Last week, I turned 20. When I realized that I'm finally at that age where people are starting to consider me a real adult, I had a minor freakout. As a kid, if someone told me they were 20, I was like, "Oh, they are the epitome of adult. They must have it all together."
No such thing is true, sadly, at least not in my case.
The reason why my 10-year-old self looked at 20-year-olds and thought they were so cool and had it all together is because, in comparison to my list of responsibilities at the time, theirs were so much longer and more legit. My 10-year-old list of responsibilities included watching more Hannah Montana than necessary, riding my bike around the neighborhood with my friends, trying (and failing) to learn long division, and becoming a certified champion at Wii Tennis (quick flex).
I look back at my 10-year-old self's list of responsibilities and I envy her. But the thing is, I have left the age of childhood simplicity and I'm thankful for the season I'm in now. College is so fun. Being 20 is so fun. It comes with its list of responsibilities, but it's a season all its own that I wouldn't trade. However, it is my deepest hope to I carry some of my 10-year-old self's quirks and qualities with me into my 20s: I want to radiate in childlike joy and trust in Christ, I want to be bold and funny and charismatic and think less about what people think of me, I want to sing in the shower without reservation, I want to be resilient in the face of setback.
In light of this thought, I decided to write a letter to my 30-year-old self to remind her to continue to carry this childhood joy into her real, for real adult life (because everyone knows that the 20s are the trial years of adulthood).
Dear 30-year-old Eva,
Hi! You're here! You made it! Welcome to your 30s. I don't know what your 20s were like, but I hope they were filled with great joy above all else. I hope you will be one of those adults who smiles with fondness at your 20s like my parents always do. I don't know what you accomplished in those 10 years, I don't know whether you're married or if you have kids or if you live in a new city or a new country. I don't know what you do for a living (although I'm sure it involves writing in some facet), I don't know who your friends are (although I have an idea of who you still keep in touch with), and I don't know who the President is. Oh my gosh, who is the President? That'll be fun to find out.
I know nothing about what your 20s looked like. You could be married to the love of your life, living in a sweet little cottage somewhere in Tennessee like you've always dreamt of. You could still be single, too, and it's okay if you are. Know that your relationship status does not define who you are.
But if you are married, I hope your husband is the man who you always prayed for. I hope he's a man of great integrity, a man who makes Christ the center of your marriage, a man who pursues you daily and chooses to see the joy in all things. I hope he is someone who is wise but not condemning, hilarious but not immature, loyal but not overcommitted, tenderhearted but not oversensitive. I know for a fact that he's flawed, just as you are, but if he is a man of God then I know Christ is working in and through him daily (just as he is with you). I hope you serve him and your family selflessly. I hope you cook him his favorite dinner frequently and go on long walks together and that you still have fun even though you're supposed to be real responsible adults now.
If you have children, I know you are so enamored with them. I hope you love them with as deep and vigilant of a heart as your mother loves you. I hope you know that your parenting abilities cannot--and will not--ever be dependent on your own doing. It is Christ in you who will be the only semblance of a "successful" parent. I hope that you play with your kids. Get down on your knees and pretend to be whatever it is they ask you to be. I hope you teach them how to sing, how to write, how to dance, how to be courageous, how to laugh, how to swim, but most importantly how to walk in stride with Christ daily. I hope you see them as little extensions of yourself who will one day leave your side and become their own selves. I hope that you love them hard but hold them loosely because you know these blessings are not inherently yours, not by any of your own doing, but by the grace of God whose heart for them is even bigger than your own. I hope you trust God with your children, trust Him to use them in whatever ways He so desires.
But here's the thing: Maybe you don't have any of those things. Maybe you are 30, unmarried and childless, and I know you are sad about it. Please hear me when I say that this does not make or break your status as a person. I know that most (if not all) of your friends have gotten married and have their own families by now. I know that your siblings may already be married. I know you're probably sitting at home with your dog (because if you're single, you're gonna get a dog for sure) wondering when it is God's gonna bring that person into your life because, gosh darn it, you are 30 and the clock is ticking, my friend!
