Last week it was cold enough in Nashville for a chance of snow to be indicated in the forecast, today it is nearly 80 degrees. I am currently sitting at my desk with the window wide open, listening to the sounds of a city street pre-rush hour while the air flirts with the idea of an early spring. Just minutes ago I was scrounging to find a summer candle to replace all of my holiday ones, and I listened to NeedtoBreathe the whole way home from work because nothing says more hours of daylight like blasting “Drive All Night” with the windows down. Never have I ever been so ready for this change.
There is something about a glimpse of spring in the winter that makes me incredibly anxious. The second warm air begins breathing life back into the city, I begin making a list of all the things I need to do. I need to go to the park and read outside and get Urban Juicer and write with my windows open and walk around Percy Warner or the entire day will surely be a waste. I must fully soak in and live this glorious spring day, because the rest of the week looks like rain and this moment is fleeting. The tease of a new season pulls me out of any contentment I may have had and creates an ache that sits heavy on my chest. I long for the sun-bathing-park-going-water-centered days of summer in a way that is almost painful.
This is what 25 feels like. One long winter sprinkled with a few springtime days that create a longing in my heart for seasons I am not yet in. An ache sits heavy on my chest as I grow acquainted with the tease of an unknown future. I get a wink of the possibility of having a creative career or living in a house that I can host small groups in or maybe just getting out of this season of life where I set an alarm for 5am every day, and then the moment passes and I'm back to naked tree branches and air so cold my car barely starts.
I told a table of friends the other night that I haven’t yet had a crisis about turning 25. I am an ambiguous dreamer, not a future goal setter, so I’ve never had a picture in my mind of what 25 would look like. I didn’t necessarily think I would be married or having babies (Lord have mercy) or hitting certain career milestones by the time I hit my mid twenties, so I didn’t feel like I was coming up short when I blew out my candles this past December. I have a job I’ve learned to be grateful for; I get to travel and write; I have friends to laugh and drink margaritas and process life with. Sure, there are many boxes on my career to do list left unchecked and someday down the road a family would be nice, but my life is full. And, up until this week, I really did believe that was enough.
Then something snapped. It could be that I’ve been working too many hours or that I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable or that I worshipped to the Bethel song "Take Courage" on Sunday, but the 25-year-old crisis that I thought I had side stepped has come knocking on my door and it is seeking vengeance. The M.O. of my weekend quickly became an angsty “I am tired of waiting”. I am tired of knowing exactly what I want but not knowing how to get it. I am tired of feeling stuck and bored. I am tired of the same routine. I am tired of living in no man's land somewhere between Far Too Settled and Constant Transition.
For the first year and a half after I graduated college my life was a whirlwind. Spontaneous travel plans and working at a summer camp and taking a job that looked different every single day. I still have a piece of paper hanging from my rearview on an old necklace chain that says “The glory of God is man fully alive” from the time I drove my car across the country a month after graduation. I look at it every morning when I go to work at 5:45am and it splits open a longing deep within me. I don’t do well with the ordinary. I don’t want to succumb to routine. I want my life to always be as adventurous as it feels when I am jet setting to somewhere new.
The longing for somewhere I’ve been or somewhere I could be but am not yet feels like the 80-degree day in the middle of February. It creates an ache in me. It invites anxiety to take hold as I make lists and plans to soak it in for all its worth. It leaves me bitter and resentful when the next day is in the 40s and I realize that it was only a tease, not an actual change of season. These glimpses always beg the question: “is this the way it will always be, or can I hope for summer? Can I hope for relational change? Can I hope for a career I really love? Can I hope to feel less stuck?”
The answer that I have clung to for the last 6 months is that this is all a lesson in being content. God has given me the gift of a steady schedule because my heart needed the discomfort of routine. I needed to learn to stay and plant roots and do boring things with gratitude instead of running away. And in a lot of ways, I still believe this is true. But I’m also wondering if contentment, at least attached to the definition we often use meaning, “don’t you dare want anything more than this”, is a giant fallacy. Our hearts long for things and not only is it normal and a side effect of being human, it is also one of the clearest pictures of our desire for something more than what this life can give us—it points us to our desire for God.
I do not have almost any of the answers I would like to have about the balance of being both grateful for the place I’m in right now and allowing myself room to dream about adventures to come, but I know that God shows up in the longing. He shows up in the spontaneous plane ticket purchases and the morning stroller walks to Ugly Mugs and washing the dishes. He shows up and listens to our angst, redirects our dreams and whispers that he is the ultimate answer to our longing. Our hearts were made to be satisfied in him. It is okay to acknowledge and make space for our longings, and just as I opened my window this afternoon and invited in the promise of a new season in the midst of February, it is okay to be both grateful for winter and cling tight to the hope for spring.