A few mornings ago I had a 90-year-old man, wearing a World War II Veterans baseball cap, come to my desk at work and ask if he could please place a birthday ad for his wife Betty. Betty is turning 85 years old. She was born in McMinnville, OR on March 16th, 1928 and graduated from Newberg, OR in 1946. Betty and her husband will be celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary on April 8th of this year. Sixty-six years! Leeroy informed me he would be turning 90 years old in June.
“I can’t believe I’ll be turning 90, can you?” he asked me, as if we were old friends.
“No I cannot, that is a lot of years in your pocket. Here I am freaking out because I will be turning 25!”
“You’ve only started to live,” he told me.
It doesn’t feel that way though. For some reason the number 25 has grown to be kind of daunting to me, especially the closer it gets to making it’s claim on my life. I have been reflecting on everything I wanted to have done by the time I reached this year. Be married, have kids, have traveled to places (outside the state of Oregon), recorded some music, written some short stories, that I’d be submitting right about now for publication, etc. It is a mental list, and my brain is telling me I am desperately behind.
I get a lot of flak from people when I tell them I am concerned about this. “You have plenty of time,” is usually the response I get. Some of what I hope to accomplish in life can be seen as archaic – getting married, having kids, “settling down.” This is especially true for those who feel becoming a wife/mother is one giant step backwards in the women’s movement. That movement is hardly over. I believe, however, that it is natural for our genetic makeup to have those desires. I refuse to feel guilty about it, or as if I am focusing on something that is lesser in life. I’m not quite sure how we have turned the world into a place where women feel they have to choose between marriage and a career.
After talking with Leeroy (he smelled like Big Red gum), I hope I am as lucky as his wife Betty. After 66 years of marriage he still wants to celebrate her 85 years of life. If we had the space he would have done an entire write-up on Betty, I learned a lot about her as he boasted away in front of my desk. I loved every minute of it.
“66th anniversary coming up, you need to find someone that you can live with that long. Makes life better, if you ask me!” That was his birthday advice, told to me as he stared lovingly at a picture of young Betty.
So no, I am not going to feel guilty for wanting to get married, or hoping that it happens sooner rather than later. The more years that go by, the less there will be for me to spend with whomever is
unfortunate lucky enough to marry me. I won’t feel bad for wanting to have kids to love and nurture, or wanting to travel with my family verses going it alone. Even if I am a little old-fashioned in my relational life it does not mean I am any less of a forward-thinking woman in other aspects, because as we all know women are multifaceted beyond belief.
I used to think I would be vastly different by the time I reached age 25. I thought I would be cool and collected, and be singing Ted Koehler’s words, “I’ve got the world on a string.” I used to wish I could fast forward my life until this moment where I reach that pinnacle year for a woman. Twenty-five was supposed to hand me over answers and explanations, and the security in who I am. Twenty-five was supposed to be my doorway into entering my life. The “real” life.
Why did I used to dream of a different life and not just plunge into the one given me?
I’m turning 25 and what I have learned in life so far is that nothing matters if God is not involved. Nothing matters. Every little thing I have done so far in my 25 years that has strayed from what God wanted for me, landed me in a sticky mess that always took far longer than was comfortable to clean up. Many learning experiences in 25 years, many moments where I realized how truly blessed I am.
I may not be married yet, be having babies along with my sister, or be as successful with a writing/music career as I had hoped, but God has given me gift after gift. The first and foremost being His unfailing love and mercy towards me. He has also given me a family that has pushed, supported, loved, and helped me through this first quarter century of my life. I only hope to be as close and happy with my family when I reach 90 years as Leeroy was with his.
Here is to another year of drawing closer to God and trusting that what He has put into my heart will never be ‘wrong’ in His eyes, even if it appears so to others. Here is to learning new lessons, as I am sure there will be many to tackle, and remembering to be true to who I am. Here is to relishing in the fact that I am still in my twenties, and that God’s timing is always perfect. I am not behind in life like my brain tells me, I’m just on time!
Happy Birthday to me!