Whoa, I’m thirty.
I’ve been letting it sink in since it happened on Friday, February 17, because before that, I never really thought about or feared turning thirty. Then it happened and, well, I’ve survived so far.
So many people talk about how much better your thirties are than your twenties. Twenties are messy and weird, and when you get to your thirties you start to finally feel settled, maybe, or you finally feel comfortable in your own skin, or you know what it is you believe in and stand for, or you no longer care what other people think. Or maybe all or none of the above, but the more I hear about other’s reflection on their thirties, the more excited I am to be here.
As much as I’m looking forward to this new chapter, I also feel the importance of taking a small moment to look back. Not to see the things I would have changed or done differently (because there are a LOT of those), but to see the growth and lessons.
I entered my 20’s as I left my first long term relationship. I wanted to “discover who I was” so that I could be the best version of myself. What I discovered was that I loved parties and could recover quickly from hangovers. I found that I was self-conscious, self-centered, angry, and had NO idea who Hannah was.
Until I found relationship #2, and I could be a version of Hannah that I could hold to a certain standard that would help make that relationship work, and ground myself in this idea that I was no longer one person because I was with someone.
Can you imagine that that one didn’t work out either? Even with that mindset?
I quit the relationship, quit college and ran off to the mountains to find my happiness in a quiet and tiny town. I was surrounded by beauty – soaring mountains, wild rivers, trails to explore, nature in its serious perfection, and I had some of the best people around me – but running away from things that made you sad does not all of a sudden make you happy, and when I ran, my demons followed me, and for the next two years of my twenties I was in the darkest hole of my life.
The thing with depression is that you don’t always see it when you’re in it. I thought I was happy enough, but looking back I see so much anger. I stayed in bed until I had to get up, and rarely took in the insane blessings being handed to me. I treated others badly, and myself worse.
I finally made the 27 hour drive back to Grand Rapids, and surprised my mom on her birthday by telling her, “Hi, can I move home?”
I was 25 years old. Still fighting depression, anxiety, and the sense of being totally lost. I felt like the Prodigal Son (er, daughter). My parents had no reason to be excited for my return home. I was poor, needy, and nowhere near being the adult you pray your child will some day become. And yet, they welcomed me with open arms and tears of joy. Thank God.
Those years out west did give me a lot to learn from, and when I got home I decided to go all in and love myself. This was a first for me, and it was a long, hilly, bumpy, winding road with terrible signs to direct me.
I would take myself out for coffee dates, all alone with no materials to keep me occupied, other than perhaps a journal. This was foreign territory and I did NOT know the culture. I felt uncomfortable as I sat and sipped, but I did it anyway.
I took myself out for happy hour, for nice dinners, for shopping excursions, for long walks and hikes, and I slowly started learning the things that made me happy. Yes, at 25 I was learning my happy places.
And the darkness slowly started to lift.
When 26 came I was certain no good men were left to date and I would not so quietly complain about my slim-pickings. My vow to love myself was cool and all, but I was more than ready to share that with someone. Five days after I sobbed to my sister about the lack of half decent guys, Ryan showed up to my restaurant. If you don’t know the story, here it is, but after meeting him I know why I never felt truly content and whole in my own skin. I was missing him. I don’t want to give him too much credit, because I totally think that if he and I had not ever met, and if I was still single, I would still be happy. Listen, I always said, after relationship #2 that I didn’t think I would ever get married, or have kids. I had had two great relationships with two great guys, and neither of those worked, so why in the world should I assume that I would actually be able to thrive with someone else?
I think God was waiting for me to love myself before I could ever really thrive in a healthy relationship, and then he threw Ryan into mix just to top it all off. Like a cherry on top. Thanks, God!
A couple weeks after meeting Ryan I went to church with him, and for me, this was the first time in years. I felt my resolve to not need faith crack instantly. My very bones knew I needed God and couldn’t deny it. I was shaking and teary minutes into the service.
To this day, Ryan encourages me in my faith, my health, my dreams, and my passions. Even the things I don’t think I’ll be good at, he’s pushed me to believe in myself. I am so thankful God sat him at table 26 in seat 4.
Anyways, Ryan asked me to marry him when I was 27 years old on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan as the sun set. I walked down the aisle to him during a winter evening with lights twinkling and candles glowing when I was 28. We got into our first massive fight that same year and learned that we can heal through communication. I now try to over-communicate everything, to everyone. Like, way TMI. Forcing myself to talk about tough things was light I didn’t know existed.
It was that same year of being 28 that we found out I was pregnant, and then lost that sweet angel 12 weeks in. When we left that appointment our doctor reiterated that we should be careful to let my body heal, and not try to get pregnant again for at least a month.
And before that heartache even had time to subside, we found we were expecting again. It was 3 days before Christmas, just 7 weeks after the miscarriage, and I was 6 weeks along. When the ultrasound confirmed our hopes our doctor said with a smirk, “So I told you to wait a month before trying again and you basically walked out of my office and did the exact opposite.” Woops.
At 29 I met our son, Samuel, and realized God had to have laughed every time I said, “I don’t want kids.” Because, give me all the kids. I now fully understand the fiery love of a parent, the kind that will go to hell and back again for them. It’s on another level.
I’m so thankful for Ryan and my parents and family, and for the people in my life that managed to love me through my twenties. These are and always will be MY people. The people who love you through the messes, mistakes, and lessons. You know, all that life stuff.
So, last Friday I welcomed 30. I welcomed it in this home of a body. This thing I’ve put through the ringer, this person that I now invest in with great intentionality. I have learned through this past decade to always put first my faith, my marriage, my family, my mental and physical health, and because of that I have found happiness deep in my soul.
Who knows if what everyone says is true. Maybe your thirties are what everyone says, maybe not, but I walk into this decade with every sense of optimism.
I say “goodbye” to Hannah’s Twenties with a thankful heart.
To Hannah’s Thirties,