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I Thank My Twenties for These 10 Lessons

Foreword: One of fellow #gritandgracelife contributors recently wrote an article about why it is important to share your story. My 20s helped shape me into the woman I am now–a woman I am proud of, although I took some tumbles and falls and made hard choices to get here.

So with that said, I’m sharing 10 lessons I learned in my 20s…

Age 20: You can “go your own way…” As an undergraduate in my junior year at Appalachian State University, I was catapulted into my twenties with a new fervor for life. The first few years of my college experience gifted me many life-shaping experiences that helped mold me into the adult I was becoming. The road was a little messier than I had hoped it would be up to that point. Seemingly-innocent moments of collegiate fun had turned into hard-learned lessons that began to manifest in my day-to-day; and as a girl from a small southern town, I was learning quickly that there are all kinds of people in this world. Whether you go to college or not, you find out that all of these different kinds of people lead to all different kinds of roads—roads you may never have planned on traveling, ones that go against your family’s belief system, roads that are easier, or maybe some that are more difficult to traverse; you may even find yourself on a road that no one else has been down. Stevie Nicks sang to me for years, telling me I can “go my own way,” and I believed that beautiful gypsy soul. And honey, you should too. Know that, if by nothing more than the sheer nature of individuality, it is ok to “go your own way,” to forge your own path, to go against the grain, as they say. You don’t always have to do what those around you are doing. Remember the old adage, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” This knowledge—this truth that you can be who you are in every instance—is the first step on a long road to self-discovery. Which in my case, led me to the big city…

Age 21: Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville…” sure does sound like a blast, but the truth is—alcohol is dangerous. As a young professional in Charlotte, I was exposed to all kinds of different scenarios and venues where alcohol was at the heart of the culture. All of the sudden, you have a paycheck rolling in every week and time to kill every night after work. Your friends are all in the same boat, so you all cruise down the river together to Montford Avenue or to the Uptown bars and restaurants. Before you know it, you are drinking with every meal. Why not, right? It’s a celebration (to the tune of the Kool & the Gang). Maybe alcohol started off as a social catalyst in college, saved for mixers and tailgates, but now it’s turning into something more. Girls, don’t be fooled. You will struggle with alcohol if you let it become part of your day-to-day routine. It will get the best of you at some point; and for some women, the prices they pay for this kind of allowance can be severe. I’m talking blackouts, date rape, fights with friends, sleeping with guys you don’t even know, missing work, getting fired, etc. I have experienced or know other women who have dealt with all of these unfortunate side effects to this dangerous dance. But there is great news—it doesn’t have to be dangerous at all—if you don’t drink it. The downside to this great news is that most women won’t realize and/or admit they have a problem until it’s too late. Be careful on this slippery slope. It can follow you through life, tripping you up when you feel you have things most together…

Different kinds of people lead to all different kinds of roads.

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Age 22: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold em’…” At 22, I found myself learning all about balance, and I’m not talking the beam. Ok, well maybe Jim Beam. As a business networking professional, drinking is a part of your culture, and you have to know when you need to say no. But alcohol isn’t the only thing I was learning to balance. In fact, it wasn’t all bad. With the bad, comes the good. No, the great. The unforgettable. The heart-bursting, skin-tingling feeling of coming into your life and seeing it for the first time. Because you are finally learning that there are actions, and reactions, and those reactions affect those around you and those you care about most. You start to realize that the axe does eventually fall, and you need to be willing to own up for your mistakes. And this realization makes you want to start making less mistakes… So you start to balance a few more nights in with your nights out, a few more waters with your glasses of wine, and you start to find your way… You balance time spent with family equally with time spent with friends, because you are starting to realize that family is slipping further away and times together are fewer and sweeter. And eventually you start walking, one foot in front of the other, in a balanced rhythm of your own making…

Age 23: Step by step, day by day…” With the newfound appreciation for balance, I learned at 23 that I needed to start taking things day by day, and within each day, try to tackle each moment step by step. Living too far in the future, or hiding in regrets of the past, caused me to forget how blessed I was in each moment. I started to appreciate the moment I was in, and found that life got a little sweeter, the grass got a little greener where I was instead of on the other side of the fence, and that I was a little less overwhelmed. At age 31 today, I can honestly say this will probably be a lifelong struggle for me. I struggle with anxiety issues and have to constantly remind myself to take it step by step. As imperfect beings, we constantly find ways to trip ourselves up throughout life, so the need to remember to take it slow is important, because we will experience some hardships along with the blessings…

Age 24: Mama told me there’d be days like this…” Twenty-four dealt me setbacks and heartaches. My relationship from college was crumbling with time and distance, and I was beginning to realize that no matter how much I thought I had it all figured out, I still had a long way to go to finding myself. From these tribulations of the soul, I discovered what it was like to find strength in moments of doubt—to take faith in the unknown—instead of hide in the fear of what I couldn’t foresee. I found that for the first time in a long time I wanted the unfamiliar, sometimes frightening experiences that come along with self-discovery.  After all, I had learned enough from college and my early twenties at this point, I was willing to start finding out who I was. And that’s when I learned that even if you “go your own way,” you are going to need some help along the way…

With the bad, comes the good. No, the great. The unforgettable.

