Yet I’ve still consciously and sub-consciously looked in pretty much every major earthly outlet to find joy. In relationships, friendships, physical appearance, athletic performance, grades, future-career, and even freakin’ material items. Ugh. Literally all of them led to more insecurity, anxiety, and disappointment. And on top of that, those fade. Only one thing's eternal. And He died so that even when we find joy in 934794 other places, He can count us forgiven and accepted when we realize how stooopit we were. Hallelujer.

3. Vulnerability can often seem like a dark, cold, unsure pit but can lead to the safest, most secure, free and joyous light… if you dig deep enough.

The times I have let my guard down, let myself really feel my feelings, and were the most brutally honest- whether that be to a close friend, family member or mentor- always always always led me to quicker and more complete healing and growth than trying to deal with whatever it was myself.

4. Plans are really good general guidelines, but terrible places to put hope and assurance in.

Plans are great. Big, life plans to the small, daily plans. They can motivate, inspire, and prepare you. But, don’t place any plan on a pedestal over an alternative routes. Because sometimes you have to take another route. We aren’t promised tomorrow, much less our 5-year plan. Your way is not the only way. Oh, how many great memories I didn’t get to fully enjoy because I was internally-pouting that it “wasn’t the way I had thought it was going to go”.

5. I’m actually not an extrovert, More like a really talkative, people-person introvert.

People have always told me I’m an extrovert, so I just assumed it was true. So when I didn’t want to hang out with people I was super concerned that something was wrong. It wasn’t until my college Psych professor explained that an introvert wasn’t always the stereotypical quiet, reserved girl in the back of the class; simply that introverts need to get-away, by themselves to recharge. Ding ding ding. That’s so me. Definitely an “ah-ha” life moment.

6. Often the lonely, hard seasons are simply God trying to teach pivotal lessons. So lean in and embrace them.

Not really much else to say here. Be honest and open with God. Don’t run away, but run to Him harder. It honestly can feel like the hardest thing to do at the time, but do it anyway. Like I said in numero uno of this list, the longer road is often the best in the end.

7. People are really cool ! ! !

I always had a natural bent to disengage from deep conversation and stick to very superficial relationships growing up, simply because it was easier and required less emotion. NOW I LOVE ALL THE DEEPNESS. Deep talks, deep relationships, vulnerable feelings. Gosh, that’s when you get to know people!! The more God pulls back layers of my heart, the more I feel a need for deep connection with others. You can learn a lot.

8. Connecting with people is way more important than completing your to-do list.

I have been notorious for being the one who successfully juggles 937,376 things, but missing everything and everyone around me in order to do it. Does it really matter how much you accomplish, if you have no one to celebrate those accomplishments with you? So have coffee with a friend and study later. Talk to your mom on the phone 5 minutes longer, the grocery store can wait. The gym will be there tomorrow but dinner with your best friend might not be available for a while.

9. Freedom is always costly.

Freedom from my eating disorder, from sin, from unhealthy relationships. Freedom from anything requires sacrifice. With my eating disorder, it was sacrificing my desire for thinness and accepting whatever weight I ended up at. From unhealthy relationships, it was sacrificing the love I had for that person for the greater good of both of our emotional and spiritual health.

10. Uniqueness and individuality are not problems to fix, but your platform for impact… and also quite beautiful.

You’re not like her or him or them and never will be. There’s a reason for that. Find your passions and embrace them.

11. Friends are important, no matter how “independent” you are.

You can be the most self-sufficient, lone wolf type in the world, but we were made for community. To connect. To invest. Trust me. Having people to hug you, pray for you, give wisdom just make life better. Isolation is 200% the easier way, but not very satisfying. Friendships take work, but worth it.

12. Unconditional love might not be achievable for me but can always be the goal.

You are never going to love others perfect and unconditionally, but you can try. You will never regret loving people better and more sacrificially.

13. be Christ-finding in others and Christ-seeking within yourself.

Someone told me this once and it resonated so deeply. Find the light in other people. Make your mission to find their Christ-like characteristics. That one change, when I apply it that is, has made me so much more intentional with how I get to know people. Reiterating another point from before… people are cool.

14. There is a lot of beauty to be found in the mundane.

I think our culture really diminishes the beauty of slow and simple. I know I did. Like the whole, “if you’re not doing it for the Gram, why are you even doing it?!” Yeah well that just creates a lot of comparison and fomo (fear of missing out… for you non-acronym users) when you have just an average day. But average, boring days are a part of life. Rest and slowing down are necessary sometimes. Periods of quiet reflection have been when I’ve grown the most.

15. I’m a pretty crappy roommate.

Yeah. It’s true. I’m really loud, even when I’m trying to be quiet. I forget to lock the door behind me more often than I remember. But hey progress over perfection right??

16. Walks can cure just about anything.

Long walks. WOW. Game changer honestly. If I’m stressed, sad, over-whelmed- you name it. I’m not totally sure the science behind it, but I always end a walk feeling more grounded and happier than before I started. TRY IT.

17. Nut butters have and will forever reign supreme in my heart and on my taste-buds.

Almond, peanut, cashew, hazelnut. I haven’t met a nut butter I haven’t wanted to eat the whole jar of and I’m perfectly okay with it. Fully embracing it 5ever... usually drizzled over an apple.

18. Not everything has to make perfect, logical sense in order to be true…. In fact, most of the time it won’t make sense.

I’m very logically minded. If I don’t know why I’m doing it or can’t see how it makes sense, I usually don’t jump on board. But I’m also a Christian and if you are 100% logical and facts-based, faith doesn’t really make the "logical" cut. A part of growing up for me has been choosing things that might not make as much logical sense, but I know will glorify Christ more than my way.

19. To choose and accept progress over perfection... every time.

Life is most definitely a journey, a long one. There is a lot of time to make a wrong turn along the way or take a harder route. Which for perfectionistic me, is really hard to handle because I want to succeed, which use to always means perfection. But I’ve learned having perfection being your only means of success will always leave you defeated, because it’s never going to happen. As long as you’re moving forward, that’s all you can do. Be okay with that. Heck, be way more than just okay with that. You're doing the best you can.

20. Ask questions. As many as you want. Always.

If you aren’t sure about something, ask. People respect a humble question, way more than a prideful guess.

21. Talking about yourself helps no one.

Now let’s clarify, there’s totally a time and place to talk about yourself. But newsflash, people don’t care about you as much as you do. So especially when meeting someone new or in the professional situation, talk about you when asked, but ask the other person more about them. Business hack my dad taught me.

22. Keeping an eternal perspective really does make any problem less freak-out worthy.

Seriously. When you remember how fragile life is and the point of why we are all really living anyway, to make Jesus known and make disciples, it makes your boss yelling at you and that bad grade seem a lot less like the sky is falling. Which for me, would have saved me a lot of tears and some near panic-attack situations if I developed this coping mechanism sooner.

23. We are all in our own, unique process and always will be.

You have a journey no one else does, which means you are never going to be at the exact same place in life at the same time as anyone else. Being confident and secure in that, has been one of the most impactful lessons I have learned.

So there you have it. 23 things this sweet life has taught me. Not all are profound thoughts, not all are going to be interesting to everyone, but that’s okay.

So here’s to 23!! 

Hopefully a lot more lessons to be learned and reflection to be had!