I turned 40 recently. People tell me that I don’t look 40, and I certainly don’t feel 40. But … I’m 40 and I’m learning to embrace my story as it continues to unfold — with all of its twists and turns.
To say that life has turned out a little differently than I expected would be an understatement. Had you asked me 20, ten, or even five years ago where I pictured myself at 40, that picture would have included a husband, children and a cute craftsman bungalow. (Or cool condominium in the city or a rambling house in the country. You get the picture.) The setting may have varied, but the constant was always husband, plus children. The reality, though, is I am 40, single and living in a small apartment in San Jose, Costa Rica. Not a bad reality, but certainly different than I imagined.
So, how did I get here, you ask?
For many years I lived and taught in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. Those years in Colorado were rich years — overflowing with deep friendships, amazing community, mountain adventures and opportunities for personal and professional growth.
I put down roots. Deep roots.
Putting down roots satisfied something deep within me. Yet, I realized that I wanted wings too. There were long-held dreams and desires that I hoped to see come to fruition. One of those dreams was to live and teach overseas. Yet, for many years, fear kept me from really pursuing international teaching.
Granted, during those years in Colorado, I thought I was going to meet a Jesus-loving, adventure-seeking, global-thinking kind of guy, who I would then marry and venture overseas alongside. (Insert our House Hunters International episode right here!) If I’m perfectly honest, during my tenure in Colorado, I met lots of Jesus-loving, adventure-seeking, global-thinking kinds of guys. But, as it turns out, none of those men pursued me. And while I’m being honest, I might as well admit that there were many times when I wondered what I was doing wrong, why marriage seemed to be eluding me while the vast majority of my friends married and had babies. Nevertheless, I remained hopeful.
As the years passed by, though, I recognized that I was letting other opportunities pass me by while waiting for my guy to arrive on the scene. I didn’t want to enter my 40s with any regrets. So, after telling family and a few close friends what I was up to, I submitted my application to some international schools. To my surprise and delight, I was offered a teaching position in Costa Rica.
I’ve lived in Costa Rica for 8 months now and, admittedly, there have been challenges. Laughter mingled with tears. Adventure thrown in with the humdrum of everyday tasks. Trial and error as I navigate a new job, new culture, new city and new language. There are days when I long for the familiar of home, friends and community. There are days when I contemplate the if only’s and what if’s of life. If only I was married … I wouldn’t be lonely. What if by moving overseas I’ve ruined any chance of marriage? But, truthfully, I think those and similar questions would plague me no matter where I lived.
Through this season of change, I’m growing into deeper trust in my heavenly Father.
I’m learning to trust Him more with writing my story. I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing hope. I’m on the watch for how God is at work in me and around me in this season. And rather than letting life pass me by, I’m chasing life.
Rebecca Jackson is a musician + teacher living in Costa Rica.