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Age 25: Lean on me when you’re not strong…I’ll help you carry on…” At 25 I was single for the first time really since high school. I decided it was time to end my at-the-time stale relationship. I have always been a “relationship person,” enjoying the companionship and intimacy that monogamy brings. I felt it was time that I figured out how to be single and not try to just jump into a relationship. And I found, at first, that it was hard. I was so used to having someone there to call at the end of every moment, every crazy happening, each day. I was used to having my weekends sort of “spoken for,” with the same old plans that I always had. I started to have to rely on my friends and my coworkers for the support I had gotten from my relationship. I started to create more friendships, and from those new friendships came new experiences. I started to branch out on my own and took up mountain biking, paddling boarding, and golf—all activities which I started doing all by myself. I used the resources around me to heal from the loss, even though it was my choice. And I found a way to carry on…

Age 26: “Anything could happen…” I used the 26th year of my life to “get it all out of my system.” I tried it all! I went to concerts, parties, clubs, country clubs, sporting events, baby showers, bachelorette parties, churches, volunteer opportunities, etc.  I was busy. This was the year that Ellie Goulding came out with the song “Anything Could Happen,” and I played it every single day of my life. It became my mantra, my life’s anthem, a tune that I could really buy into. Anything could happen, and let me tell you, friends—it is happening. If 26 taught me anything, it was to embrace it. Life has been full of nothing but surprises, all the carefully laid plans I had had fallen to the wayside as my life twisted and turned along the roads I chose, shocking me on a daily basis at how unpredictably beautiful life can truly be. With a new sense for adventure, I decided it was time to spread my wings, and so I packed up my whole life in North Carolina and headed south to sunny Florida…

Age 27: “I found myself further and further from my home…” My 27th year of life looked a lot like the old Bob who wrote “Against The Wind.” Older now, but still runnin’ against the wind. Like Mr. Seger, I set out from my home looking to make this huge, life-altering, incredible change, and instead I found myself lost and alone in an unfamiliar and unfriendly place. Looking back now, I don’t think at this point when I moved away from home that I ever thought I might not ever make it back to North Carolina—a realization that sometimes haunts and saddens me now. Even still, I was determined to try. I had moved to work at the Golf Channel on a show that aired at 7am. Those who know the business of TV just cringed a little for me, as they probably have deduced that my work day began at midnight, with crew call at 5am, on the air by 7. I was living a vampire’s life and I decided it wasn’t for me. After rekindling my relationship with my former romance after college, he and I just weren’t connecting like we wanted because of distance still, so I knew a change was needed. From being out on my own, I had discovered a new self-awareness, a newfound strength inside of me. A maturity that was being fine-tuned with time, distance, and new challenges of loneliness, independence, and unfamiliarity. I rallied the strength to change the course of my life forever, and I left the world of full-time television for a new life, and it has made all the difference…

From being out on my own, I discovered a new self-awareness, a newfound strength inside of me.

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Age 28: “There’s still time to change the road you’re on…And it makes me wonder…” I was in abundance of new beginnings as a 28-year-old. A new city, a new job, a new career path, and new friends. I was finally finding my way. The leap of faith I had taken to walk away, even though a little further from my home, had been so worth it. Even still, I had been hanging on to the familiar in the old relationship I had been hanging onto since college. This guy is truly a great person, and I will never have anything bad to say about him. Simply put, our lives were not meant for each other, not our entire lives anyway. We had given many great years to each other, and had been good friends for the last year of our relationship. Eventually, after months of being apart from his new, blossoming career (which kept him on the road the majority of the year) and countless hours of prayer and reflection, I made the decision to end the almost 7-year relationship in hopes of something that would better suit what I wanted and needed in my life partner…

Age 29: “How sweet it is to be loved by you…” And that’s when I met him…my husband. Jim changed my life at 29. I certainly hadn’t been planning on him. But he was the one that God had been planning and working on my entire life, getting him ready to become my husband, considering our separate circumstances and matching our lives together at the perfect moment. And that’s when I learned how sweet it is to be loved by the man that was meant to be my husband. More importantly, during this time, I also learned how sweet it is to be loved by myself. As of late, I have had a lot of time with pregnancy and being a stay-at-home mom to reflect on my 20s, and I have had to come to terms with a ton of mistakes. Mistakes that have cost me friendships, self-esteem, respect of others, etc. Grace-means-all-your-mistakes-purpose-FBIG-boardBut—I am not defined by the mistakes I’ve made. Why? Because it’s not who I am today! Today, I am a mother of a wild baby boy, a wife to the most passionate man, family to the most supportive and amazing people, and most importantly, a child of God. I take pride in the person I have become, and all the steps it has taken me to get there, even the ones that were not easy to take, or the ones that I wish I hadn’t taken in the first place.

My 30s have started off looking nothing like my 20s. Mother, wife, stay-at-home parent. I have never lived further from everyone I have ever known, and yet somehow, even though I have tough days, by the grace of God I’m given enough days that are full of love and happiness that I’m able to make it. Through the grace I give myself each day, life has become bountiful with love and blessings because I remember what I learned in my 20s: to love myself, to seek balance while living in the present, to lean on those around me but never forget my own strength, and to remember to go my own way because this will lead to new roads and new blessings. And hey girl, never forget—anything could happen.


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Jordan doesn't know a stranger-- and never will; constantly finding a way to connect with everyone she meets and uses these experiences to influence her writing. She loves all things southern--from cooking to football to the outdoors.

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