a look at 29

30. I’m supposed to have it all figured out, right? Husband, house, kids, stable job. That’s what society tells me, at least. I turned 30 at the start of February and check none of those boxes. In a lot of ways, I’m more confused than ever before. But I also know those boxes aren’t for me at this moment in my life. If I were in those shoes, so to speak, I would likely feel as though I’m selling myself short. I would likely yearn for this life I’m living now – with all its beauty, adventure, potential, freedom, fear, self-doubt, [occasional] loneliness, unknowns, challenges, etc.

As I start life in my 30s, I’m searching. And I’m quite sure anyone who’s spent time with me in recent days, weeks and months knows or can see this. I’m searching for who I am, what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m searching for my purpose, my place and who I am in and with and through God.

And while I’m mostly living in the present and looking forward these days, as I started this new year in my life in February, I couldn’t help but look back on all that 29 was. Here’s where I landed.

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living abroad amid the Covid-19 pandemic

On Sunday, March 8, I took off on a five-day road trip from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, my home base, to Pucón, Chile with a family of four friends from Traverse City, Michigan, who are in their third month of a three-month sabbatical in Argentina. Now, a week later, I look back on photos and videos from our day crossing over to Chile—and also me launching a crowdfunding campaign for a short documentary I’m directing and producing—and feel as though that was a lifetime ago. It’s amazing how time altogether sped up and slowed down this week. The world is certainly different than it was a week ago.

My friends and I were all aware of Covid-19 and, more or less, how and where it was spreading, but the reality of what this strain of coronavirus is and how quickly and easily it has and can spread hadn’t hit home yet. Wednesday evening, our last night in Chile before crossing back to Argentina, that all changed.

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Waymaker, Miracle Worker

This year has been a big one, so to speak, in countless ways — and it’s not over yet. It’s a year full of some of the most difficult days of my life, and those of my family, and simultaneously a year of abundance and blessings. I fully feel the second part of that statement. God has shown up time and again this year, and I’m encouraged by the challenges and the victories because I see how He is there in all of it. He is a good, good God. Every day, I’m learning more and more that so much of life truly is about our perspective, the way we choose to see and respond to what’s in front of us — no matter who or what we believe in.

Shortly after Christmas last year, my dad was hospitalized. On January 3, 2019, he was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The doctor who broke the news to us, while kind, was vague in terms of my dad’s chances of beating this and how long he might have to live. We learned a week or so later that, were he to continue without treatment, the cancer would likely take his life in 4-6 weeks.

So once an abscess in my dad’s intestine was treated — another story altogether, one where I also 100 percent see God’s hands at work — he started a month of inpatient chemotherapy at University of Michigan Hospital. Another round of outpatient chemo followed in March. In April, we learned my dad had several strong matches for a bone marrow transplant, and at the end of April, he successfully received a bone marrow transplant from a 20-something-year-old man in Germany. While the transplant was successful, my dad was not in the clear, and I would argue that May and June — though still full of blessings — were his toughest months and the most challenging for all of us. I know they were for me.

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the pull between here and there

“Home is not a place; it’s a feeling.” – Cecelia Ahern

I feel fortunate to have found and known—and continue to find and know—home, a sense of home, in places around the world and among people around the world. I often find the people are more important to that feeling than the place itself. Though the two in combination, when the feeling is right, are quite a powerful force.

Of the places I’ve lived and traveled, Michigan and Patagonia carry the greatest feelings of home for me.

There’s seemingly always been a pull between here and there. But when I was unexpectedly back in Michigan in January and February and then again in May and June, that pull on my heart was different. It felt stronger in that I could more clearly see the value I find and feel in each place, if that makes sense. I could more clearly see what each place holds for me.

It was also different in that I wouldn’t describe this pull as a tug of war. It’s a gentle pull. There’s a respect between these two places that occupy my heart. They each carry meaning and importance. They each carry a significant part of me.

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on letting go

I’ve been thinking on this idea of letting go a lot the past few weeks. With relationships, work, projects, challenges, dreams and more, when do we let go? Not everything is ours to keep, and sometimes, I think it’s tough, especially when we’re in the thick of it, to know when we’ve given it our best, need to step away, cut our losses and let go.

I suppose it doesn’t mean that we let go forever. Perhaps it’s a matter of days. Maybe a month. Maybe far longer than that. Maybe forever. I don’t know.

I was speaking with a friend months ago about this. She shared a practice of, in our minds, placing the thing that seemingly needs letting go of on a leaf in a stream and letting it float away. Rather than crumpling it up and throwing it out, we release it out into the universe — giving it the opportunity to float back around into our lives, if and when the timing is right, or to simply float on with no return. In letting go, we must relinquish all hopes and expectations for what that letting go might mean.

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do you love the process?

The other night, I sat in bed reading through pages containing goals and thoughts I’d intentionally set and written down at the start of this year.

While I keep these dreams tucked into my computer sleeve, it had been awhile since I’d read through them. Since I wrote them over several days at the start of the year, I know them fairly well. However, in reading them anew, I was struck by the language tied to each goal — and the way I’d envisioned this year overall. There’s not one word or phrase that stands out. It’s more the combination of all of them together. In reading them with fresh eyes — and a fresh perspective of a me who’s lived six months since I wrote those goals — I saw a lot of naivety in the Emily I was at the start of the year.

My dreams still hold true. What’s changed is that I’m less focused on the outcome and perhaps more focused on the process. I know the process is part of tackling each dream. I knew that when I wrote those goals. In writing the goals, I wrote about why each was important and what it would take to see it through, and while I spent time answering those questions for each goal, I think I failed to see just how important those questions and their answers were.

In tackling your goals, you have to love the process — almost more than the end goal itself.

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we’re all in process.

“you are a season of becoming” — Danielle Doby

With each passing day, between traditional media, social media and our hyper-connected world, I feel we’re becoming more apt to celebrate dreams realized, projects completed, “overnight” successes and the highlights of life. We’re more apt to share the milestones of any given time period than we are to share the process itself.

The reality is those moments are a fraction of our entire lives, and in sharing and celebrating those benchmarks, I feel as though we lose sight of the process.

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