Emily at 26
26 years old is an age that seems different than 25. I am not sure why. You have been married for 3 1/2 years and you are making your way in the world. I guess for me, when I turned 26, even though I had been an adult for 7 years, 25 feels young, but turning 26 means that somehow the expectations magically change. People expect you to start having babies or have some shift financially, socially or emotionally. Maybe it is the fact that there are now only 4 years left in your 20s and instead of having a long time until you turn 30, there is a mental shift in the time left to be “immature and carefree”. Maybe it is because you are supposed to be setting off on a career path. Perhaps it is because 26 is the “new” number for being an adult in our country: You are no longer on your parent’s medical insurance. You are not charged an exorbitant fee to rent a car. Your auto insurance drops in price and gains in coverage. I don’t know – but I do know that somehow it feels different!
I know that most people feel old every year when their birthday comes. I also know that most people feel they should have it all together and they don’t, but everyone else does (or at least seems to). I think it feels sort of like new year’s day with new commitments and beginnings. The fact is that most people have some trouble adjusting to the new normal and the new number that defines the time they have lived on earth. Em, you have never been 26 before and you do not get a do-over! EVER! So you can’t expect to have it all figured out! I remember being your age…It was not easy. That was the year we moved to Arizona.
As a person gets older, there seems to be increasing pressure to “figure it out”. The further away you get from college age and move further in to adult married life, the harder it will be to finish goals because of time and shifting priorities; Some goals will change and old plans will feel awkward because you are in a different life stage. When you watch sports, and movies it is weird to realize how much younger some people are that seem way more successful at finishing their goals (and figuring it out) than you are, as well as how unlikely it is that you will realize some of those kinds of dreams! Some opportunities disappear and others may take their place. I personally have found that even though I have had regrets for the many dumb things I have done, they have not lasted long. However, I tend to regret the things I didn’t do for a longer period of time. It is like asking the question, “If you could do anything differently what would you do?” I usually think of the things I wish I had done and regret not acting when I had the chance. I think it is because the choices I have made, even the poor ones, have taught me something and I have worked the results into my life story. Decisions help create meaning in our lives. What I am trying to say is that I want you to pay attention to your goals in life and go for it! If there is something you don’t want to miss, figure out how to make it happen. Ignoring the opportunity or putting it off may very well be your biggest regret!
One thing I remember as you were growing up is talking about the future and what you wanted to be when you grew up. Your answer changed over time, as it is supposed to. Of course, the idea of being a breakfast short order cook who wears pajamas as she cooks is more serious when you are ten than when you get older because dreams change and morph and grow. I know you have been asked the question, “What do you want to be?” many times and every time it seems to add additional pressure; but, of course, your goals and dreams and plans will continue to change those answers (I think that is why people change their major so many times in college!). If it helps, I am still not sure what I want to be when I grow up! My point is that this is your life!… and you are allowed to explore your options. You are allowed to pursue a path, to fail, to reverse course, to change your mind. You are NOT allowed to sit around and do nothing. You areNOT free to make decisions that are selfish because your marriage and the Lord are commitments you have already made. I want you to know that there is NOT pressure to have it all figured out, except from society and people who really don’t matter anyway! And added to that pressure is the fact that you are a woman and so you will be judged for many decisions you will make about your career path, whether or not you have children and then how you raise those children! (this is not even bringing up the facts about gender inequality).
So I want to tell you how proud of you I am, more than I could ever say. I am in awe of how stunning you are – both your appearance and your heart. You are the most extraordinary girl and you are so loved. Every time I am with you I am brought to my knees in awe of the woman you have become from the verbal toddler to the artistic and musical child to the big hearted teenager to a creatively talented woman. You are a blessing. Happy Birthday to my sweet girl and always remember that whatever you become in this life, that the most important thing to be is godly. kind. generous. grateful. courageous.
I love you Emily Ruth!
PS (I think you have enough tattoos and cats and striped shirts…)