When I was in third grade, I fought one too many battles with strep throat. On a dreary, winter day, my dad took me to a specialist to see what could be done to save my raw, red throat. I sat in his big leather chair as he compressed my tongue with a wooden stick and I remember thinking it should have been attached to a popsicle.
"It's her tonsils and adenoids," the doctor told my dad. "We're going to need to remove them." My dad nodded. I gulped, noting it felt unfair that an action as basic as swallowing could be so painful.
"Don't look so scared," the doctor smiled at me. "I'll just grab a bow and arrow, ask you to lean back and shoot them off in no time." He laughed. I burst into tears.
When I went back to school a few weeks later, I felt nervous to see my classmates. I worried they'd wonder where I'd been and ask me embarrassing questions about the surgery. After a few minutes in the classroom, though, I realized it was a badge of honor. I'd had surgery! I had something exciting to share. This was street cred.
I was, what some would call, an active kid. Others would call it clumsy. By third grade, I'd had stitches in my foot once (almost twice), my chin and, now was void of tonsils and adenoids. I learned to wear my battle wounds proudly. Yeah, I've had stitches. Twice! And surgery, too!
I thought, recently, that my first day back in the classroom is what it can be like going to a party in your 20s.
Along with small talk, there's always the question of: "So, what is new?" When you're nine, you can answer that question boldly, honestly: "Well, I got my tonsils out. An adenoids! And I'm going to camp this summer!"
When you're 28, though, there is a linear progression people expect you to follow: Get a boyfriend, get engaged, get a new job, buy a house, have a baby. Perhaps grad school thrown into the mix - or a puppy. When you can answer one of those questions boldly, there is a certain comfort for everyone involved. There's a deep sigh of relief because you've hit a common conversational topic. And, because our world is more comfortable with all of us following this linear progression as a form of accomplishment than it is with the answer of: "Honestly, nothing is new in my life."
When you're in a stale season, which we all go through, this can be really shaming. Like me with the tonsil doc, it can make you want to burst into tears.
There are seasons in life when everything is changing and the question can be an easy segue, opening up conversation to share that you're engaged and moving and got a puppy, too! But there are seasons when things feel dry and endless, like you're wandering in the desert. Those seasons are for resting, not harvesting. They can feel endless and tiring, though. Like all of your friends are winning a race you didn't even know you were running.
Second: know that it's OK not to have a major life update to share. Don't give into the societal pressure to move quickly through life when it's really not a race at all. Remember:
You already matter. You are already enough. You do not need to hustle for your worth.
Just take a deep breath, smile and tell them you got your tonsils out.
PS: I highly recommend this read by Shauna Niequist: You Are Significant With or Without a Significant Other.