The Greatest Lessons from My 20s {part 5}

This post is part of a five-week series, The Greatest Lessons from my 20s. During the five weeks leading up to my 29th birthday, I'll be discussing the greatest lessons this decade has taught me. Read the most recent post, which is Not to Make Ourselves Smaller here.  

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Years ago, someone told me to "kill my dreams," which, at the time, I thought was just about the saddest thing I'd ever heard. Kill my dreams?

As I've gotten older, though, I've begun to understand what they meant. It wasn't a cynical-your-dreams-will-never-come-true attitude. Instead, what they were telling me was to stop living in the what I wish was happening and start living in the now. 

At the time, I was really struggling with how different the life I thought I was going to have by 26 looked compared to reality. I was single, living in an apartment in Atlanta, working a 9 to 5. The dreams I'd cultivated at 10 years old and gripped with iron fists, refusing to relinquish any part of them, were killing me. So, a friend told me to kill them. Let go of the husband, two babies and life as a stay at home mom I thought I'd have. And instead, make new dreams.

Dream about the tomorrow that may really come true, instead of the tomorrow that was slowly slipping away. Dream big and hard, but don't torture yourself with dreams that aren't meant for you. 

Killing those dreams and creating new ones has been, without a doubt, one of the greatest lessons of this decade. The thought of marrying Chris, having gotten to live in the same house at my brothers for the last two years, and pursuing a career in coaching lights me up. These things are what success at 28 has been for me, in my life.

Ten-year-old Whitney maybe would not have thought so. But, by 28 I know and believe that life's dreams aren't meant to be dictated by a younger version of myself. Something I practice a lot is not comparing my current self to my old self. So, I don't compare the way my body looks at 28 to the way it did at 18. That's just unfair to myself. And I don't compare my face at 28 to 16. Because my skin has obviously changed. And that would be unfair, too. In the same way, I refuse to compare my dreams at 28 to dreams I cultivated at a younger age.

Because today is beautiful and it's worth living. It deserves for us to be wholly & fully present, living deeply in the moment and dreaming brightly about the future. 

So, that's what the last nine years, in all their glory, have taught me. Next stop, 29!

The Greatest Lessons from My 20s {part 4}

This post is part of a five-week series, The Biggest Lessons from my 20s. During the five weeks leading up to my 29th birthday, I'll be discussing the greatest lessons this decade has taught me. Read the most recent post, which is To Invest in Good, Loving Relationships here.  

I recently started practicing yoga at Core Power, which opened in Atlanta this summer. Last week, we ended class with Happy Baby pose and the instructor said it's one of his favorites, because it invites us to be larger and take up more space on our mats.

I thought about that sentiment for a while. I think the idea that we should use up more space on this earth is really foreign to us - especially as women. Aside from the obvious, which is that we're constantly applauded for being thinner, firmer and tighter, there's also a sentiment, I think, that we should be smaller emotionally and mentally too. To be dainty and agreeable. To be emotionally confined and handled. To be smaller in our needs, our thoughts and our feelings is often something we're taught and encouraged to be.

Throughout my 20s, I've begun to understand, that we aren't meant to be smaller. We are meant to be the fullest, most lively versions of ourselves. For some of us, that means we are quiet; but it's not a trying-to-contain-myself quiet. It's that we are naturally inclined to be that way. For others of us, we are more talkative or, heck, our voices just carry more. And that's OK, too.

I think it's important that we, as women, stop apologizing for being ourselves and for taking up space on this earth. We are meant to be here right now and to make the most of this time. Having bold opinions, emotional needs or strong reactions to things isn't something we should be ashamed of, but instead, something we should be proud of.

As I've gotten older, I've become more comfortable with the fact that I have needs and I've stopped trying to diminish them. I have stopped trying to pretend I'm OK when I'm not. I have stopped trying to pretend I agree with something when I don't or apologize if something frustrates me. I have begun to stand taller - confident in my 5'10 height.

I've become more sure of the fact that I am meant to be here, today, on this earth. I understand now that being less of who I am diminishes my purpose and my ability to connect with others. And there are few things greater than living out our purposes while we're here and connecting deeply with those we love.

