Several of my friends on The Book of Faces shared a link from Relevant Magazine. Relevant is the hip, street-wise version of Charisma, a Pentecostal/Charismatic glossy pictorial. Relevant is blandly Evangelical, full of shallow theology and is chock full of pictures of young people who entirely too happy to be following Jesus (not to be redundant). Shauna Niequest wrote the article, “11 Things to Know at 25(ish)”. It has some great nuggets of wisdom like going to some counseling, not rushing into relationships, staying out of debt and keeping things fresh.
Yet, much of it is the same tired and tawdry self-help shlock. For example, the first point encouraged you to take chances and to realize that when you’re in your twenties, you don’t necessarily have to be in your career path. Yet, the second encouraged you not to be in debt. Here, of course, is where the proverbial rubber meets the grindstone. If you can’t keep down a job — even a terrible, soul-crushing but steady job – how in the world are you going to pay for all this soul searching? You have two options: either get further in debt or let your parents pay for it. Neither of these options, though, encourages independence or adulthood.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation: You spend most of the day hanging out in Starbucks, writing your terribly interesting novel (say, a thinly-veiled autobiography retold through a feral child, marital infidelity and a Mountain). You take a class on pottery. You study Eastern meditation and take up Yoga. You quit one job because your boss tells you that you can’t wear your sneakers to work. When anyone expects anything of you – even the least kind of misty commitment – you throw up your hands and yell, “I don’t even know what I’m doing here. This is not me. This is me. I’m a great person.” (Seriously, go watch that video.)
You do all of this (and more!) because you don’t want to get stuck while you’re trying to find yourself. So, you go onto your next menial job, somehow mysteriously paying for all your sneakers, your Mac and your daily five-dollar soyorgaicchailattewithtwosugarsnofoam.
Just like in Relevant, most advice for twenty-somethings keeps emphasizing that you should never get stuck. Yet, what my twenty-something fellow Christians don’t realize that a huge part of following Christ is choosing to be stuck with him and with his church. I need not remind you that we are called to be faithful to the cross of Christ. I need not remind you, also, that faithfulness is choosing to stay stuck. Longsuffering, an oft-forgotten fruit of the Spirit, is sorely missing from my generation. When the going gets tough – like when our bosses ask us to not wear our sneakers – we ditch everything and move onto something else, saying, “This is not me. I’m a good person!” Whatever you have to tell yourself to sleep at night.
So, in light of this, here is some advice I wish the Relevant article had mentioned:
1) Act your age
You’ve moved out, graduated from College or started life. You decide to start it off by acting irresponsibly with your first taste of freedom: you have parties, you blow your paycheck within a day and you sleep around. In short, you make lots of bad decisions. I know that many of my fellow twenty-somethings can tell that story.
The good news about this is that people expect it from a College Freshman. They will laugh it off, saying, “Oh, they’re just young, they’ll grow out of it.” But, when you’re twenty-eight or thirty-years-old, no one will give you any excuses. They’ll probably be ashamed for you because you don’t have the good sense to be ashamed of yourself.
So, if you want to have a second adolescence or a Rumspringa in your mid or late twenties, I give you six months. If you haven’t straightened up and settled down at the end of that, you get no more excuses. We should expect each other to act our respective ages, as there is nothing more pitying than one who is physically past their prime but emotionally a sixteen-year-old. Not that you care but people are actually expecting things from you. For God’s sake, act your age.
2) Expect to be disappointed.
The Atlantic (a much better publication for your soul) had an article recently from Lori Gottlieb on how the drive of parents to over-protect their kids is actually doing them great harm.She basically writes that if you’ve spent most of your life being praised and protected by your parents, you will be less prepared to deal with disappointment. Is it any wonder, then why we, who won trophies in elementary school for just showing up, are experiencing depression when we get out into the real world? Go, read that article.
Most twenty-somethings have never dealt with disappointment, so when we start dealing with a terrible economy and that that most of us are working dead-end jobs to make ends meet, we do not have the psychological prowess to deal with it. We’ve been told our whole lives that if we just work hard enough and try our best, we will win. How many times were we told, “If you just graduate College, you get an awesome job!” Most regrettably, this not how the real world works. And, most twenty-somthings are not prepared for this. I surely wasn’t!
So, I advise you to expect to be disappointed and expect life to be hard. No one will give you a trophy for just showing up, but you should give thanks when your hard work is acknowledged. Don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards for you but be grateful when they do. Remember, your happiness is only the priority of those who love you.
3)You will never find yourself.
As far as I know, no one ever finds themselves. In fact, the whole idea of “finding yourself” is preposterous, as if your true self was apart from you! You know who you are, because you wake up with that person every day. Your true self speaks through your voice. Your true self acts through you. Your true self cannot be discovered or created. Your true self is only revealed. And, it is revealed on a daily basis to other people through what you say and what you do.
We all know this. The problem is that very few of us like that true self that we live with every day. So, we prepare a bunch of masks to show to everyone else. We try on different philosophical ideas, hoping that it will change that true self. We try different activities and roles to shape in a way that we think it should be shaped. We overeat, do drugs, have promiscuous sex, etc. to shut it up. We try to control our true self, to compose it as if we were carefully-crafted symphonies.
And, yet, all the time, there remains our true self, hidden under all this garbage that we’ve piled on top of it. One of the Desert Fathers once said, “Go into your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” Since we’re not monastics, I suggest we say to one another, “Go into yourself and there God will teach you everything.”
Stop trying to find yourself, but, rather, let your true self show in every circumstance, day in and day out. For, you can only truly reveal your true self when you suffer. It is revealed when you suffer in this bad economy or when you suffer disappointment after disappointment. As St. Paul once put it, “. . . suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 3:3-5)
It is time for you to stop searching; it is time for you to shine.
Don’t tell me what you’re doing.
Show me who you are and tell me who you are becoming.