Faith

Turning 30

what i've learned about turning 30

Today I say good-bye to my twenties and it feels so weird. I still vividly remember being 21 and thinking 30 was so old. I wasn’t afraid of it then though, because it felt like lightyears away. And of course when it did finally happen, by then I figured I'd own a home, be married and successful (maybe I'd even have a kid). Everything would be... you know, established. It would be the season when I finally “arrive”. (Cute, right?) Well if you know me at all, most of that definitely does not apply to my life at the moment. So if my twenties didn’t lead me there, where did they take me?

As I’ve been closing in on this birthday, I’ve been rather sentimental about my last 10 years. It’s no secret that our twenties are arguably one of the most influential decades of our lifetime. SO much happens in these 10 years: failure, success, heartbreak, experimentation, self-realization… the list goes on.  And according to the dozens of articles I’ve read of 30 things you should do by the time you’re 30, 30 experiences people tacked before 30, or 30 things people want to do as they move into a new decade— I’m clearly not the only one who's been reflective about this milestone. 

 

At first, I loved the idea of making a list like these too:  my 30 favorite experiences or bits of wisdom I’d like to pass on to the 20-somethings standing where I once stood who feel like 30 is so far away. But as I sat down to write it, I kept getting stuck.

 

You see, I don't think turning 30 is something that should be perceived as a one-size-fits-all blanket statement that we tie up with a bow and hand to everyone. In my personal opinion, age is already such an arbitrary form of measurement, but especially 30. For some reason, this is the age that so many people love to quantify all sorts of milestones they think they should have accomplished by now. 

For example, if you would have told me when I was 25 that come 30 I’d be single, scraping pennies together at times + still renting the same modest 1 BR apartment I probably would have cried. Because then, my standard of success come 30 meant marriage and home ownership and other forms of settledness. But over the years, I’ve learned life is way more complex than this simple way of thinking and I see things completely differently standing where I am now. 

If you would have told that same 25 year old me that come 30 I’d be brave enough to risk self-employment, that I’d live abroad and get to travel the world, or that my life would be bursting at the seams from doing so many things I love, I probably would have assumed that I had a rich husband or won the lottery- not that I built those things myself.  But almost every single one of my favorite life experiences to date has been possible because I'm not where I saw myself at 30. 

Now to be clear, this doesn't mean that I think I did my twenties right and my friends who bought houses or settled down did it wrong. It also doesn't mean that my friends who are raising children have more valuable lives than I do because I haven't gotten there yet. My point is simply that our individual lives and differing stories are beautifully unique. Period. 

Since no two stories are the same, my personal thoughts on turning 30 likely won’t serve you. Because of that, I won’t give you a checklist of the things that I think you should have accomplished by now. I won’t make any kind of list with exactly 30 things for that matter (mostly because my thoughts don’t fit in a perfectly measured out format like that). Instead, I want to simply celebrate a few things that I know for sure now after doing life for 30 years. I certainly don't claim to know everything (after all, the proverbial phrase says "Life begins at 30"). But to me, 30 feels like the perfect time to throw expectations out the window and appreciate the wisdom gained because of the path God has lead me down. So here's what He's shown me along the way: 

turning 30

THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAN "PRETTY"

I actually wrote an entire blog post about this while I was abroad (see here) but the lesson is worth discussing again. I've been hard on myself at times for my physical appearance because our society glorifies pretty. We starve ourselves with crash diets. We spend billions of dollars on make-up and botox and anti-aging everything. And of all the wonderful people in the world accomplishing great things, our society idolizes the Kardashians for crying out loud. But one day in London when my pants felt snug from all the food I'd been trying in different countries and my roots had grown out from being gone so long- I realized I just couldn't care about that. These things that were making me feel less "pretty" were small prices to pay for the person I was becoming from all of my travel experiences. I don't want to sacrifice other detrimental characteristics on the alter of self-preservation. I want to live in a world where people care more about being kind and whole and brave and vulnerable than they do about being something nice to look at.  Looks fade, but your character doesn't. Be careful what you give your time and attention to. 

