I’ve turned 26. And as always, another year brings new experience, new perspective, and new life. I find that it is imperative that I stop and reflect on life often. I look at where I’ve been, where I’m currently at, where I’m heading, and most importantly, where I want to go. I would encourage you to do the same.
Where I’ve Been
As I reflected this year upon my increase in age, I was filled with a sense of sadness. Another year is gone.. I now have one less year to accomplish my dreams (in all reality, I seemed to lose focus on these dreams throughout the year anyways). I’m losing time that I can’t get back. Turning 26 brought with it a great sense of dissatisfaction. I don’t like telling people I’m 26 and I haven’t been able to figure out why. So, I reflect.. and I’m convinced, maybe I’m not headed where I thought I would be at 26. Maybe where I’m headed and where I want to go aren’t tied together like I thought they would be.
25 was tough. 25 was full of internal crisis. It was full of mountains that seemed insurmountable. At times I climbed these mountains and I found new peaks that I had never been to. At other times, I had no strength left to give and I had to let others carry me up the mountains. However, I continued to progress. I continued to learn. I continued to listen. I continued to grow. Hope continued to break through when I was certain that it had nothing left to give.
Me and my dad are really, really alike. I look up to him. He loves people so deeply. He cares so intently. He always leads. He doesn’t let the status of those around him impact how he loves. He has done so much good. Earlier in the year, I remember sitting on the couch at my parents house with my dad. I was so deeply hurting and questioning life.. I can look back and say I was in a depression. I remember saying to him, “Dad, have you ever struggled with depression?” I wanted to see if it was a struggle he had carried too. I don’t remember what he said exactly, but I remember him saying he had been burned out before. He had pushed too hard. He had pulled away and closed others off. He has had times of mental battle. That moment brought a certain glimpse of hope for me. He had been there, he is okay. I remember thinking, “Maybe I’ll get through this.” 25 was full of moments like this; moments where I realized that humans are resilient. And I say that intentionally. I have found that humans continually evolve on a physical and conscious level. We were never intended to be stagnant.
25 was full of moments where I realized that God’s love doesn’t stop and that, perhaps, God is still moving in it all. It was full of times where I realized I’m hurting, but that that doesn’t have to be the end. It was full of healing. It was full of great formation and growth. I craved moments of breakthrough; where I would see the light of life again. And they came in both big and small ways. They came in laughter, in sunsets, in nature, in knowledge, in conversation, in friendship.. I had these deep moments where I just felt God fighting for me, that He loved me deeply, and I just had to surrender. Light had it’s way in it all.
Where I’m At
So here I am today, a little over a month after turning 26. And wow, life seems so much brighter than last year. I look back to a year ago and am reminded of the deep inner pain I was yet to face. I am reminded of how much I didn’t enjoy Fall last year, even though it’s typically one of my favorite times. Now I feel free to live again. I feel free to enjoy the beauty of nature and seasons again. And for that, I am grateful.
(Before I go any further, if you are in a similar season and you feel like you have nothing left to give, have hope. Please know that you are not alone. You are resilient. Humanity is resilient. God is resilient. Keep moving forward when you can. Let others carry you when you can’t. And perhaps, surrender to the deep, unwavering love that is God. He loves you. We love you. You will “enjoy Fall again.” I believe for you.)
Now, I have definitely changed a lot since last year. But I guess I see change in myself every year. Last year just seemed so much bigger. But how did I get there?
I have always asked God to break my heart for things. That’s been one constant in my relationship with God, even from a very young age. I continually asked him to break my heart and open my eyes to reality, as beautiful or difficult as that reality might be. I remember being in elementary/middle school and watching a kid, who was about 5 years older than me, go and try to play basketball with the other kids his age. He was one of those kids that you could tell tried really hard to fit in but never really did. I remember watching from a distance as the other kids essentially told him that they didn’t want him to play, and he just walked away. He looked so sad. He wasn’t accepted. This really hit me. I remember being extremely sad as I watched this. I wanted him to feel accepted. He should feel loved.
As I’ve grown over the years, times have changed, but I feel my heart continually breaking for causes. It has evolved from breaking for a kid trying to play basketball, to breaking for my friends who are battling difficulties, to breaking for young children on the other side of the world who don’t have food, to breaking for young adults struggling through the expectations of life, to breaking for those being trafficked for sex, to breaking for black lives that are being treated as less-than, and finally to breaking for the LGBTQ community that feels like they aren’t loved or accepted. I have felt God break my heart for people. What an injustice that someone would feel like they aren’t loved. Friend, I love you. I believe deeply that God loves you.
Now, I have failed over and over.. I have hurt people time and time again. So, in no way am I trying to boast, this is more about me finding myself and realizing that I was created to love. (I believe you were created to love, too.)
So as I sit here today, I realize that some of the growth and struggle that I experienced during year 25 were due to constructs that I had built up over time that were getting in the way of where I was progressing towards. I continually asked God to “break my heart for what breaks yours”, and maybe he was moving me to a place where I could feel deeply the pain that others felt. Maybe I had built things up that were actually hindering my ability to love. And perhaps, it was grace that acted as the initiator to bring those constructs down so that I could love even deeper. But with all of that, change is scary. It’s incredibly scary when you start to look at yourself and ask “Who am I?”
