As an essay I wrote not long ago began, “I grew up traveling the world. As the tow-headed daughter of an Air Force officer, I learned my first English words in Japan. I sailed into puberty in Hawaii. I woke up to flaky, chocolate croissants in Paris on my 13th birthday — and attended Oktoberfest long before I could enjoy the heavy steins of rich, frothy beer.”
And then, adulthood approached. In 1999, I graduated from high school — and walked across the senior stage as the ever-so-ubiquitous Green Day song wailed, “I hope you had the time of your life.”
And that, I did.
By the time I was 21, I had attended two different elementary schools, two different middle schools, two different high schools — and two different colleges. I had lived in seven cities across four continents. I had experimented with fashion styles from preppie to hip hop to surfer chic, and my musical tastes and boyfriend “types” changed as quickly as my outfits. But while I was figuring out how to fit in with every new teenage culture, I was also growing a sense of self all my own.
And next month, I will be thirty. Thirty. (I like to say it again so it sinks in.) It is the age where those who were lost are often found and, perhaps even, “grow up.” The age where you no longer have the excuse of “being in your 20’s” when it comes to traffic tickets or too many glasses of wine. And for me, it is an age that feels good like a pair of jeans that have been worn into the perfect fit.
If statistics have their way, I am 1/3 of the way through my life — a life that has given me so much joy, and in the harder moments, so much wisdom. Every decade has brought lessons that served as colorful threads, weaving me into the woman that I am today.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Roll with the waves.
I lived in Hawaii for five years of my prepubescent childhood.
I was a sun-bleached blonde with tanned, freckled shoulders in a one-piece bathing suit that rode up my backside. My family took frequent trips to the beach on weekends — and I would throw caution to the wind, bolting full force across the hot sand into the crisp, salty waves with my boogie board.
Though I steered clear of sand crabs and neon jelly fish, I learned that there were some things I couldn’t control. Mostly, the wipe out. In a sudden fall of a water wall, I was thrown from my board, flung like a rag doll, and disoriented with a mouthful of sand.
But eventually — after scary moments of swallowing sea water and gasping for air — I learned that the best way to handle a wipe out was to go limp. To let go. To trust that soon enough, I would be popped up with the flow of water. And before I knew it, I was able to breathe again. In a moment of exhilaration and a gulp of fresh air, I was able to get back on my board. And so it has been, time and time again.
Plant some roots.
Fifteen years later, I met my husband, Matt, in a smoky bar in downtown Ft. Worth.
He was a good ole’ Texas boy who grew up amongst the towering pine trees north of Houston — and his sweet, southern charm and gentle blue eyes did me in. But what Matt has taught me — among many things — is the power of roots.
Growing up in one place his whole life, Matt was surrounded by a warm blanket of friendships that started in his youth. The men and women that are now both of our closest friends have shared graduations, weddings, babies’ births and grandparents’ deaths.
And though I have made friends across the world, spanning oceans and state lines, I have been easy to let go and move forward — sometimes too easy. I’ve grown to understand the value of these relationships — and of taking the time to plant roots and water them. After all, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”
As I’ve grown older, I’ve held tighter to my friendships. I’ve reignited old ones and welcomed new ones. And I’ve begun to plant roots that my children can grow from. Ones that will keep them grounded for years to come.
Have flexible plans.
Two months after my 29th birthday, I received a special gift.
In the hospital room, in the middle of the afternoon, after 6 short hours of labor, we met Kate — and, as many of you know, we were surprised to learn she had Down Syndrome.
And though, at first, it seemed as though everything I had planned for life was falling away — I soon realized: she was what we had been planning for all along.
The waves got rough, and I let go. The ground was shaken, and we clung to our roots. And in the last year of my third decade, I learned the biggest lesson of all: the purpose of life is to love.
We spend our whole lives trying to figure out what our purpose is – what we’re “called to do” – but nothing is more fulfilling, meaningful and purposeful than the simple act of loving. And our tiny baby – along with her big brother – will remind us of that, every day, for the rest of our lives.
But for now, I’m almost thirty. And after years of traveling, I’ve arrived exactly where I’m meant to be.