24 has been my favorite number since before I can remember – always finding its way onto my softball jerseys or into my screen names growing up. 24 is one of the best TV shows to grace our generation (…and make us wish David Palmer could actually run for president). 24 is a fantastic Switchfoot song. And, as of yesterday, 24 is how old I am.
That feels so surreal. I can’t possibly be 24 – that seems far too old for the girl who still eats cheerios for dinner, for the girl who refuses to pay for matching furniture. 24 is officially “mid-twenties”; at least when I was 23 I could argue that I was still in my early twenties. I had an excuse for my actions. At 24, there’s no fighting it – I’m in my mid-twenties and should probably be meal prepping or whatever adults these days are doing. Is that what adults these days are doing?? That’s the lack of 24-level-maturity I have.
And, yet, 24 feels right somehow. I’m often told I’m wise beyond my years (personally I think I just have the personality of a grandma), and so at 24 I finally feel like I’ve turned the corner from my youth. I’m at a respectable age where my opinions and ideas finally seem to hold weight. I’m finally viewed like a real adult – with the number to back me up. I’m 24! Not a baby 20 year old, not a mere 21. Twenty f o u r.
I know people generations ahead of me must be thinking, “24?! That was a lifetime ago.” And I work with high school students who feel like 24 is a lifetime away. I get that. But it’s here and now for me, and I want to live it. Not getting stuck in the past, in what my life once held or the dreams I once dreamed. Not living in the future, in what could be and should be and might be. But focussing on right here, right now, today. My 24.
When I turned 23, I reflected on all the events 22 held for me. It was really something – it was painful and exciting and special and bittersweet in every meaning of the word. 22 was a lot for me; I had no idea what 23 would be. And, as I’m now saying goodbye to 23, I feel like I’m still not so sure what it was all about. It was a lot of growth. A lot of transitions. A lot of finding myself, getting to know myself, and then realizing I actually like myself. It was a lot of trial and error, give and take. It was a lot of, “Okay, God. Not what I expected. Where are You in this?” It was a lot of finding Him.
23 held pain, questions, and growth. I thought graduating college and moving to the other side of the world was a transition, but 23 taught me I barely knew what that word meant. There were a lot of rough conversations, a lot of brutal honesty, a lot of nights I felt alone. There were a lot of doors closing. There were multiple times I felt like I was going crazy – and one weekend where I truly felt like my life was crumbling before me. There were far too many heartbreaking conversations, with far too few answers on my part, with people I cherish. Yet with the bad comes the good, with the hard times come lessons learned. And I learned so very much.
I learned how to reach out – how to ask for help, how to ask for what I need. I learned that my voice matters, that every voice matters. I learned what true friendship looks like… and what it doesn’t. I learned how to stand up for myself, when it matters most. I also learned how to stand up for myself when it only matters a little. I learned so much about myself – my triggers and my scars and what’s still healing. I learned what breaks my heart, what causes tear at my soul – and that I can’t save everyone. I learned a little more of what I want in life, what I’m looking for – and that I’m the only one who gets to decide what that is. I learned that life has a way of surprising you. In the way that it moves on. In the way that time really does heal. In the way that tomorrow is always a new day. I learned some relationships fade and some change. It’s okay let them change, to allow yourself to care for each other in new seasons. It’s the ones that fade that are hard to cope with, hard to watch happen. I learned that one of the most painful experiences is opening up your clenched fists – with your life plans and special people and paycheck goals and career aspirations and 50 other things you care about held so tightly. Watching what falls through your newly opened fingers can be heartbreaking. It can also be freeing. Watching what God pours into your newly outstretched hands can be healing. I learned that some scars heal – with time and medicine and care, they all but disappear. I learned that some scars never do. And that’s okay – sometimes we need the reminder, we need the battle wound to show we survived the fight.
24 has long been my favorite number; I want to make it my favorite year. I want it to be filled with laughter. With discovery. With love. I want honest conversations, which involves vulnerability. I want adventure, which involves risk. I want answers, which involves hard questions. I want community, which involves work and hurt and dealing with others’ wounds. It also involves opening up my wounds. I want to keep learning, which involves admitting that I don’t know. Admitting that I might be wrong, admitting that I am wrong. I want to learn to be okay with the world turning out to be a different place than I thought it was, I want to be okay with turning out to be a different person than I thought I was. I want all these things, and – at 24 – I know they come with a price. I’ve come to learn most good things do.
I don’t have a bucket list and I don’t have a goal sheet. I just have some dreams in my heart that I’m gonna see where God leads, I have some ideas that I’m gonna continue chatting with Him about. That’s scary and exhilirating – not having a destination. Believing in the journey. Sheesh, do cliches come with old age or what?? (Personality of a grandma, I’m telling you…)
24. This feels right and this feels wrong. Maybe that’s my theme for the year – so confident and so unsure, excited yet tentative. Maybe that’s where you’re supposed to be in your mid-twenties – still figuring out life. Knowing you don’t have all the answers, but excited to get just a few more. Excited to see what He has in store. Apprehensive to see what exactly He has in store. Maybe that’s where we’re supposed to be at every age…