On Turning Twenty (Or, Why It’s Okay That I Didn’t Publish a Book as a Teen)

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looking back {my photo}

In a few days I’ll be twenty. It’s kind of hard to wrap my mind around that realization. Or, rather, my mind gets it—my heart doesn’t. I think I should feel something deep, something profound. I want to summarize the first two decades of my life in shining words and succinct sentences with a tidy list of lessons learned.

And I do feel—I feel the weight of it. At least, I feel the weight of it hovering right above me, like that ominous taste in the air right before a storm. The storm of emotions at turning twenty will come, I’m sure. Right now, the wind is picking up and I am standing, hair whipping about, turning my head to look behind me at the skies of my teen years and then back at the clouds of adulthood gathering in the distance.

(Clouds bring rain and rain brings growth, I know.)

Like I said, the storm of emotion hasn’t fully hit yet. But I do feel, as I look back on this hilly landscape of teenhood, a tinge of regret.

Mostly what comes to mind is, I didn’t write a book.

I never wrote it down in official ink somewhere, I’m going to publish a book as a teenager, but I guess I just assumed I would do it, or something like it. Not even assumed—maybe it was too dear a dream, too fragile to handle or bring into the full sunlight. Not that it was a purely innocent dream—there was pride all wrapped up in it. Pride that of course I would be one of those exceptional teens, one of the extra-ordinary ones. Waste your teen years? Surely not I!

I was swept up in the Do Hard Things movement. Which, don’t get me wrong, I respect and applaud. One of the things I love about it is that it emphasizes the small hard things—how it’s just as godly and beautiful and valuable to be faithful in the mundane tasks of life as it is in the grand ones.

But of course I wanted to do the grand thing, the unusual thing. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong—dreaming is not inherently bad. It’s a good thing. The idealism of youth, that’s our strength. We shouldn’t bury it or scoff it or ignore it. I hope I keep on dreaming, teen or twenty or beyond.

I thought, I really thought, I could publish a book as a teen. Or at least, I’d get pretty close to it. I could write articles for magazines, get my name out there. I did start a blog. I win a contest or two—although I lost a few more and I didn’t enter nearly as many as I could have. There were online sites I knew I could submit writing to and probably be accepted at. TheRebelution, the Do Hard Things site, was one.

Obviously, there was the arm pain holding me back. Mostly there was just—life, I guess. Little choices not to enter that contest or to work on poetry instead of a book idea or to scroll through pinterest instead of researching book proposals. Little choices that wore away the years until here I am, at almost-twenty, with no book. There are other reasons, too, spiritual things I was working through that held me back from submitting articles to those sites that might have published my work.

Here’s the bigger issue: it’s not that I didn’t just publish a book. Right now, I don’t even know what kind of book I want to write. Like, non-fiction or fiction? Something as basic as that, and I don’t know it. This is so not me. I’m the kind of person who wants to have a clear goal to aim for. If I have a clear plan, nine times out of ten, I’ll execute it. I’ll get to where I want to go. I’m good at just, you know, getting the stuff done. But what if I don’t know what needs to be done? Art can be so hard for a type-A person for that reason.

I know, some people just start writing without any idea of what they’re writing (although even they know whether it’s going to be nonfiction or fiction). I could do that, I guess. It’s not at all my nature but I could try. But before I just dive in and start forcing out a book, I want to still and listen.

God could have said, Write. Go out there and leap into the dark, into the utter unknown, and write. Trust that I will show up and guide you and give you the story. He’s probably said that to others. And maybe he’ll say it to me someday.

But right now, all I hear is a still, small voice saying, wait. Wait. It will come, it will come. This thing deep in you, this thing you can’t feel the edges of yet, it is growing, ever so slowly. Don’t rush it. Let it steep. Lean into the mystery. Wait.

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looking ahead {my photo}

So here I write, to a couple hundred wonderful followers (although I realize of course that only a small fraction actually read this stuff). I know numbers aren’t what really matter. But—this is a far cry from publishing a book. I trace my eyes back over the winding path from when I first picked up Do Hard Things at age thirteen and thought I could and would do anything and was sure my teen years would shine, and then through the twists, turns, tree-clogged tops, crumbling gravel ditches of the intervening years…to here, the last few days. Bookless. Is it my fault?

If I had made different choices, better ones, maybe that book would be here. Or it would be a lot closer, at least. But I can’t change those choices, and I’m seeing how my God is weaving all of them into something beautiful. Nobody is ever told what might have happened, Aslan tells Lucy. But God is big enough for—well, for everything. He is big enough to turn the Fall into a chance to show his glorious redemption. He is big enough to turn my mistakes into a journey deeper into his heart—and closer to fulfilling my desires. Even if it looks like I’m taking the slow path.

No regrets. The clouds haven’t hit yet but before they do, I am resolved: no deluge of regrets will push me off my feet. I will stand and let them slide down because my roots are deep, cradled in the hands that made the world, the skies above and the earth beneath. I do not say this to ignore or bury my mistakes. I say it because I believe He was buried and I was buried with Him—and more than that, He rose again and so I did too and He is making all things new.