 

BE UNAPOLOGETIC ABOUT YOUR PASSION

I’m often teased (almost always in good spirit) about how often I travel. Friends will flip their hair and imitate me in a pretentious voice talking about “this one time, in EUROPE.”  Occasionally, I’m probed if “I’ll ever settle down” or asked “Don’t you get tired of always moving around?” And while I’m confident about my passions, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think something was wrong with me sometimes— that maybe I should get my head out of the clouds and come back down to normal life on planet earth. But one afternoon while I was abroad, I was taking a day trip from London to Cambridge with my friends Caroline and Caitlin (who are also travel bloggers).  We swapped stories about our time in the French Riviera or wine tasting in Spain or sailing in the Adriatic off the coast of Croatia. We also talked about our friends back in the states (they're both expats) and the differences of life here vs there.  None of us got tired of talking about it. No one teased each other or said the other was crazy or transitioned the conversation back to "normal" topics. We all got it. I thought quietly to myself that perhaps I wasn’t suffering from some Peter Pan syndrome- refusing to grow up. Perhaps I, like my new friends, was simply wired with deep , deep passion for travel that looked different from most of the people I know— and that’s okay. My point is simply this: whether your passion is travel, or music, or motherhood or global warming… be all in. Don’t water yourself down to be a less you version of you. There are others who share your same passion (and others who won't, but they'll love you even more because of yours). 

Cambridge, England with  The Belle Abroad . Photo by  Augusta Leigh Photography

Cambridge, England with The Belle Abroad. Photo by Augusta Leigh Photography

 

NOTHING GREAT COMES EASY

I spent the majority of my twenties pursing a good life. I realize now that while you may be able to get a perfectly good life from easy, you’ll never get a great one that way. The problem is that no one likes to be uncomfortable. In fact, we spend most of our lives trying to make sure that we are comfortable (hence yoga pants, Tempurpedic mattresses and even insurance policies). But having been extremely uncomfortable at varying times for the past few years, I can now say in hindsight that it's one of life's greatest gifts and the largest opportunities to grow. It's through heartbreak, emptiness, confusion and pain tend that we transform from good to great. So if we look closely, we’ll start to see that these things that are so damn uncomfortable are actually a result of God’s graciousness- not his punishment.

 

KNOW WHO TO INVEST IN

Life will take us in 10,000 different directions. We’ll meet people in different seasons and stay in touch for different amounts of time. When we're in our early twenties, it's easy to have lots of friends. We grab drinks with these people or go to parties with them. We grab coffee with them, network with them, and basically, fill our entire calendar with them.  But one of the most important decisions we'll ever make is who we continue to invest in in the long run. The world will always be filled with people and things who are screaming for attention, and we get to decide who and what we give ours to. It's imperative that we choose wisely. Ask yourself who continually points you to what is noble. Who goes deeper than fun and fluff and cocktails and is willing to have a difficult conversation with you when you need to hear it? Who would drop their Friday night plans to stay in with you when you're going through a hard time? Who challenges you to be a better version of yourself, believes in your dreams and loves all the parts of you (even the messy ones?) Who will always have your back- even if you're on the other side of the world? Invest in those people. Everyone else can still be icing on the cake and a sweet addition to your life. 

*Not uploading pictures of all my friends so I'm stopping here before I get sucked down a rabbit trail. But you know who you are. xx

 

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU

I used hate this phrase because let’s be honest, we all want it to be about us (especially in our twenties as we embark on our first decade of independence). But the other side of this coin has a deeper meaning I’ve come to appreciate. At some point in life, people will do things that hurt you deeply. And while it’s completely human and natural to take it personally, I’ve learned that 99 times out of 100 it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own pain, fear or insecurities (ever heard the phrase “Hurt people hurt people?”) This truth frees us up to walk away from painful experiences a little lighter, and able to focus on how we're going to move forward rather than worrying so much about "what we did wrong."