I have a number of friends who helped carry me through this formative time in order to get where I am today; one of those being my friend Luke. I remember sitting at Red Hook coffee and talking with him one afternoon. I started to share the questions I was having about life, god, existence, and purpose. He listened.. and then he spoke. He said something that was so profound to me as I moved forward in year 25. He said “The place you are going is different than the place you were at. Don’t try to get the old way back. It’s gone. You are moving to a new place, and it is beautiful. Embrace what is to come.”
It’s so easy to run from change; to try to hold on to what used to be while you feel it ‘slipping through your fingers’. But we were never intended to live in the past. The past was beautiful, but there are great things ahead if we will move towards them. Friend, don’t get so caught up in what used to be, that you forgot to be present in the here and now. Yes, change is scary as hell, but there is beauty in who you can become through it.
There are two more questions left in my self assessment; Where am I headed and where do I want to go. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer was “Where am I headed?”. This question scares me. What if I don’t like what I find? What if where I’m headed isn’t going to leave me fulfilled? Well, I had to ask anyway.
Where I’m Headed
What I found is that I’m headed somewhere that I’m not completely happy with. Like I said, I’ve changed in good ways, but I’ve also changed in bad ways. I’ve started to lose some of the dreams I once had. The vision I had, that was always centered around people, began to shift and started to become about me. And as I have reflected about turning 26, I have realized that maybe I’m not entirely bought in to where I’m heading. Maybe that’s why I have felt this deep feeling of dissatisfaction. The interesting thing is that when the direction of my life and the core values of my inner self are aligned, I feel great peace with every day that I grow older. Maybe the feelings that I have felt about losing time, are actually good. They are showing me the areas in my life that don’t line up with the deepest version of me.
Where I Want To Go
So, where do I want to go? What do I want to do? How do I want to do it? For me, I need to start with “What do I want to do?”
I want to love and be loved. I want to give freely of myself to those who are not receiving love. They are so loved. I want them to know. I want to have connections with humans where I can look them deep in the eyes and say, “I’ve been there. You’re not alone. There is hope.” I want to open myself up to receive love from others. I want to open my arms wider, and wider for humanity. I want to see young kids without father figures feel deep, unwavering love. I want to see world hunger ended. I want to see slaves of sex trafficking freed. I want to see my black brothers and sisters feel loved and treated as equals, not less-than’s. I want to see the LGBTQ community feel a deep level of love and acceptance. I want them to know that God loves them deeply. I want to live a life where greed has no ground in my heart; where selflessness trumps selfishness. I want to continually lift the heads of those around me and ensure them that they matter. I want to see the science community realize they have a ‘place at the table’; that faith and science are in no way at odds. I want individuals to realize that intellect, rationale, and reason are not at war with spirituality. I want people to experience the mystery of God; the mystery of His love that is alive in the universe; the beauty of His art that is ever on display and evolving. I want to say ‘Yes’ to love, life, giving, rest, opening up, and sacrifice. I want to say ‘No’ to spite, cynicism, greed, hate, and division. I want to see humanity collide with each other in love and I want them to realize that there is a God who is actually about inclusion, not exclusion. I want to see humanity be fully human.
And as far as where I want to go? Well, I think I can say with confidence that as long as I’m loving humanity as I should, I’ll be right where I want to be no matter where I’m at on Earth. Yes, I’m sure I’ll get nudged in specific directions and feel specific burdens for certain regions. But at the end of the day, there are people to be loved everywhere. There isn’t just one route to get to your destination. I find that I am ‘Home’ when I am living beyond myself. That’s where I want to be.
In the show The Master Of None, the main character, Dev, gives a monologue quoting the poet Sylvia Plath’s analogy of a Fig tree. The analogy speaks of this fig tree and being able to see all these figs. Each fig represented a different life. One represented having a family and kids in a beautiful home, another represented being a successful artist, and so on. There were so many figs, so many options in life.. but he didn’t want just one. They all looked so good. As time passed, and a decision couldn’t be made, the figs started to wrinkle and rot, the dreams started to die and left him absolutely starving. He had so many options that all looked so good but ended up starving because he couldn’t choose one.
This hit home with me heavily. There are so many options of what to do with my life that it becomes hard to choose one. But I’ve found that when I step back and look at what I want to do, and what kind of life I want to live, I start to see that there is great worth and beauty in it all. It’s time to take a fig, and eat. And then perhaps another, and another. For me, as long as it’s rooted in love, there is great satisfaction in it.
The beautiful thing is that I can create a new future. I’m not subject to where I’m currently headed. I can assess where I’m headed and where I want to go, and see where the two don’t align and I can choose where I want to go. I can go a new direction. I can surrender to Love. I can embrace others. I can live consistently with my deepest self.
My friend, do you not like where you are headed? Do you feel like you are wasting your time? Perhaps there is something deep in you that is craving something else. Maybe you are craving love. Maybe you are craving the future you could create. Don’t wait. Create the future you want, now. Love the way you want, now. Embrace humanity now. Lean into your God-given ability to love, now. You don’t have to let another birthday go by to realize that you want to be headed somewhere else. I believe in you. I believe we can change the world together. I believe we can have deep rest and peace together. I believe absolute life is within grasp. And remember, you are so loved by God; maybe it’s time to take part in that love. Start now.
Peace and love,