Take a deep breath. Stop writing your own story before the next chapter has even begun (as 20-year-old Eva is far too good at doing). Pick up your Bible. Read Luke, then read Acts. Remember Paul? Remember how he spent his whole life doing one thing, thinking he was righteous and upstanding? God blinded this man and changed his name on the road to Damascus. He was overcome with the Spirit and saw Jesus. He then spent the following decades beaten, bruised, bloodied, and cursed for Christ's sake. He proclaimed Christ in all circumstances, on every occasion (Philippians 1:24). He considered his earthly life rubbish in comparison to what awaited him in eternity. I'm not saying that you are Paul (heavens, no) and I am not saying that you will never marry or have children. But take heart, because if Paul can, you can, friend.
Now, here's some things I want you to remember. These are just little things. I know you're 30, and that age sounds serious and important and old, but please don't forget that childlike, joyful piece of your spirit. Don't let it fade with age, don't dampen it because of social pressure. The people who love you because of it will stick around. It's something a lot of people envy, and for you to lose it in the crossfire of life would be so sad.
1. Sing in the car. Don't look to see if anyone is watching.
2. Buy the funky pants because you spent years wondering if you can pull it off, and the answer is this: If someone could convince an entire generation that snapback hats are a cool thing to wear, then you can wear some funky pants.
3. Paint your nails the really bold color. Your skin is too pale and your personality too big for you to constantly have plain colored nails.
4. Be everyone's biggest fan. Everyone needs a fan. Be that person for someone else.
5. Read your Bible at least once a day. Connect with God even in the midst of all the chaos of filing taxes and paying your mortgage and getting mammograms (these are 3 things that scare me about adulthood as of right now), because He is a peace of place in these scary things.
6. Eat more vegetables because your metabolism is definitely not what it used to be, but also don't be afraid to get the fries sometimes.
7. Befriend the baristas of your favorite local coffee shop because you have always said you wanted to walk up to the counter of a coffee shop and say, "the usual" and have it mean something.
8. Still go to concerts. You love concerts. I would hate to see you lose that.
9. If you don't already, start playing tennis. I always wanted to be good at tennis.
10. Pray in every circumstance. I don't care what it's about, just pray. Pray about the frivolous things. Pray stupid prayers. Pray prayers so big and impossible that they make God dance with delight in the face of making something new.
11. Play the guitar and the ukulele. I want your kids to grow up saying, "My mom plays the guitar and the ukulele for me sometimes."
12. Have a piano in your house because if you can't play the piano, I sure hope your kids can.
13. I know traveling is expensive, but make a budget and scoot some things around so you can go somewhere new once a year. I don't care if it's a new city in your state, or a new country across the globe. Make it a priority to raise your kids knowing how to navigate airports and weird traveling situations.
14. Eat seafood frequently. Unless you live in like Nebraska or something because I know we have that weird thing against eating seafood in landlocked areas (you spoiled Florida girl).
15. Go to NYC once every few years. I know it brings your heart joy.
16. Befriend people who scare you and people who underwhelm you. Both are people that are worth getting to know. You probably scare/underwhelm a lot of people, and yet many have given you the benefit of the doubt. Besides, neither one is less important or seen in the eyes of God. Know that they have as much value as you, and the opportunity to know another heart so intimately stitched together by Christ is an insane honor.
17. Be apart of other people's stories. I don't care what it takes: Offer a helping hand, bring people dinner when they're facing a difficult season, be vulnerable about what hurts you to others, travel far distances to really and truly be with those who matter to you. Be willing to die to yourself so that others can see Christ working in your heart.
18. Rest on Sundays. This doesn't mean literally sleep all day. Do things that bring your heart joy: write, read, talk to your dearest people, read your Bible, walk your dog to a new place, go for a hike, all of the above if needed. Rest in knowing that God has you covered no matter the circumstance and be expectant that He will continue to do this.
19. Do the things that scare you (unless they're life-threatening), because honestly, in the past, the things that have scared you have been pretty rewarding.
20. Read books. A lot of them. And write from what inspires you.
Eva, you have always been so beautifully yourself. There was that period in middle school where you were literally afraid to tell people what your favorite song was because you were afraid they'd judge you (Clocks by Coldplay is a jam, let it be known), but what middle schooler isn't more self conscious than necessary? That aside, you have always been so boldly real about who Christ says you are. You choose to look to Him for what He says about your heart, rather than what other people do. While this isn't always true, I pray that it is true in your 30s.
Also, know that 20-year-old Eva has prayed a lot of prayers for 30-year-old Eva at this point so you are pretty much covered. When you turn 31, though, all bets are off. ;)
Love you, no matter who you are,
The not-as-wise, not-as-cool, not-as-acknowledgeable, barely-20 version of you.