birthday cake with candles

5 Years of Surprises: Looking Back On My Thirties So Far

Well it’s here. My 35th birthday. *throws handful of confetti in the air*

I’m midway through my 30s and with each surpassing day, I’ll tip the balances to being slightly closer to 40 years old than 30.

Someone recently told me that I don’t seem like I am old enough to be 35. I made a joke that it was because I was so young at heart, but they were like, “yes, that’s exactly it!”

Anna and Elsa cardboard cutout

5 years ago, when I turned 30, I had a crazy-big Frozen-themed surprise birthday party. (It was awesome.) My parents even flew into town without telling me and showed up at the party.

My son Calvin was 6 months old at the time. I had quit my job of being a 6th grade reading teacher to stay home with him for one year. I knew I wouldn’t stay home forever, and had pretty much always intended to go back to work after taking a year off.

I figured I would get another teaching job, and life would continue on mostly the same as before (though now with the added challenge and privilege of being a mother.)

How wrong I was. So many unexpected and wonderful things have happened over the last 5 years that I could never have predicted. That surprise party was a foreshadowing of things to come.

For starters, I never got back into teaching. In fact, this very month, my teaching license actually expires (and I’m not renewing it!)

On a whim in 2017, I applied for a few library jobs because I thought that they sounded fun. I had always loved libraries and books and reading growing up, and I sometimes wondered if libraries would be a better fit for me than teaching. I also hated taking home so much work (aka. grading papers!) when I taught elementary and junior high kids. Teaching is not an easy profession!

I didn’t expect to get hired as a Research Librarian that year. I wasn’t qualified for the job and had zero experience working in libraries. I almost accepted another 6th grade teaching position instead, but that door got slammed in my face (and I’m so glad it did)!

I didn’t expect that I would go back to graduate school and get a Masters in Library Science.

graduation cap and gown (2019)

The surprises continued, not only in my professional life, but also my personal life:

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2022

My Word for 2022: Forgive

After writing my last post, it got me thinking a lot about forgiveness. It’s been a topic that has been surfacing again and again in the last few months, and I’m thinking that I need to take note of it. 

I have a hard time with forgiveness. I’m sure everyone does to some extent, but I realized recently that my personality is wired to make it extra challenging. I’m an Enneagram 1 – and Ones are described as having a “strong, innate desire for fairness, accuracy, and order. They tend be bold advocates for the rights of others and when healthy, may challenge the status quo to make push for reforms and equality.” 

The book The Road Back To You calls Enneagram 1s “Reformers.” But another word that is also accurate is “Perfectionist.” Ones don’t like mistakes. They want things to be fair. Getting taken advantage of, or seeing another person get taken advantage of, is extremely aggravating for Ones. Ones often have issues with resentment and unexpressed anger.

All of that mixed together in one personality can make it very hard to forgive. I think a lot of Enneagram 1s also find it hard to offer forgiveness to themselves, due to their constant inner critic. 

Fairness and justice are wonderful things. Being an advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves is awesome – and hooray to Ones for upholding those values. 

But it sure makes the world a hard place to live in sometimes. Life is not fair, it’s not always just. People are selfish and make mistakes. 

My personal focus for last year was “spiritual bravery.” I wanted to have more faith and courage in God. I wanted to release my desire to control everything all of the time. It was a good focus, and I’ve grown in faith and spiritual courage this past year. 

As I thought ahead to 2022, even though I was not super excited about it, all signs pointed to one word: Forgiveness. 

What were the signs, you may wonder? I had recently attended a Bible class at my church, and the teacher made the following statement:

“If you read everything that Jesus said in the Bible, and there’s not something that bothers you, you’re not paying attention.”

Randy Harris
Bible

He was specifically referencing Jesus asking us to forgive others, even those who don’t deserve it. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Then less than a week later, I found myself in a situation where I was really angry with a friend and needed to forgive her. I thought of a lot of reasons not to, and tried to rationalize with myself that she didn’t deserve for me to forgive her yet again. But then I remembered that Bible class, and I remembered what God calls me to do: forgive others. 

If I’m honest, I don’t want this to be my focus. (And that’s part of the reason why I am confident this is supposed to be my word for this year!) It’s going to be a challenge, and something that I am confident I will fail at many times.

But I know I need to be more intentional about fostering forgiveness, and I need to practice it more often so that hopefully down the road, it won’t be as difficult as it feels today. Honestly, I think the only way I’m going to make any progress at it is going to be through the grace of God, and his transforming power.

If you’ve grown up going to church or reading the Bible to any extent, you’ve probably heard many verses and sermons about forgiveness. So at this time, I won’t go into all the reasons why, from a Biblical perspective, we should forgive. (But if you’re interested, I found a site that goes into depth on 10 reasons why the Bible tells us to forgive – or you can always grab a Bible and do your own studying.)

My top reasons for wanting this to be my focus for this year do revolve around God and personal spiritual growth. But even if you don’t consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, there are still some great reasons to forgive others.

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Sorry board game

“What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?”

Do you ever randomly find yourself wanting to apologize to people for things you did like 20 years ago?

HarryMetSally

There’s a scene from one of my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally, where Harry asks the question, “what’s the statute of limitations on apologies?” He and Sally had met many years ago and had gotten off to a rocky start. Sally replies, “Ten years,” (the exact amount of time that had passed since they met). “I can just get it in under the wire,” says Harry, partly joking, but also partly serious.

Sometimes I’ll think back to elementary school or high school, and I’ll think about people I used to be friends with, but maybe I did something mean or stupid and we never talked again after that.

And now, looking back I’ll think, “why did I do that?” Sometimes it’s even more of an, “I can’t believe I did that!” kind of feeling.

I’ll admit, I’m occasionally tempted to find these people on social media and send them a message – but it just never seems right…

I recently rewatched The Office on Netflix for like the third time, and there’s an episode where Jim runs into a guy he hasn’t seen since the third grade. All during the episode Jim’s trying to avoid a conversation with this guy, and we eventually find out that Jim’s mom had told Jim he wasn’t allowed to be friends with this kid because he was in the “not-so-smart” kids’ reading group. Pam reassures Jim that he’s being ridiculous and that they are both grown-ups now so it doesn’t matter, and the scene eventually plays out where Jim is forced to confront his childhood friend.

Obviously, it doesn’t go well. Jim’s third grade friend is still mad that Jim considered him “too dumb” to be friends with. It’s overdone for dramatic effect, but I could totally see this happening in real life. There are certain people, who if I happened to run into them, their last memory of me might be from third grade. In their mind, I might still be that same person, instead of the person I am today – a person who has grown and matured to be more compassionate, empathetic, and socially aware – as probably almost all of us have since we were in third grade.

I tried to think of a person who, if I ran into them today, all I would remember when I saw them was something mean they did to me a long time ago. It wasn’t too hard to think of someone… there was this kid I knew when I was in 4th grade (he was in 5th), and we had an elective class together. His name was Patrick.

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