As I sit in my cozy apartment, approaching my 27th birthday, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and what it’s brought me through. If you had told me as a teenager that this would be what my life looks like, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. By 27, I thought I’d be married, living in my own house, and fully invested in a long term career that encompassed everything I loved. Sitting here thinking about 16 year old Lauren’s dreams of her future 27 year old self, I can’t help but laugh. But in it, I learned an important life lesson.
Thinking back to my 16 year old self, I was right smack in the middle of all my back surgeries. I was trapped in a whirlwind of hospital visits, x-rays and doctors. I thought about after surgery what life would be like. A decade seems like a long time when you’re a teenager, and I thought in 10 years time, not only would all of my hospital appointments be over with, but that I would somehow turn my life around and have it all figured out. Let’s all take a moment to laugh together…
When I graduated high school, I was heading into my third and scariest back surgery. The years following that, I couldn’t hold down a job and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be/do now that I was old enough to start making serious strides to fulfill little Lauren’s promises of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went to college part time and tried different jobs, but between back pain and my inner self feeling like I kept striking out, things just didn’t stick. That was until I found Northpoint.
Four years after graduating high school, I signed up and shipped off to Northpoint Bible College. I may have only been 45 minutes away from home, but when you’ve had the past I did, it felt like I was in a different state. But deep down I knew it was where God was leading me. In the four years that I spent at Northpoint, I grew in ways I didn’t think possible. I was able to break free of the feeling like hospitals and surgeries were all life had for me. Sure I was starting from further back than most people I knew, but given my circumstances and my past, I was my own success story. God opened doors that no man could shut and four years later, I graduated with my class with my bachelors degree. Now some may say 8 years is a long time, but try telling 18 year old Lauren who graduated high school and three days later woke up from surgery unable to walk from a spinal stroke, that 8 years later she’d be walking the stage to get her degree. That’s a miracle to me!
Life continues to throw me curve balls, but I’ve learned how to hit ’em. This year, I got my degree. This year, I got my own apartment that I can afford on my own due to a full time job that I secured out of college. This year, I became an aunt to the cutest and most precious bundle of joy I know. This year, I’m still alive. I’m still taking one stinkin’ little step at a time (thanks Bertoni) and I’m still smiling.
Most importantly, this year I’ve learned that no matter what, you have to take care of yourself. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself some grace (.. and then give yourself a little bit more) and think about how truly blessed you are. Do something for you! Maybe that’s going on a vacation or taking yourself out to a restaurant. I guarantee you’re doing better than your inner self would make you believe. Set some goals and crush ’em! Go the extra mile for yourself and for others. Always find a reason to smile! Life isn’t easy, but it is beautiful.
The chapter in life that I’m on definitely wasn’t the one I thought I’d be on when I was a teenager looking forward. But looking back, I truly can’t believe how far I’ve come. It’s only by the grace of God that I stand where I do today as strong as I am. The future ahead of me has some pretty big mountains, but my past was full of them and I’m standing here today on top of them so bring it on. I’m proud of the woman I’ve become and the woman I’m fighting and striving to be.
We always have a picture of who we want to be when we grow up and where we think we should be when we’re a certain age. But it’s important to realize that you can’t compare your story to anyone else’s. Life is too short and crazy to compare your story or to beat yourself up over where you think you should be. Take a deep breath, look around, and be grateful for what you have. It’s when I stop and look around that I realize I’m not where I thought I would be, but I’m doing a lot better than I realistically should be doing. It’s all a matter of perspective.
So here’s to another year! Goodbye 26, hello 27! ❤