There is a proliferation of underwhelming fiction, prose, and greeting cards about the dread fear of growing another year older. 30 is the first death mark, right? Followed ruthlessly by that horrid halfway sign post of 40, and then the resigned milestones of 50, 60, 70... and everything after is gravy. I do not approach any of these years with any really speed. It will be 7 years yet until I am 30, which doesn't sound so very long, until I remember that 7 years ago I was 16 and I realize that 7 years can be quite a long time.
But I do approach my 23rd birthday next Friday. And I am filled with an inexplicable dread.
I don't care about being another year older- my time out of college has taught me how young I really am, still. I am very young and will be for some time. For a while, I wondered if it was my Southern upbringing that made me ashamed of every year that passed husbandless. As so many of my friends get engaged and married, it can be depressing to think about that, but it's not the source of the consuming and paralysizing fear that has been gripping me whenever I think about the date that marches towards me incessantly.
I've realized that it is the undeniable proof that I am still in a nomadic place in my life. I really do love Virginia and my life more than I ever though possible when I first moved here. I have friends who are really just sweet and genuine. I have a cute apartment. There are lots of fun things to do. But... it's not home yet. It's a place where my life is, but I don't fully feel engaged in that life. As much as I love my new friends, our relationships aren't totally natural yet. They are still work. And we aren't really buddies yet. Buddy-dom is earned through time and emotional investment. We are working towards that, but we're just not there yet.
And my life isn't in Knoxville anymore. When I go there, I am filled with a warmth and delight at being surrounded by the familiar and known. I love the friends I have there who really are my buddies, who get my stupid jokes and I can just hang out with. But their life has continued in that place and mine has not. And every time I return, I feel a little more jealous and a little more left out.
I should- it's only natural that things continue without me. I'm glad to see my friends thriving there, but it still hurts me that it is happening without me and I have not formed the same level of intimacy up here.
So I wanted to run- a couple of weeks ago, I was gripped with urge to go away for my birhtday, anywhere, just not NOVA or DC. I thought about going to Knoxville- no, it would just depress me not see people there. Going to L'Abri in Massachusetts or Biltmore House... but after getting back from Santa Fe, the idea of driving that long was not appealing.
Then I was over at my friend Mary's house. It was 2 in the morning and I was telling her my fears about my birthday. She nodded along knowingly and then she said, "Yeah, I understand. You want to go away so that when you don't have plans here, it's because you made plans elsewhere."
Wow. I didn't even realize that's what I was doing. I wanted to have a reason to not have to be vulnerable enough to have my birthday here and not have people care. And that's when I felt God saying, "Would you trust me enough to stay? Would you trust me enough to be disappointed? Would you trust me enough to make it amazing?"
And I wanted to trust Him. I was afraid to, but I wanted to. So I am. I have not made plans for my birthday. But I will be okay even if it's horrible. And I'm ready for it not to be horrible. I've been so overwhelmed by God giving what I could not give or take for myself in the last weeks. I hope I can keep my resolve and trust Him to do it again.