The Greatest Lessons from my 20s {part 3)

This post is part of a five-week series, The Biggest Lessons from my 20s. During the five weeks leading up to my 29th birthday, I'll be discussing the greatest lessons this decade has taught me. Read the most recent post, which is To Believe this is Not an Economy of Scarcity here.  

Last week, I sent my discipleship group back to school for the year. We wrapped up our summer together with dinner at my house, talking about the year ahead - what they were excited about, nervous for and most ready to do.

The evening got me thinking about how, without them having been assigned to my group, I'm not sure I ever would have met them. They're seven+ years my junior and in completely different walks of life than me. But, we connected deeply and quickly - proving to ourselves that age and background don't necessarily mean as much as we might think when it comes to friendships.

I've reflected a lot on friendships this year and have especially focused on growing deeper in them this summer. I have a tendency to hold on tightly to every relationship I create. In college, I yearned for my high school friendships to stay the same. After college, I did my best to keep every friendship in tact - vowing that time and distance wouldn't force us to grow apart, but instead, closer together.

As I've gotten older, though, I've begun to finally understand that relationships change. And it's OK. This has been, easily, one of the greatest lessons of my 20s.

I have finally begun to understand that it's OK when friendships change and the best thing we can do is let go of the ones that aren't good for us and hold on tightly to the ones that are. 

Only we can control who is in our lives. If people are toxic or, sometimes harder to recognize, just not the type of person that brings joy to your life, it's OK to allow them to lift out. We spend a lot of time and energy cultivating our relationships and it's important that we are selecting to invest in things that are life giving.

If a relationship zaps your energy, constantly frustrates you or brings you hurt in any way, let it go. If it energizes you, brings you joy and is life giving, hold on to it with all your might. 

Only you can control who you let into your life. Give yourself permission to seek, give and live good love. In the end, it's the the most important investment we make.

The Biggest Lessons from my 20s {part two}

This post is part of a five-week series, The Biggest Lessons from my 20s. During the five weeks leading up to my 29th birthday, I'll be discussing the greatest lessons this decade has taught me. Read the most recent post, which is To Assume People Have Good Intentions here.  

There are two things I remember disliking in fourth grade; both of which always took place at the drinking fountain:

1. It was the first year most girls started wearing bras and boys would always stand behind us, pull back the elastic and let it go. It would snap on your back and then, worst of all, everybody would know you were wearing a bra. It was enough to make a nine year old girl pray she never, ever needed to wear one of those things.

2. If you weren't defending your training bra, you were always at risk for someone to tell you, just as you got enough water to feel hydrated after a hot Indiana recess: save the whales! Which was the worst. You weren't trying to hurt the whales! You even made your mom cut the plastic rings that held together soda cans. You cared about the ocean! Also, Indiana was landlocked, people!

The truth is, in 1996 in Zionsville, Indiana, the chance of us being the reason the ocean would dry up was, well, completely unreasonable. There would always be, at our school, enough water for every fourth grade body to refuel after four square.

I was thinking recently about how that idea - that there will always be enough - applies to our 20s, too. When you feel like everyone around you is getting the things you want, it's tempting to want to yell, save the whales! Save me a boyfriend and a husband. Save some promotions and raises for me! Save me a piece of land and the chance to have a baby. Just slow down people! 

It's easy to feel like the people around you getting more of what you want means you will receive less.

But, this is not an economy of scarcity. 

Just like there was enough water in fourth grade for me, the kids around me and the whales in the oceans, there is enough for all of us today, too.

Life might not look exactly as you thought it would by 28, but the things that are meant to be yours will become yours.

This has been, easily, one of the hardest and most important lessons my 20s has taught me. It has allowed me to better celebrate my friends when they hit milestones I've not yet reached. It has helped me to feel more at ease with where I am in my own life. It has allowed me to feel at peace with the direction of my career, my relationship status and living situation in Atlanta.

It has allowed me to believe that I am exactly where I'm meant to be in this moment. This life is unfolding exactly as it should. And that's really beautiful.