 

 

THERAPY IS WORTH IT

I used to think therapy was something you did if you’ve suffered a traumatic event or if your relationship is on the rocks. And while that thinking may be what initially got me to participate in the first place, I’ve long since learned that everyone can benefit from this tool, because let's be honest: we all have stuff to work on. I owe SO much of the growth in my twenties to the work I did in therapy. Learning how to articulate and embrace feelings, the benefits we can get from our feelings (even the "bad" ones), and the unique personality types that exist are a few of the may tools I now apply to my life on a daily basis. If you've never been, I sincerely can't recommend it enough. If that's not an option, might I suggest taking the Enneagram to learn more about your unique characteristics or reading The Voice of the Heart to gain a better understanding of the purpose of all the feelings. 

 

 

GRACE IS THE GREATEST GIFT

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back in time and change all the terrible or painful things that have happened to us? I used to think so. Until I wrapped my head around what a gift grace is. As my favorite author says, it’s “forgiveness without forgetting- which is sweeter than amnesia.” Grace is something we need over the entire course of our lives, but MAN do we need it in our twenties. We need it for the mistakes we make in our careers, with our finances, in our relationships... the list goes on. But rather than magically erasing those mistakes and starting fresh, grace lets us become more than what we were before all the terrible things we did (or even before the terrible things that were done to us). Grace is the greatest gift we'll ever experience: both when we receive it, but also when we're able to genuinely extend it to someone else. 

grace shauna niequist

 

 

LESS IS MORE

I spent a lot of my twenties dreaming about obtaining material things: a nice home, a nice car, designer purses... we all have a list. But one of my favorite things I learned from traveling Europe was the art of simplicity in regards to materialism. Having your entire life in a suitcase or two really teaches you how to strip away what you don’t need. For example: I don’t need six different moisturizers for my face (come to find out, I didn’t even need one- my skin does best without any of them). My experiences (whether at dinner with friends in Nashville or marveling at the Colosseum in Rome) are literally the exact same no matter what outfit I have on. I won’t croak over and die because I use hotel shampoo and not the fancy salon kind I typically prefer. While it was actually pretty painful to release some of the obsessions I had with material things (I felt SO ugly when I stopped getting eyelash extensions) I can genuinely say that I feel lighter, freer and happier having realized the value of people and experiences over things. Do I still indulge in materialism? OBVIOUSLY (I'm a human being for crying out loud). But knowing the difference between enjoying things vs. finding fulfillment in them has already provided so much freedom. I freaking love the life I get to live. It's a life where I live in a modest 1BR apartment (when I'm home), drive a Honda and often ball on a budget. But what makes it spectacular isn't any material thing. It's spectacular because it's a life filled with experiences and people that I love- like drinking champagne in the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower or watching the sunset in Granada with my best friends. I wouldn't trade a sliver of it. 

 

 

PAY ATTENTION TO SMALL DECISIONS

Pretty much all of us fret about life’s BIG decisions (especially in your twenties because there are arguably more here than in any other decade). But I’ve learned that the small choices are just as imperative. No one wakes up one day and suddenly has the blossoming business they’ve always dreamed of starting. Nor does one suddenly decide one day that they want to cheat on their spouse and ruin their relationship. We get to these places by a series of decisions and baby steps we make every single day. Whether it’s choosing again and again to work on your business for countless hours even when you have nothing to show for it, or choosing to avoid conflict in your relationship because you don’t feel like dealing with it and slowly building up resentment. Every little decision builds and builds until down the road, you have no idea how you got there. The result can be beautiful, but also tragic if we’re not careful. 

 

THE BEST IS YET TO COME

I know now that God has more in store for us than we could ever imagine.  No matter how dark life gets, I believe deep in my core that God specializes in redemption and longs to tell a beautiful story with our lives. My "life verse" that I pray every day is Ephesians 3:18-20. "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power together to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ever ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory forever and ever! Amen."

