There are certain times of year that naturally push me to spend a bit more time reflecting than I spend doing. Those times of year tend to coincide with natural transitions–the turn of a new year, the change of seasons, and of course birthdays. This year, as I inch closer and closer to the three-decade milestone, I am finding myself feeling both nostalgic and reflective.

The result is this series of blog posts over the 10 days leading up to my 30th birthday in which I am sharing a total of 30 lessons that I have learned in 30 years of life.

Accountability Matters
This is a lesson that I have learned in waves and in cycles. Having another person in my life to hold me accountable to following Christ and living a life that exemplifies my faith has become absolutely invaluable. If nobody is asking the hard questions, then it is really easy to just skate through life holding up a mask of perfection. There has got to be a person (or a few persons) who knows the real you, flaws and all, and loves and accepts you in spite of all of that. And, that same person ought to be one who makes you better, challenges you to grow, and prays for you. This was really easy for me in college and got really hard after graduation. I am so grateful that I have finally managed to open myself up to an accountability that may look a little different in a different season of life, and for all of the friends and companions who have journeyed with me throughout these 30 years in ways that have pointed me to Christ when I have difficulty seeing beyond my own circumstances. Accountability matters and it is absolutely worth the effort that it takes.

Be Yourself, Unapologetically
My personality is a little quirky. I’m a people-loving introvert. I love to goof off and have fun, but I am a deep thinker and tenacious in pursuing my passions. I am focused and distracted. I am adventurous but I love being at home. In short, I often feel like a walking contradiction. Scott and I were talking a bit yesterday about birthdays, parties, and friends. As a result of my often contradictory personality and tendencies, I have always had a really eclectic and vastly different (from each other) group of friends. In high school, I thought of all my friends in their different boxes. There were my church friendsband friendshonors class friendsclass friends, etc. and though there was some overlap in those groups, I always tended to think in compartments. As I am approaching 30, I am realizing that instead of putting all of those people into compartments and boxes, it’s better to just look at it this way: I have friends, and they are my friends. They represent different seasons of my life, different passions and interests, and representative of who I am. At birthday parties in high school I used to feel like I had to apologize to this group of friends that my party also had people from that group. Essentially, I was apologizing to friends who shared a single interest with me for another part of who I was and the people that represented that part of me. And you know what? I’m done with that. I’m done apologizing for who I am and for the people who are in my life because of who I am. It’s taking time, but I’m learning to be myself, and to be who God created me to be, quirks and all, unapologetically.

The Only Failures in Life are the Ones You Don’t Learn From
The perfectionist in me has had a really hard time with this one. I want everything to be perfect all the time. I want my marriage to be perfect, my work to be perfect, my youth ministry to be perfect, my friendships and relationships to be perfect, and my family to be perfect. I want to set goals and achieve them. But the reality is, that sometimes I mess things up. In fact, I find that the older I get, the more I mess things up. I fail to keep in touch with friends that really mean a lot for me. I fail to catch every detail leading up to a youth event and end up derailing some part of a really important program. I fail at living up to my own standards of what it means to be a good wife, sister, and daughter. I fail miserably much more than I would care to admit. But I have learned (especially through my 20s) that the key to failure is failing well. That means, whenever a failure comes my way, it only becomes a true failure if I don’t take the time to learn from it. If I don’t take the time to look through the chaos of my own mistakes and say, “okay, how can this be better next time?,” then (and only then) have I truly failed. Regardless of the success or failure of anything I (or we) do, Scott and I have lots of conversations where we ask three questions: What went well? What didn’t go well? and How can this be 10% better next time? Those questions give opportunity for celebrating success and learning from failure in a way that has transformed the way this perfectionist views mistakes, blunders, and failures.

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One thought on “30 Lessons in 30 Years (Part VI)

  1. Good insights, Erin; I am reminded of Ann Klotz, principal at my daughter’s high school, who repeatedly instructed the students at that school to “fail gloriously!” 🙂

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