Bring it on, 30’s

I tip-toed into my twenties without direction and scared to death. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, where I was going, or where to start. At 19, I moved back in with my mom from my first basement apartment because of panic attacks, and was making pizzas for a living. What a life, huh? When my best friend graduated high school, she suggested we find an apartment and go to MSU Bozeman together. I had sort of thought about college, but no one in my family had gone, so it wasn’t real high on my to do list. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted something different for my life than my current situation. So I got an apartment in Bozeman, and signed up for seven credits–without actually knowing what a credit was exactly. My first three classes were English, Aikido, and a Freshman Seminar.

Fast forward two years and I was ending a three year relationship and jumping into a new one, this time with a mean boy. I had dated other mean boys, but this one was the worst. He told me that I was boring, not good enough, not pretty enough, and would never amount to anything because of my anxiety. I believed some of what he told me, I had heard a lot of it before, but some part of me got angry and started to fight back–for the first time in my life, I stood up for myself. I’m very thankful for that awful relationship because it only lasted a few months and pushed me right into much needed therapy.

After some intensive work on my anxiety, complete with sorting through demons, skeletons, dirty laundry, and my love of mean boys, I emerged an evolved person. I declared a major. I traveled alone to a foreign country to volunteer.  I let a new man into my life–a really kind, gentle one. I traveled some more. I started to live a little, to breathe without shaking, to love myself a bit. I started stacking a foundation under my feet–healthy coping skills, self-awareness, confidence, healthy friendships. From my new foundation I began to blossom.

I married Matt at age 24. I had no question that he was the one for me, and I still don’t. By 25, I thought I had a handle on things. A job that I liked, plans for the future, an awesome partner, great friendships, a college degree, a house, and a new car–but I still had protective barriers around my heart, protecting me from my deepest fears. My anxiety came creeping back into my life. I was scared of the future still, or again. What if my plans fall through? What if my heart gets broken? What if I fail? What if everything isn’t going to be OK? What if I lose everything I love? What if I lose control of myself again?

That false sense of control was a problem. I’d dealt with my past traumas. I’d learned my negative patterns. I’d forgiven. But, I still felt that I had control of my life, and that I needed it to be at peace. It didn’t take too long, or too much therapy for me to realize that letting go of control, while scary as shit at first, was so much more peaceful than trying to balance the world on my shoulders. You mean I don’t have to worry about global warming, curing cancer, making everyone in my family get along, having the perfect marriage, or ending world hunger?! Say what?! This may seem obvious, but it was a difficult and crucial lesson for me.

My late twenties came with a lot of surprises, highs and lows. A job in mental health. Big trips around the world. A pregnancy. A miscarriage. Deaths in the family. Graduate school. A real job for Matt. Fertility treatments. Cultivating friendships. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s all part of my story. I’ve found that it’s getting easier for the blessings to soak in and to heal me, while the negative beads off faster than it used to. Confrontation is easier. I know that I have to teach people how to treat me. I know that I need to care for myself before caring for anyone else. I also know that my life will be spent caring for others. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I know what I want, finally…a helping career, a family of our own, to travel, to be a good friend, to savor each and every day that I’m given, to seek God and my bliss.

For me, being in my twenties was about falling, getting kicked around, wallowing, getting up, trying something new, getting stuck, making adjustments, keeping track of what worked, falling, getting kicked, wallowing, getting up, adjusting, growing. I’m twenty-nine now, looking at my dirty-thirty in one month! Along with pretty much everything else in life, getting older used to scare me. Aging gets such a negative reputation, yet, if we didn’t age, none of us would be here. It’s necessary, and how can I believe that aging is bad when each year has been better than the last, bringing new lessons, new love, and expanding my heart more than I thought possible? I learn, I change, I grow, and I am constantly enriched. Sure, I’ve packed on some pounds and some face crevices, but I feel more beautiful than ever. Sure, I’m still a nervous wreck at times and have crumby days filled with fear and doubt, but now I know that I will always be lifted from those dark places, and that I will lift others when needed.

So now, rather than timidly peaking around the corner into the next decade of my life, I’m like Goofy ski-jumping into my thirties–a little messy, clumsy, uncertain, but with faith in the process. Bring it on, thirties.

XO, Tobi