I Survived My 20s – Dreams

[Guest Post by Caris Adel] – I love the movie Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. When I watch it, I relive my dream from high school.

My dreams were to move to New York City and spend my 20s living the city life– whatever that meant.

The issue of cost never did resolve itself.

My more realistic plan was to get an apartment and go to school in a midwest town near my high school boyfriend. But alas, we ended up pregnant instead, giving birth right before his final exams his freshman year of college.

We got married, and by the time we were 26, we had our fifth and final child.

So now when I watch a movie and imagine my unrealistic, never to be realized dream, I wonder, where did my 20s go?

Somehow, in those years when people are exploring the world and finding themselves, I found myself in the throes of diapers and potty-training and little voices in the night.

I’m on the verge of turning 31, and that number is not nearly as painful as 30 was. 

30 just confirmed what I already knew. 

I had missed my 20s. What happened to my dreams?

I spent that decade mostly friendless. Everyone from high school was off to college, and we were having kids, my husband working part-time, and going to school full-time. There was no group of friends to hang out with, go to bars or concerts with. There was no money for baby-sitters, had there been friends.

It was just the 3 of us, then the 4 of us, and now the 7 of us.

Now that my youngest is 4 and I am out of toddlerhood, I can look back and see that I was mildly depressed for many of those years. I knew what I was missing out on, and there was nothing I could do about it. The years sort of run together in a blur, because every day was exactly like the one before.

But I can pick out the highlights. 

Moving to our first duplex, moving to an apartment, buying our first house, trading in my sedan for a minivan (a sad day), going on road trips because we couldn’t afford a real vacation, and then last year, our first real vacation.

When I was getting ready to turn 30, and was depressed about it, I kept thinking,

“I missed my chance to have fun.  To experience life.” 

But now that I have sat with that thought for a year, I don’t know. Yes, my 20s were atypical. 

But why was I basing my emotions and happiness on what society said should be normal?

So as I prepare to dive into my 30s, I am evaluating my 20s. I don’t know that my experience is for everyone, and I still have to wait a few more years to make up for the lack of traveling I wish I’d done, but overall, I don’t know that I regret my life turning out the way it has.

It has only been through churning in the wake of monotony that I have discovered who I am. My real dreams.

Why I dislike certain things about my life, why I have the dreams I do.

It has been through the largely interior struggle these past several years that I have learned about life, myself, and God. I think if somehow I could have achieved the ideal decade I had pictured, I would have been merely a facade. There would have been no depth to me.

I look back now and laugh because my dreams were so unrealistic.

All I really wanted was freedom. 

Freedom to be myself, to be free from my controlling mother, freedom to live my own life. 

But all I did was trade control for responsibility. 

I’m still not free to do whatever I want, and that chafes at me. But if I was honest with myself, I think if I had that complete freedom, I’d be lazy with it.

They say character is formed out of adversity, and I think they are right. I think this whole process of analyzing my 20s is almost an exercise in ingratitude.

Because without the lonely struggles of a decade, I wouldn’t be the analytical thinker and writer I am now.

My life, the lonely and depressing parts, and the celebrations and vacation parts, has formed me into who I am now. And this life, sitting on the cusp of 31, has found me profoundly content. This goal of ‘learning to be content’ as Paul says, that I have tried so hard to accomplish over the past 10 years, has snuck up on me in the last month, and I can see now that I didn’t lose my 20s.

They were the catalyst in shaping and forming my character, my life.  They have not only formed me, they have given me the ability to face my 30s with confidence. 

I didn’t miss my 20s after all.  I just lived them.

Caris Adel is passionate about loving people, defending the oppressed, and being a voice for justice.  She is married, and in the midst of the chaos of raising 5 kids, she finds time to write about affirming the humanity at www.carisadel.com.

4 comments on “I Survived My 20s – Dreams”

  1. Jenn LeBow says:

    Caris, this is such a great retrospective of your 20’s. My favorite bit: “I’m still not free to do whatever I want, and that chafes at me. But if I was honest with myself, I think if I had that complete freedom, I’d be lazy with it.” That’s how I feel about being called, over and over as we keep moving, to be part of church families that by and large are far more conservative than I am. I end up loving people, and serving alongside them, and the differences between us stop being the end-all issues I thought they were. They are good for me, and I pray I also am good for them. If I was part of a group I agreed with all the time, I’d lazily assume that the “us” vs “them” attitude within the church is justified. Thanks for this. I love reading your writing.

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