Thirty Freakin’ Years.

No better way to show my age than to write a blog post.  d=

30 Years.  This last one has been a busy year, full of changes and expenses and excitement.  Another baby, a real house, and a big boy mortgage to go along with it.  Not to mention a whole lot of repairs and updates on the side.

To be honest, I never thought I’d make it this far.  Going back to my darker years, I always anticipated that I would die young.  23 was the number I had anticipated.  Yet here I am, 7 years later, so blessed that I almost feel guilty about it sometimes.  Our parents support us with childcare and food to an extent that I probably wouldn’t consider reasonable, we’re living in a place that we love, and friends old and new have cared for, loved us, and visited us even as we wrestle with new transitions and our tendency to be homebodies.  Even in a season where we are still trying to find our footing spiritually, God has continued to be incredibly generous to us.

At the same time, life has continued to deliver its sobering moments.  For the 4th time in 8 years after graduating, my closest friend at the time is moving away.  In the last month, I’ve learned not one, but two lessons in how insurance is an unforgiving system, and if you don’t fully understand all the details of your policy, the cost can be rather shocking.  Perhaps for the first time ever, I feel a some real financial pressure, with 2 children, a substantial mortgage, while working at a company that feels like it’s been spinning its wheels for years now.  Dipping farther into the war chest than I thought we would need to in the first year after moving.  There’s still some messy family drama in which I don’t really know what my role is.  Finding a new church has been a confusing process.  But I know that if these are my complaints, that frankly speaking, I am spoiled.

I’ve had to think about money a lot more than I prefer to in the last year, and I think it’s challenged me greatly in the areas of trusting money vs God and what it means to be frugal, and whether I really am or not.  Prior to buying our house, I crunched the numbers on our mortgage over and over.  What can I do to to get our rate lower?  What’s a comfortable monthly payment?  How much should we pay down our principal?  Is it better to pay down debt or invest the money?  Can we pay our house off faster?  These questions needlessly echoed through my head for weeks.  When the deal on the first house fell through, I was anxious and stressed about whether we’d recoup the lost money, or whether we should take legal action and pursue the house.  Then we bought the other house, and all sorts of questions on what to fill our house with, which things to remodel now and which things to wait on stormed into the picture.  Is framing something as an “investment” really me being truthful with myself or is it just a way to justify buying something that I want?  How pre-emptive should we be with repairs?  Even with what I thought was pretty decent planning, the expenses of the move have far exceeded what I anticipated.  There are so many hidden costs in a house that I never really thought about when we lived in our condo.

I continue to have more and more appreciation for what our parents did to get us to this place, and the kind of frugality that many of them continue to live their lives with even after their costs have been greatly reduced and they have the means to spend more money on themselves.  Of course this is a blanket comparison that isn’t accurate for everyone, but I feel like while I sit here and mull over whether or not it’s reasonable for me to buy some video game that I probably won’t even get around to playing, that when our parents were around our age, they were just starting to have money to buy things that weren’t complete necessities.  I think when I was born, our parents were just starting to have enough money to buy clothes for me, whereas the only option for Angela was hand-me-downs.  In contrast, our children not only have lavish amounts of clothing, both new and used, many of which they don’t even get a chance to wear before they grow out of them, but piles of $15, $30+ toys flood our living rooms like a landfill and we don’t even think twice if something breaks or gets lost.  If our kids don’t like bottles, we try 3, 4, 5 different kinds and just shrug our shoulders and toss them into storage when it doesn’t work out.  $.50-$1.00 more for this organic version of a single serving of smashed fruit and vegetables?  Sure, why not?

It’s not that this is necessarily bad… after all this is basically what our parents hoped for us as they suffered and struggled to earn and find their place in this country.  But as I sit here now, piling up possessions, I can’t help but wonder… am I still searching for the line on healthy spending in the eyes of God, or did I already plow through it long ago and not even realized it?  Is my self-perceived generosity even generous when I am already surrounded by such excess?  Perhaps I focus too much on the quantifiable things and what’s going on in one’s heart is more important, but I don’t really know.

30 years of age and I still feel like a child compared to who I remember my father to be in terms of discipline and responsibility.  Binge watching, long video game sessions, procrastinating housework, disorganized papers laying all over our house, cleaning-as-necessary, falling asleep before going to bed properly… a lot of things have become normal to me that probably shouldn’t be.  In an era where distractions are in abundance, I’m not sure I’ve gotten a great start in leading my children in the right direction.  It’s easy to play the comparison game (you know, the one we told ourselves we would never play when our parents did it to us) to measure our parenting, but I think relativity is often an illusion we use to feel good about how we are doing instead of evaluating how we are holding to our values in more direct way.  I also wonder if our absence of a group of friends that truly feels like home to us is less of a problem related to my friends moving away, and more of a reflection of sitting in the comfort of how tidy it is to rely on ourselves, our parents, and our single friends, and subconsciously choosing it over getting into the messiness and disruptiveness of intertwining our lives with other young families.  Our parents came and built their communities by learning to survive together, but now it’s a totally different ballgame.  Despite questioning whether or not we should try to increase our household income, maybe that’s really just another step towards isolation rather than integration.

But that’s probably enough negativity eh?  Back to the celebration.  30 years and I have 2 kids?  How did that happen?!  Being a parent has really been more joyful than I imagined.  Much of that I owe to Melissa being flexible and generous with my evenings and her sleep (a very big sacrifice for her).  My time with small children had been fairly minimal aside from when Athena and Drew let me have a mini trial run with Lily in San Diego, so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Juliette says hilarious things all the time, and it’s so much fun watching her grow up and learn new things and figure things out.  Last night we met some neighbors and she burst into tears when we said we had to go home and she ended up walking back to our house holding hands with our neighbor Andy whom she had just met.  For the most part she’s been pretty gracious with Jordan’s arrival, and I’m so excited for when he is a little bit bigger and they can interact with each other more.  I think when people without kids say “misery loves company” about young parents, they’re just flat out wrong.  Sure, the tantrums, lost sleep, and pee/poop explosions are not enjoyable, but I can’t imagine missing out on what we’ve already enjoyed with our children.  I’m sure things will continue to get more complicated and new frustrations will arise, but at least it keeps life more interesting!

I feel truly blessed by God to have made it to where I am today.  I was a mediocre student that barely made it out of college with my scholarship in tact, but managed to find a job in Columbus late in the spring.  I ended up with a job that allowed me be a volunteer with InterVarsity for 3 years.  Even while hanging around a struggling company for 8 years now, I’ve been surrounded by wonderful people for my entire career and gotten an opportunity to have what is pretty close to a submersion experience of the Indian culture, which I had barely known anything about previously.  I’ve managed to survive rounds of layoffs and ended up on a great project.  Before I had a clue what I was doing I somehow ended up with a condo that gave me an opportunity to practice some basics about home ownership before getting in way over my head in a real house.  Somehow when I finally stopped harping on being single, I stumbled into a gracious, undemanding and nurturing woman who puts up with my sharp tongue, my incessant nagging, and my… unpredictable family in addition to my general craziness.

30 years have come with a narrative filled with unexpected chaos, sorrow, and joy, but I am grateful for each one of those years and how they have brought me to where I am today.  I am the sum of each tiny moment, good or bad, and better for it.  I have long stopped believing that my birthday needs to be celebrated.  The opportunity to continue living this life is reward enough.