I did not publish a book as a teen and that is okay. Not because it is not my fault (I will never know for sure whether it is) but because God has a plan and it is a good one and nothing I do can thwart it. Right now, it is His will that I wait, not write.

Maybe I can summarize a little of what I’ve learned so far in life: I am learning to throw myself into the wave. I am learning that even when I do not see it—especially when I do not see it—God is moving. Even when I am not moving—even when I am moving in the wrong direction—He is carrying me forward in grace, grace upon grace.

So let the rain come pouring down. I can’t wait to see what grows.

13 comments

  1. Ahh yes. ❤ It was so good to talk with you about this, and you're so right. It's okay. I hate the pressure within the homeschool community that one has to accomplish something as early as possible. No one has to do that. We all move in life at different speeds and whenever we accomplish something grand is just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, Aberdeen!
    Enjoying your blog. =D We haven’t met officially, but I think you probably already know from Goodreads that I’m a fellow TPS alumna. I read the school magazine when it was still TCP and under your leadership, and I’ve heard about you, so I sorta feel like I know you already. 😉
    I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this post and many of your entries. I have dealt with chronic pain from autoimmune issues since I was fifteen, so several of your posts have resonated strongly with me. Arm pain specifically — it’s probably for a different reason than yours, but I feel you on that. =P You do a lovely job of articulating the beauty, and your insights have really encouraged me on my own journey. Sometimes it’s so hard to see why waiting is better than moving forward, and it’s so easy to regret what feel like wasted years — but our God makes such beauty from ashes. ❤
    I'm excited to follow your work. =)

    -Maria Copeland

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your writing is always such a huge encouragement to me–your words and your testimony are so inspiring. I know if and when you ever do write a book, it’ll be even better because of the way you’re waiting on God and growing in His grace now. But believe me, He’s using your words already. =)

    And (speaking unofficially, of course), I’d love to see one of your articles pop into TheReb’s submissions email sometime. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Katherine. “He’s using your words already”—that’s so encouraging, thank you. And I don’t get to comment on your posts nearly as often as I’d like, but your words always encourage me as well. ❤

      Haha, thank you. We’ll see what happens. ;D

      Like

  4. Thanks for sharing. It’s good to be reminded of God’s timing. ❤ I'm actually starting to think that even if it had been my goal to write a book before turning 20, it might have been better to wait just because the older I get the more I feel like I learn about life and its experiences. When I was little I was always starting books but they never got far, and even when I got older, we all know that even if grammar/punctuation/vocabulary can be impeccable, there's just a certain….life knowledge that's needed to write a convincing dialogue or emotion. xD Kind of like how I used to never get affected by most things in movies, then I realized it's because I don't personally relate to most of the emotions yet…as I grow older, I began to feel more and more vs less and less. And I don't feel like I've even started scratching the surface,so yeah, even if I feel like the child/teen years are great ages to imbibe great writing and start finding one's style and finding one's voice, there's still sO mUCH in store learning-wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, and I’m glad it was a good reminder. Haha, I totally get you about rereading old stuff and realizing how immature it is—not necessarily technically, like you said, but just experience-wise. That has been an encouragement to me, to realize it certainly can’t hurt to write a book when I’m older and it will probably be a lot better. And those are good thoughts about able to relate more to stuff and stories the more we live, because we can relate to a wider range of emotions and experiences. Like this song by The Gray Havens that I just found and am loving says, let’s just take this slowly.

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  5. *applauds Aberdeen*

    Everyone’s time will come with their dreams. I left my teen years a long time ago, and I still haven’t published a book yet, either. But I’m not worried. The day will come; I just have to keep working toward the dream and believing it will happen. That seems to be the mindset you have now as well… and it’s a healthy one to have.

    I loved this part of your post in particular:

    “Wait. It will come, it will come. This thing deep in you, this thing you can’t feel the edges of yet, it is growing, ever so slowly. Don’t rush it. Let it steep. Lean into the mystery. Wait.”

    This and the ending remind me of the idea of seeds being planted, and how all of the experiences we have, the lessons we learn, and so on will water and feed those seeds. Now we just have to wait for them to grow, and see what we can harvest someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Sara. Your patience and commitment to growing your craft, not rushing the process, are inspiring to me. I love that idea of our experiences as planted seeds, too. So much good is happening in winter, even if we don’t see the fruit. But fruit always comes. Thank you again, and I’m excited to see what blooms in your life as well, however long it takes. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Aberdeen! Thank you for sharing your perspectives and also the truths in this post. I think God’s timing very rarely looks quite like ours, and the sooner we learn to trust that plan, the better (even though I’m having to work through that again this weekend . . . this one topic I never quite learn as well as I should).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah! You’re so right about God’s timing and the need to trust his plan—and also how we have to keep relearning that lesson. I don’t think you’re alone in that. It’s probably something we’ll keep having to be taught our whole lives. Also, I am literally right about to (very belatedly) go read your post about your book and cheer you on but congratulations!! I’m sure the process and the timing didn’t look quite as you’d planned, but I’m still really excited for you. =D

      Liked by 1 person

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