 

Amen indeed. God has been abundantly gracious to me in my 30 years of life, and I'm bursting with hope about all the life to be lived in the years to come. Thank you to all my friends and family around the globe who have already made me feel so loved + celebrated today. Let's do this, 30!

xx

Whitney

 

 

on becoming shauna niequist

CHANGING PLANS FOR THE UNKNOWN

rome colosseum italy

Ciao from Roma! I genuinely can’t believe it’s already the end of October… where has the time gone?! I’m mixing things up a bit on the blog this week- posting a *long overdue* travel guide later in the week and starting out with more of a general life post. So let's dive right in.

 

The last few months have gone by more quickly than any other months of my life. For those of you who are new around here, I’ve spent the last 13 weeks living abroad in Europe in pursuit of my dream to see as much of the world as I can. Early into the planning stages of this trip, I booked a plane ticket to fly home at the end of October, which would give me 3 solid months. Between visas, living out of a suitcase, the holidays approaching and how tired I anticipated I would be, it seemed like a good time to head home. 

 

Well, that scheduled flight was yesterday and I wasn’t on the plane. Long story short, I’m sticking around Europe for a little while longer- simply because I’m still not ready to leave. 

 

Let me pause to point out that I’ve never been the person to change a plane ticket or extend a trip. I’ve long been the girl who made plans and stuck to them. In fact, this sort of behavior is the kind I would have typically label as “running away from reality” or “throwing off plans”. 

 

But lately I’ve been coping with the (somewhat scary) reality that I don’t really have a clue what life holds for me after this trip anyway, so what “plans” would I even be breaking?

 

rome colosseum italy

The work it took to make this adventure happen required so much planning and organization, it’s truly been a full time job this past year. I’ve been asked more times than I can count “What’s next?” and I don’t pretend to know for sure. But I’m learning that “I don’t know” is a brave and honest answer we should all experience in our own due seasons of life. As my favorite author Shauna Niequist says:

 

“It’s okay not to know right now. That’s sort of the theme of this season for me— letting myself not know the answers to some very important questions. I have a couple questions I need to answer— largely about work & time & what to carry & what to put down. And I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to KNOW. But I just don’t. I just don’t know. 

 

Should you move? Should you stay? Should you change everything or stay on the exact path you’ve been on? Here’s what I’m holding onto right now: it’s okay to not know right this second. It’s okay to live— and even live well— in the uncertain in-between… because when it comes down to it, most of our lives are lived in the in-between. 

 

So here’s to trusting that we’ll know later, sometime down the road. Here’s to living with honesty & kindness & bravery & faith in the in-between. Here’s to not knowing right this second & letting that be absolutely okay."

 

There’s a lot about the future that I don’t know right now. But what I do know, is that this experience has opened my eyes in so many ways and continues to change me for the better more and more every single day.  

capri il farglioni italy almafi coast
santorini greece
santorini greece oia

You know what else I know?  This world is an incredible place. It’s a world with black truffle pasta in Italy and where the Eiffel tower sparkles every night. A world where we can get around by gondolas in Venice or Vespas in Rome. A world where you can go cliff jumping in Santorini or eat scones during high-tea in London. There are vibrant colors like the green grass in the Irish countryside and the turquoise blue water in Croatia. You can eat tapas in Barcelona or stroopwaffle in Amsterdam. You can drink champagne in Paris or sangria in Granada. 

granada spain al hambra
ireland dromoland castle

vespa italy rome

You can meet so many amazing and unique people: all who speak different languages and celebrate different holidays and listen to different music. They wear different clothes and laugh at different kinds of humor. 

And no matter how far you travel, you'll see the story of God being told everywhere: in ancient ruins, the stars in the Tuscan countryside, the sparkling Croatian waters- even the decadent French pastries. 

chianti countryside tuscany italy
santorini boat ride greece

So yeah, I don’t know what my next chapter holds quite yet, but I do know that this current one isn’t meant to be over for now. And so I’m staying in Europe until mid-December (someone cue “I’ll be home for Christmas”). First stop? Back to London for some more time with my sweet friend Haley

My only plan these next 6 weeks (aside from playing serious catch-up on the many travel guides I need to write) is to soak up as much of this beautiful, wonderful world as I can. To live well, right in the middle of my not knowing what’s next-- trusting God has answers and they'll come in due time. 

