Imagine with me, if you will, this scenario:
It's May of 2012. You've been married for a year, and a month ago you had a baby...an extremely fussy baby. You just turned twenty, and most of your friends are finishing up their second year of college. You are involved in your church as much as you can be, but college group starts at 9:15 pm and your baby does not like staying up late. No one in your college group has kids, none of your close friends are married.
You visit the "Young Married Couples" group at church---and they're so kind and welcoming---but you soon notice that every person in the room is probably ten years older than you and they are way more mature. They share recipes and know how to cook. You just learned how to make scrambled eggs a few months ago. Their husbands have their own interns and employees. Your husband makes about $11 an hour.
You're a clueless, sleep-deprived zombie, and it doesn't take long to realize that you don't know anyone whose life resembles yours.
You're an extrovert, former homecoming queen, and acquaintance to many, but you are having a lot of trouble finding friends.
You don't just feel alone in your life stage; you are alone.
That sounds like a super-sad story, and in a moment I'll tell you why it's not, but first let me add that I'm still alone in my life stage. People my age are starting to get married and maybe have their first child, but I'm in my seventh year of marriage and trying to navigate how I'll parent (and homeschool) four kids. I have other mom-friends, but the age/maturity gap is real (I'm on the immature end of the spectrum, obviously.) My life isn't harder than anyone else's---it's just different. That can feel isolating at times.
But this feeling of isolation that I began experiencing several years ago is one of the best things that could've happened to me, because I learned that life stage matters so little.
Later in 2012 when we joined a different church, I still didn't know any 20-year-olds with kids. But in the community groups I realized something beautiful: "life stage" isn't everything. We all have different stories. The people I rubbed shoulders with were empty-nesters, unmarrieds, and 30-somethings with multiple kids. A year later I found two of my closest friends to be a single, new-to-Christianity Apple employee and a recently-widowed woman whose kids are my age or older. Our day-to-day struggles? Completely different. But our hope and joy? Absolutely the same.
We couldn't spend all our time talking about our babies' sleep schedules and favorite toys, because we didn't have those things in common. We cared about each other's day-to-day, and we talked about it, but it wasn't the main dish. Whatever Jesus was doing in our hearts was. Issues of the heart aren't quite so circumstantial. Neither is the gift of laughing together, which my friends and I do a lot. (Plus, my friends who don't have kids have more flexible schedules and free hands to help me with my kids! Major perk!)
The more I talk to people, the more I realize that most people feel alone in their life stage. Working moms feel like everyone else is a stay-at-home mom; homeschool moms think the majority have chosen public school. Single women feel like everyone else is married; married women feel like no one could relate to their marital issues. Women struggling with infertility feel like everyone else has babies effortlessly; mothers of large families feel like no one can empathize with their insane schedule. Younger women feel like everyone's older; older women feel like everyone's younger.
We're all in the same boat of feeling alone...so we're not really alone at all.
When you do find a group of people who are all in the same life stage, it's difficult not to sense a sort of stagnancy. The comfort level is so fiercely protected that it's uncomfortable! There's nobody ahead of you who can offer you wisdom, nobody behind you that is benefiting from your wisdom. There's nobody different than you who can point out flaws in your perspective that you never would've noticed. You're trying to find solutions by talking to people who have a couple months more experience than you do! And who is to say that the problems that feel so important to you are truly the most important?
I'm not saying all Moms Groups are evil or that you're stuck in a stagnant quagmire if you're a single person who hangs out with other single people. I'm super grateful for my other mom-friends and my 25-year-old friends, and it's important to talk about those matters such as homeschooling or millennial issues sometimes. But even moreso, there is a richness about forcing yourself to find deep grounds for unity.
If you hate small talk, put yourself in situations where small talk doesn't work. Lack of relatability can be fertile soil for the most meaningful connections. You don't have to understand everything your friend is going through to understand her. To know and to be known are some of the most basic human needs, and they can be met in the most unlikely places.
So, friend, if you feel alone in your life stage, remember that 1) most people feel alone in their life stage, 2) your life stage is not your identity, and 3) rich friendships are to be found when they are deeply rooted.
Take heart, lonely friend, and seek out friends who can talk with you about the things that matter. Your feelings of isolation might be what propel you towards the best relationships of your life.
That said, if anyone out there is also 25 with four kids, I would really like to meet you, and I would love to know if you are as irresponsible with keeping your house clean as I am :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today