twenty-nine and cookies

I turned twenty-nine two days ago. 

Twenty-nine used to be my "scary" age - the age when you realize that, "Oh Shiitake mushrooms: I'm not actually getting any younger; yes, that's a chin hair; and what the freak is going on with my pores - they're all of a sudden so so huge. I need a facial. Also, neck fat."

Twenty-nine used to be my "scary" age because it's one year away from thirty. And thirty doesn't get talked about like your "amazing" twenties do. 

In your "amazing" twenties, life is your oyster. This is what I heard about that oyster, whether indirectly or just - you know - from what "they" told me: 
  • You're supposed to graduate from the [academically challenging and well-known] school of your dreams and then travel the world. (With what money? I don't know.) 
  • You're supposed to care enough about yourself to be emotionally intelligent, but not too much that you take yourself so seriously and miss out on all of the fun (e.g. Thirsty Thursdays, the Two-dolla Holla, the Rooftop Rendez-vous, Game night, Trivia night, Ladies night, a one night stand, that night when you get to try the "special" brownies . . . you get the point.)
  • You have to beat that relationship clock and find the perfect person of your dreams who happens to meet all criteria on your list of must-haves-or-else-he/she's-not-good-enough-for-me. And then you have to get married and say YES! to the dress and move into a house that looks like a Joanna Gaines masterpiece.
  • Then you have to have babies because, let's be honest, you're going to all of a sudden be SO OLD and your body's going to be all like, "Nuh uh. Not in your twenties? Tough twinkies. You're good for nothing and I'm done with you. Bye, Felicia."
  • You have to do all of that only AFTER you "find yourself," and reach your perfect weight, and run a marathon, and get like at least two or three promotions at work, and have at least fifty grand in your bank account and get your investment portfolio figured out and read a bunch of books that will make you feel smart and cultured and all like, "Oh, I'm in my twenties! This is the best!" 
  • And you have to have a gym and/or yoga membership and wear Lululemon.
  • And you have to not have or do any of that because in your twenties you can do whatever you want and you have to not care what anyone thinks about you. Ever.
  • And you have to figure out how to cook and what the heck is a 401(k)? 
  • And then FRIENDS. You need to have friends that you really care about and who care about you and to whom you can talk about the Bachelorette and who can go to Vegas with you and teach you how to shape your eyebrows.
  • And then for goodness sake, go to church.
  • Get angry at something! The world needs you to be an angry, cynical, anti-establishment activist who hates everyone and everything!
  • And please call your mother. 
  • And QUARTER LIFE CRISIS, what do I do with my hair? 
  • And I think I want a tattoo, but fast forward 60 years and maaaaybe not. But yup, I want a tattoo. Instagram it! 
  • And then you have to quit your job because it doesn't make you happy enough. 
  • And then you have to break up with your roommate because people are SO. CRAZY.
  • And don't forget to eat organic produce! You'll get cancer if you eat Oreos and drink inorganic 2% milk. Better yet, figure out how to grow your own vegetables on your window sill. 
  • Take that internship but only if it pays. You're worth no less than that fifty grand a year. And all of your furniture needs to come from Restoration Hardware.
  • DON'T TAKE FRIDAY CLASSES. Or any classes before 8am. 
  • Go to grad school, by the way. 
  • And go to counseling. Figure all that crap out.
  • And then get a PhD and make Forbes's list of "30 Under 30."

And do this all before you're thirty. Because after thirty, you can do none of this and life all of a sudden becomes juuust a little less fun and meaningful. Your "amazing" twenties, folks. That's where it's at.

Well let me tell you something. This past week, I made a batch of cookies. I don't know if I'm an emotional eater or if I just really love cookies, but nevermind my intention - I baked nine cookies. And I ate all of them. The same day. Before my husband got home. (Over-achiever!)

No surprise, I had a tummy ache and then felt guilty because I'd eaten nine chocolate chip cookies and no self-respecting person is supposed to eat that many cookies. You're supposed to look your best and eat like an Olympic figure skater. Protein. Vegetables. Water. And truth is, I'd realized I hadn't enjoyed the dang cookies anyway. I'd forced them down too quickly to do so.

That's the risk you run if you steam-roll through your twenties with "their" advice and the weight of your own expectations at the helm. You run the risk of feeling pressured to eat all the cookies at once - and then not truly enjoying life - whether in your twenties, or thereafter - because you feel like you're supposed to fit all the good stuff into ten precious years. You run the risk of actually thinking that anything after those ten precious years is dull, boring, and old. Ironically, you end up missing out on true, good, meaningful, joy-filled life. 

I used to think twenty-nine was my scary age. But then I woke up, fifteen pounds heavier than my "perfect" weight to two screaming but beautifully awesome kids and a wonderful husband who loves me as-is. I received a card (a REAL CARD) in the mail from one of my best friends from college. We don't talk often, but when we do, it's like your favorite blanket and a warm cup of coffee: Talking to her feels like home. I received texts and Facebook messages and voicemails from people who wanted to celebrate me, regardless of how much money is in my bank account, or how many degrees I have, or what my chin hair situation is. I ended the day surrounded by my PEOPLE, people who know my crap and know that mothering two kids under a year and a half can be paralyzing sometimes, and who give and give and give not to receive anything in return but simply because they love others - they love me - really well. And all of a sudden, just like that, twenty-nine is far from scary.

Yes, I happen to be married with two kids. That happened in my twenties. So did some sad and really tough stuff. But even if I were single, even if I didn't have a job I loved, even if this decade had been solely marked by tragedy and yuck, I wouldn't mark these ten years as wasted. Because now I'm formulating a new mindset: The best "cookies" are the ones that don't expire. They don't have to be scarfed down. There's enough for everyone and they represent true friendship, contentment and joy, self-acceptance, selfless love, grit, gumption, and gratitude. And you can't truly maintain gratitude when you try to force the whole batch of "should's" and "need to's" down at the same time. You end up with a tummy ache that leaves you forgetting all of the good stuff that you were meant to enjoy in the first place.

My current journal has a saying on the front: "The best is yet to come." I don't think I truly believed that until this year. Ten years ago, I entered my "amazing" twenties as an insecure and self-reliant young woman who needed to prove something to the world. The "best" needed to be earned and achieved, and all before my 30th birthday. But it's amazing what gratitude and the constant re-acceptance of Grace can do for your grounding and your maturity. "Good enough" all of a sudden trumps "better," and "best," and the rat race seems less attractive. Faith, good people, and the realization that you actually need both make the tough things bearable. Accepting help - and not just offering it - keep you believing in the goodness of humanity while at the same time showing you your limits. These are all good things. 

No matter where you are in life, eat the cookies. The cookies are good - life is good. But savor each bite along the way. Learn what needs to be learned. Be kind to yourself and others in the process. Re-define "best" as an increased ability to be grateful for the present and to love yourself and others better. Because before you know it, you're twenty/thirty/forty/fifty/sixty/seventy-nine, and I'm sure you'll have realized, like I'm realizing now, that life is too good and too big to try and stuff into ten years anyway.

Thank you all for a wonderful birthday.
Ashlee EilandComment