 

So let's be encouraged together-- regardless of whether or not we have answers to life's many questions. All of our stories are unique, but there's a lot of goodness for us all in the meantime.

 

I'm so excited to share more of the details from my adventures this last month with you guys! Stay tuned later this week for one of many travel guides to come (and in the meantime, be sure to sign up for LIKEtoKNOW.it if you haven't already... I'll have lots of helpful packing tips coming your way!)

xo, 

Whitney

Life Lessons Abroad: Thoughts on the Upcoming Election

Happy Friday! I'm so happy to be back in London town before I head to Amsterdam tomorrow (and I couldn't be more excited to reunite with my friend Sarah!) I'm currently having breakfast at one of my very favorite restaurants: sketch (my London blog post will be coming eventually but in the meantime be sure to look them up if you're coming here for a visit!)

sketch london parlour breakfast

 

On the way over here, Haley and I were discussing news back home in the states. We streamed the Today show (from yesterday... #confusing) while we were getting ready this morning and naturally, one of the most popular topics was the recent debate. 

 

I've been traveling all over Europe for two months now, and without fail I'm always asked the same question immediately once anyone here learns I'm American: "What do you think about the upcoming election?"

 

My honest answer is I don't care for either candidate. I won't get into reasons why, but needless to say I'm not exactly thrilled about whoever our next President will be. However, it's been incredibly interesting to witness this election process while living overseas. Not only have I heard countless opinions about each candidate from non-American citizens across the globe, but honestly I've been shocked by how much more they know about our candidates than a lot of people in American even do.  But aside from all of that, probably the most interesting thing to see has been how everyone back home discusses the topic on social media. 

I realize the banter is no different than any other "hot topic" we've experienced in the past- but when you're not home and seeing people face to face for a while, all you're left with is what you see them share online. And to be perfectly honest, it's been eye-opening and really disheartening. 

I applaud people for being passionate, and for having opinions. In fact, I'd argue people without either are living a life without purpose. But we've got to find a better way to articulate these matters without being so terrible to one another. 

bob goff quote love does

 

Earlier this year, I wrote an article that The Everygirl published on "How to Keep Our Differences From Tearing Us Apart". In light of recent events and my feelings in response, I felt compelled to share it again. My hope is that it will encourage you to deliver those passions and opinions of yours (which are all beautiful things) with a little more love. 


 

Negative attention seems to arise in every corner of our lives: From Instagram comments to break room chatter, it's almost unavoidable. In the news, controversy seems to sell even better than sex, so naturally our culture responds by magnifying anything that has drama. We’re constantly hearing about shootings in schools and movie theaters, the long list of couples in the spotlight who are calling it quits, or the divisive state of our political candidates. We develop polarized stances on issues that tear us apart—issues like gun control, race, and same sex marriage.

But we don’t stop there. We dissect far beyond the issue at large. We pick and cut and poke and stab all the way down deep to anything that’s remotely associated with each topic. Even fast food restaurants are tied to an issue (I’m still reading about Chick-fil-A how many years later?).

On a more shallow level, it’s become all too common for us to find humor in cynicism. We read articles about the kind of people to hate on Instagram. We follow influencers on social media or reality TV, pick them apart, and laugh. And yet, we don’t stop there. We take a snide comment made from one human to another, and feel empowered to take it to a public audience on the Internet via a tweet or a status.


 I typically try to refrain from participating in the banter of it all- the complaining, the rolling of the eyes, the Facebook rants, and all various forms of negativity. I’m often too exhausted or depleted at the end of each day to bother using any remaining energy on weighing in one way or the other. Liking someone's status that I nod my head “yes” to is about as good as it gets. And if I’m being really honest, I’ve refrained from letting myself become involved in a lot of these topics (which do matter, and which I should care about) simply because of the positions that come with each belief. They make me not even want to go there.

