The magnolia in our front garden went crazy this Winter. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think it worthy of mention — even though it stopped me in my tracks every time I walked out the front door — but, to be honest, up until that point I had given up on it.
It had been looking so straggly the past few years, I just assumed it was past its prime and that it would be just a matter of time before we needed to make a decision re: chopping it down. The wild blooms felt like a beautiful reminder that things we’ve given up for dead may still surprise us with a new lease of life.
I turned thirty this year. That wasn’t the surprise.
What surprised me this year? The capacity for my ridiculous plans to work out surprisingly well. Walking fifty miles in four days and then throwing a party the next day in a place I’d never seen before in my life? Why the hell not? It turns out that I’ve still got my walking legs, and it was a brilliant party.
What surprised me this year? Just how much time I need to recuperate between events where I have to interact with large numbers of people. Now that I’ve started paying attention to what tires me and what helps me recover, I’m discovering that I get worn out remarkably quickly, and that even people I know well and love dearly can become too much of a good thing. Next year I’ll be better prepared for that; I’ll be ruthless with my calendar and make myself a hermitage or six.
What surprised me this year? A whole lot of developments inside my own head. The discovery that I wasn’t nearly as accepting of LGBT Christians as I’d thought I was – at least, not when the LGBT Christian in question was myself. My ability to forgive myself for that. The realisation that actually I do believe that we should be dismantling the institution of marriage. The mind-blowing epiphany that I’m allowed to make choices based on my own preferences.
What surprised me this year? How strongly I suddenly feel about things. How intense my sense of right and wrong has become; how frustrating I find hedging and politicking.
What surprised me this year? My own confidence. It seems to have grown exponentially since last December, and I thought I was doing pretty well then. But over this year I’ve been letting go of my need for outside affirmation.
(I should note, for honesty’s sake if nothing else, that today is a bit of a wobbly day. Today I am wondering if other people think I am terrible, and, if so, whether I will ever find out about it. But I’m aware that this isn’t real, that it’s a symptom of an illness, and that it will recede in a little while, and leave me with this groundedness, this trust in my own competence, that’s there underneath it all.)
I haven’t quite got to the point where I genuinely don’t care what anyone else thinks, but I am able to take ownership of my own actions, principles and decisions in a way that I used to find terrifying. Perhaps this is part of turning thirty. Perhaps it’s a by-product of work I’ve been doing elsewhere. Whatever the facts, it’s a wonderful surprise.