By Shauna Niequist
We’re excited to feature an excerpt from Shauna Niequist‘s new book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. You may remember Shauna from the book giveaway she did with her last book Cold Tangerines last year. The following is an excerpt (edited for length) from the chapter entitled “Twenty-Five”:
Here are a few thoughts on being twenty-five-ish, some that I knew, because smart older people gave me good advice, and some that I really wish I had known, that those smart older people probably did tell me, and that I lost track of along the way…
I know that most people need a season of space, a time to take a step back and evaluate the spiritual context of their youth. I didn’t go to church for a long season in college, and that space and freedom was so important for me. It gave me the perspective I needed to find my own faith. But it’s very easy for a season of space to turn into several years without any kind of spiritual groundedness.
It’s easy to wake up several years from now and find yourself unable to locate that precious, faith-filled part of your heart and history, because it slowly disintegrated over months and years. Don’t do that. Do whatever you have to do to connect with God in a way that feels authentic and truthful to you. Do it now, so that you don’t regret the person you become, little by little, over time, without it. This is the thing: when you start to hit twenty-eight or thirty, everything starts to divide, and you can see very clearly two kinds of people: on one side, people who have used their twenties to learn and grow, to find God and themselves and their deep dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults.
And then there’s the other kind, who are hanging on to college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great because they don’t want to be lonely. They mean to find a church, they mean to develop honest, intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in kind of an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than they were when they graduated college.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. Walk away, try something new. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either.
Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Ask yourself some good questions like, Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? What have I learned about God this year? What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep with me for this leg of the journey? Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?
These years will pass much more quickly than you think they will. You will go to lots of weddings, and my advice, of course, is to dance your pants off at every single one. I hope you go to very few funerals. You’ll watch TV and run on the treadmill and go on dates, some of them great and some of them terrible. Time will pass, and all of a sudden, things will begin to feel a little more serious. You won’t be old, of course. But you will want to have some things figured out, and the most important things only get figured out if you dive into them now.
For a while in my early twenties I felt like I woke up a different person every day, and was constantly confused about which one, if any, was the real me. I feel more and more like myself with each passing year, for better and for worse, and you’ll find that, too. Every year, you will trade a little of your perfect skin and your ability to look great without exercising for wisdom and peace and groundedness, and every year the trade will be worth it. I promise.
Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.
If you enjoyed this article, check out: Book Review: Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She has worked at Willow Creek in Chicago and Mars Hill in Grand Rapids. She recently moved back to the Chicago area, where her husband Aaron is a worship leader. Shauna is theoretically working on another book, but mostly plays with her son Henry and plans dinner party menus.
You can buy Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist online at Amazon. Also, connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.