Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Twenty Four

Twenty Four


I turned 24 on November 4, which as a number I like a lot more than 23 (I don't like being prime numbers?) but as a birthday is kind of anticlimactic. I begged family members who asked about gifts for a coffee grinder, you know? This is where we're at.

To celebrate, two friends (hi, Sophie and Lindsie!) and I piled a tent, some sleeping bags, and enough food for a much larger group of grown men into a jeep and drove to Cooper Lake State Park for a shot of fall color and some open space.

That night, between roasting marshmallows and curling up in sleeping bags, they asked me what my favorite part of the past year was.

I hesitated at first, because I was immediately flooded with options for what to say.

Finally, I told them the past year was probably the richest year, spiritually, I'd ever experienced. It held so many experiences, so much fun, and so many sweet relationships. It was a year of a lot of growth for me. I learned a ton.

For example — 24 examples, actually, one for every year — I learned...

  1. Ambiverts are a thing, and I think I am one. I've always described myself as an extroverted-extrovert, but in the past year, I noticed (and others pointed out) my need to recharge by myself. I'll almost always take people over no people, but I need regular doses of solitude, too.

  2. How to put coolant in my car. I am embarrassed to say that this at least doubled my car knowledge. But not embarrassed enough to, like, learn more about cars.

  3. To give myself grace.

  4. In that same vein, falling down is okay, and even necessary. (In surfing and in life in general.)

  5. How to survive abominably long plane rides. (Very worth it.)

  6. I... like Dallas? Who am I, anymore?

  7. Focus. Along the lines of this recent post, I'm increasingly convinced that mono-tasking > multi-tasking. I would rather do less better in the long run, I think, and that requires narrowing my time and energy. I'm still learning to be disciplined in actually applying this knowledge to my work and life, but admitting "do-it-all" defeat is the first step.

  8. To give people a chance. I like to think I'm generally pretty good at this, but some of the most meaningful relationships I have or had this past year were with people towards whom I was initially dismissive for one reason or another. The gratitude and gut-checks those people have given me are an invaluable reminder to give others a genuine shot.

  9. The difference in spiritual gifting between a missionary and a shepherd. That I'm the second, not the first. That that's okay, even if it's not as cool.

  10. How to be professional without sacrificing my personality. Straight out of college, I was pretty much what you'd expect a 22-year-old workforce newb to be. I earnestly wanted to do good work, but I also earnestly hated sitting at a desk. My heart was in the right place, but to say I was rough around the edges in an office setting is an understatement. This past year, through time and experience under wonderful leaders and in my own skin out in the world, I feel like I finally found a balance between the natural and the learned — how to be myself while also being someone else's employee. (It helps to find a job you absolutely love, too, as it turns out.)

  11. To embrace lipstick, because it has the same impact as eye makeup but takes a fraction of the time to apply. Lazy girl 101.

  12. Despite years of stubborn protest, I am, in fact, capable of loving baseball just as much as I love other sports. The 'Stros have defeated me.

  13. I'm a singer (again). And I really love it, especially in a worship context. Something about singing feels inherently diva — with any other musical ability, you know, you're facilitating something for others. You need music played by someone to sing along, generally. Playing an instrument feels like a service. Singing, on the other hand, sometimes feels like it's just about the singer. I avoided it for a while because of those cringey internal feelings, but thanks to Josh Stewart (hi, Josh!) very kindly and enthusiastically strong-arming me back into it, I rediscovered how much joy singing brings me. I connect deeply with God through music, and getting to be a part of helping others do the same is humbling beyond belief.

  14. How to say kindly and firmly say no. (See: No. 7 again.)

  15. How to say nothing at all. This will be an ongoing process for the entirety of my life, but I feel like I made some significant strides in keeping my mouth shut when I should this year. High fives all around.

  16. How to stick it out. Whatever "it" may be. Nothing but good has come from digging my heels in where I've been called to for the past year. Eager to get better at this in the future.

  17. How to be okay.

  18. I like classic rock! I learned this thanks to Reagan, of course. I doubt I would have ever seriously perused it without her guidance, but she was insistent that I needed to give it a shot based on other music I like, and she was right as usual. A bonus beyond the music itself is that I feel like listening to Led Zeppelin deep cuts has really upped my personal brand. I am at least 10 percent cooler now.

  19. How much I really do love Texas. I didn't want to move back after college, and I thought about making another run for it after my internship ended; but geez, this state is in my blood. There's no place like it, with its combination of myth and magic and the fierce loyalty it wells up in those who are privileged to call it home. This year, I gave up and just embraced it. Texas, I'm glad I'm yours.

  20. The things about me that I hold back for fear people won't like them are the things people most like about me. Ouch, right? Because there’s no way this doesn't hurt to learn. But also, what a relief. The best human relationships are often described as having a "click" — that feeling when you truly connect with each other. Turns out, hiding your edges and depths for another's sake — whether you think they won't like, love, approve, or understand them — ultimately leaves them with nothing to click onto. There's something to that age-old "be yourself" cliché. The only times I've failed to connect with others are when I'm trying to impress them. Feels embarrassing to have not realized that sooner. Feels like a giant exhale to finally get it.

  21. The magic of pour over coffee.

  22. About the stock market from my grandad.

  23. How to pray with more abandon and fervor thanks to the teenagers I loved and led.

  24. To find big, God-given purpose in little things.

Some are big and some are small and some are just ridiculous, but this past year held a little bit of everything, and every last drop spilled over to goodness.

It was a good year, I said when asked what my favorite part had been. It was a good year — maybe the best yet.

"What are you most looking forward to, then?" my friends asked.

And with no hesitation this time, I said, "More."

In 24, I'm looking forward to more.

Weekend Roundup: Nov. 18

Weekend Roundup: Nov. 18