Because sometimes taking a stance signs you up to be included with a certain group of people. You’re slapped across the forehead with a label before you can barely get a sentence out of your mouth. And while I'm not ashamed of claiming anything I do believe, these complex issues are categorized in a two-dimensional way, leaving us all forced to over-defend or over-explain ourselves. It's exhausting just talking about it. 

 

The thing is, I really do believe it’s important to know what you believe in and to stand firmly in your beliefs. So that’s what I’m doing here. But this stance isn’t to coax you to take my side on a particular issue, to tell you why your opinion is ignorant, or to validate a belief of mine with some inspirational quote or recent poll that discredits yours. My simple hope for bothering to write this at all is to encourage you—whoever you are and whatever it is you believe so passionately—to do so with more love. 

You see, the people we don’t understand, the people who aren’t very nice, the people we disagree with, or the people who believe much differently than we do… they’re not going away. If you escape one, you’re sure to find another. And if we let ourselves respond to every offender with an equal response, we’re bound to leave each other angry, resentful, self-righteous, and deeply wounded. 

I know they can make you mad. I get what it feels like when the emotions bubble up and you want to scream. How all the common logic you could ever muster seems to shine the brightest floodlight on so much unintelligence or stupidity. But...

We have to believe that people are doing the best they can.

Sure, we could choose to believe differently, but do you really want to? Call me naively optimistic, but I want to live in a world where people believe that each other are good. A world where me tapping my foot and sighing impatiently at the post office is because I’m stressed and overwhelmed, not because I have a mean spirit. That when I feel bad about doing it later, I can believe the people around me assumed I was just having a hard day, and not that I’m a bad person overall. That regardless of how different an opinion may be from yours, it was likely formed because of many complex circumstances (whose roots go down deeper than the eye can see), and not just to piss you off.  
 
Maybe you don’t spew hate. Maybe you’re patting yourself on the back right now because none of the aforementioned things has left you feeling guilty. And while guilt is the farthest from my motives here, I do challenge you with this: Could you love more? 

Saying you’ll do this, love people more and assume they’re doing the best they can, makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It sounds good on a bumper sticker. But it’s important to note that it doesn't come without a cost. 
 
First, it will require you to listen. To actually listen—not just wait for your cue to jump in with a counterpoint. We can only be loved to the extent which we are known, and the same goes vice versa. How can you ever love someone if you’re too busy building a case against them or trying to disprove them?

 

Second, it will require you to habitually make choices that go against what feels natural. This means biting your tongue. It means letting go and moving on when you know you could probably win the argument. It means doing it again and again and again every time—instead of keeping some distorted “more good than bad” tally in your head.

 

Lastly, it will require you to be vulnerable. Vulnerability (by definition) is to be susceptible to being wounded or hurt, and open to moral attack or criticism. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing the best they can, and still loving them, means they may take advantage of you. They may call you weak or respond with other insults. They may question your motives, or speak ill of you. But somebody has to lay his or her weapon down first if peace is ever going to be made. 

None of the requirements above are easy, and I’m far from mastering any of them, so hear me when I say this isn’t any kind of attempt at self-praise. But it’s my hope that we can all do a better job of putting these into practice. Because I believe it’s the only way to make the world more a bearable (dare I say wonderful?) place to live.

It's not about changing opinions.

My hope is that regardless of your opinions, I can love you well. No matter what your stance on gun control, the presidential candidates, selfies, breastfeeding, SEC football, or GMO's. I want to expand my mind beyond the capacity of my own understanding. To listen to what you have to say and to assume it’s the best you can give. And to love you where you are. And I hope that you’ll find yourself able to do the same. To me, and to others around you. 
 

 


So let’s be mavericks. Let’s lay our weapons down, treat hate with kindness, and tear down walls that have kept us apart. Let's love each other relentlessly. Let's do the very best that we can. 


 

I'm off to soak in the last bit of London and time with Haley (for this trip anyway...) Thanks for stopping by, and wishing all of you a happy weekend!

xo

Whitney

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