I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. I have never been big on birthdays. I don't dislike them, I just don't go crazy over them. But over the last month-and-a-half people have been trying to guess my age. For a very long time, I have preferred for people not to know. When I took a job in our first Army home state, it was in my job agreement that people would not know my age unless I chose to tell them. Weird, I know.
I am younger than C.
Throws people off all the time.
In three jobs I have had, I have been younger than most of the people I supervised.
It has always just been that way.
I worked full-time through college. I sat on conference calls in the hallways between classes. I switched from jeans and t's to heels and skirts in the Lockett restroom at LSU. My bed was covered in literary theory and floorset/merchandising pages.
To many people, I married young. And for my generation, yes, I did. To most of my old friends who are just getting married and just having kiddos, I was a young mom. And I was. For today, I guess I still am.
I was talking to a newer Army wife last night who entered this life at the same age I did. Who was and is a "young wife". Whose friends are still very much living their youth, and extending their college lifestyle, and who worry about how to pay the $175 for the shoes they "have to have" rather than worrying over how you will hold your husband's hand as he fills out the paperwork directing his last will and wishes.
This life ages you.
I am twenty-seven-years-old.
You have no idea how hard it is for me to type that. I feel old but at the same time I don't. I cannot tell you how many times I have been reminded by some spouses in this life - or outside of this life - that I was only "twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five."That I had no idea what was ahead. That I was "too young" to know.
I worry how many people will now take less value in what I say. How many people will question if my experience can really be what it has been. Because I married young. I had kiddos young. And to so many people - so many Army wives - people write others off too quickly because of the numerical age.
I have moved four times - so far - in this life. I have lived in four states - so far - in this life. I have lived through two deployments with another approaching. I have lived the emotional roller coster of a deployment that didn't come. I have watched my husband grieve for fallen comrades while at home. I stood behind him as he held the hand of the mother of the friend who took his place. Who didn't come home. Who could have been C. I have struggled through that guilt. I have watched my partner fight through that. I have felt helpless, unable to take that pain. There are no words. I have watched careers change in an instant. I have watched women bring children into this world while daddies fought in a war. I have held a friend's leg while she welcomed her daughter, while she pushed surrounded by women, without her husband to coach her through. I have watched my husband kiss his new baby goodbye. I have watched daddies kiss their new babies for the first time - months after they were born. I have watched my Logan's arm tighten around C's neck - knowing, somehow always knowing. I have whispered the words, "Come back to me," through trembling lips and the softest tears. I have watched him walk away. I have recognized the fear. I have stood beside other spouses at a memorial while a four-year-old boy kissed the photo of his father set high behind a set of boots, a standing rifle, and an empty helmet. I have sat beside my husband while he dictated his funeral. I have listened as he discussed his pallbearers, his burial place.
That changes you.
I have waited for life changing news for myself, while my husband was six-thousand miles away. I have hidden testing, I have battled between what truths I should tell if my diagnosis had been different. If it had been what the fear was at the time. I have waited for a phone call that would change the life of our little Eli without C here. I have watched my husband struggle with leaving both of our boys in the hospital on two different occasions to return to duty. I have survived the nightmares. I have cried myself crazy in a kitchen after thinking I heard my husband being shot over a phone line. I have learned how to pray in great despair. I have learned what it is to be body-trembling-grateful. I have been humbled again and again. I have struggled with the guilt of thanking God for the saved life of my soldier while nearly being knocked over by the guilt of the same thought. I have feared the doorbell. I have lost my breath at the sight of my Logan wearing dog tags. I have felt the unspeakable joy of two homecomings for my C and seven for others.
I have bought a car - negotiated a price, fought a finance manager to get what was fair. I have moved cross country during a deployment. I have made a temporary house into a home.
I have waited. I have lived the vows. I have honored a man in a life that many cannot understand. I have stood against ignorance. I have done my part to help others to understand. I have fought for my soldier, for my family, and for the families that surround us. I have learned day in and day out how important grace is.
I have taken a path that no one understood - that I didn't understand - and have embraced it.
That ages you.
It sets you apart. It gives you experiences most will never have. It changes you.
You learn you are able. That you are strong. That you belong to something great.
You learn that your twenty-seven is not the same as another's. You learn to be amazed by what you have lived through. What you have survived. Where you have thrived.
Age is a number. One day I may learn to wear it as a badge of honor. I am twenty-seven and I have thrived through this much. I am twenty-seven and I have loved this completely. I am twenty-seven and I have learned that I am able, that there is no place He leads us that we are not meant for.
Age is a number. Just a number.
What have you learned?
And how old did you think I was? ; )
And how old did you think I was? ; )