As a newly minted twenty-three-year-old, I still feel like Taylor Swift’s description of being twenty-two is extremely relevant to me: “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way. It’s miserable and magical.” I thought about this song a lot towards the end of my time as a twenty-two-year-old, and the lifestyle that surrounds most people’s early twenties.
It seems like a lot of my friends (especially those who aren’t practicing Christians) “get to” (for lack of better words) make whatever decisions they want to make; decisions that I, as an Orthodox young woman, find myself thinking twice about.
Although I tend to think twice, I’m not purporting myself to be perfect; I don’t always practice good judgment and I make plenty of mistakes. It’s just that I don’t exactly do things on a whim because I like to take time to discern if my actions are serving only me, or if I am serving Christ through them.
Throughout my twenties, I’ve made a lot more decisions with myself in mind than I ever have before. I quit an internship because I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve been more honest about what and who I need in my life, and I’ve generally attempted to do things that I’ve wanted to do. And I’ll be honest, I don’t always think about the effects that these decisions have on others, or on my spiritual life (in other words, my whole life).
It’s always been hard for me to know if those were things that I needed to do, or simply things that I wanted to do. I’ve fought with myself a lot. Because I’m free to do what I want, but I always have to think, “Is this what I need?” or more specifically, “Is this what Christ wants?”
It’s a very thin line to toe sometimes. For example, the line between telling someone off and praying for that person. The line between having another drink or going home because I have church the next day. It’s very difficult to make the right decision. And it gets even more complicated when we talk about motivations: did I quit the internship because I was being self-serving or was I doing it because God was calling me somewhere else?
Sometimes, as harsh as this might sound, I know I make choices that are self-serving, that don’t draw me closer to God, and I am okay with admitting that and repenting for these things. What I’ve decided, though, is that I can’t beat myself up for doing the things that I want to do, but I do need to figure out the difference between self-serving choices and making decisions that make me a better, truer me (which, of course, always ends up being the decisions I make with Christ leading the way) .
Ultimately, my largest responsibility is to Him.
I’m not attempting to say that Christ doesn’t want us to live out our lives. In fact, He is so gracious as to give us the freedom to do so, mistakes and all. And we can thank Him for His grace in many ways: by surrounding ourselves with people who support and understand why we choose the things that we do, or by praying about what we do before we do it.
Yes, Christ wants us to sacrifice some things, as He did for us. Yet he doesn’t ask us to retract ourselves from the world and not enjoy the good things in life like friendship, laughter, and figuring out who we are. As twenty-somethings, we will make a lot of new decisions, and sometimes it might seem like we’re doing it just because we can. It doesn’t make us any less Christian.
It just means that we might have to refocus ourselves. To look towards Him, to maintain our responsibility to Christ and our Orthodox faith in the decisions that we make, and allow Him to guide us through the happy, free, confused, and lonely times that our twenties have to offer.
Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.