Twenty-Two: Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning

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by Allison Trowbridge



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718078164
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 237,745
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Allison Trowbridge is a writer, speaker, and social entrepreneur who is passionate about empowering millennial women to impact their world. She has spent the past decade working against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, first at Not For Sale and presently with The Freedom Fund. She is a partner at Just Business, an impact investment firm addressing the root causes of slavery, and she advises social enterprises and nonprofits on strategy, branding, and partnerships. Allison is a MBA candidate at Oxford University and graduated from Westmont College in 2008. She currently lives in New York City.

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Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning

By Allison Trowbridge

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2017 Allison Trowbridge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-7811-9



Had we but world enough and time.



Dear Ashley,

The answer to your question is yes. A resounding, enthusiastic YES. Consider this letter the first among many. Twenty-two, to be exact.

New Beginnings

It's the second of September, and everything is changing — the pace of the streets, the weight of the air — as nature turns its colors in gold anticipation. Summer has yawned its last afternoon, our espadrilles have been traded for argyle, and everyone is walking with a briskness in their step. Fall is my favorite season. It feels like life is moving, the world is tilting, the hemisphere bowing its annual curtsy to meet the coming chill.

I think I love fall because I love new beginnings. And tweed, and ombré leaves, and those sickeningly sweet pumpkin lattes. September signals the start of something, and for you, dear girl, this month marks one of the greatest beginnings of your life.

It may also be one of the most unsettling. The best of times can also bring the hardest of changes, and the high you're on now may soon dip into an aching of uncertainty and questions you can't answer yet.

I remember being where you are today: walking down that worn dirt path, through oaks and old white colonnades, bagpipes blaring sanctimoniously as a warm wind lifts the scent of kumquats and lavender, the nearby sea, and new beginnings. You feel awkward and at home all at once. It's surreal in the way that any life milestone is surreal, built up with so much anticipation before it. And then the day finally comes, and the moment arrives, and you realize you're still the same you. But everything else is different. You are still today who you were yesterday, only now the surroundings, and the people, and the tomorrows have changed.

First days are magic: invigorating, nerve-racking, and totally freeing. My memories flood back to another first day. The beginning of elementary school, walking into a classroom for the first time, shaking Mrs. Saam's hand. It was large and warm and inviting and otherworldly.

Kindergarten! I was thrilled.

As I boldly grasped my pink lunch box — my armor and social-normalizer — my mom asked, with all a mother's emotion, "Honey, how am I going to get by every day without your help?" "Don't worry, Mommy," I comforted her. "You'll always have my help in your heart." And away I went.

It was, I think, a foreshadowing of our drive thirteen years later down the California coast, moving me to college freshman year. I fell asleep somewhere south of Santa Cruz, and my sweet mom cried the whole rest of the way. Three and a half hours. I awoke just north of Santa Barbara, so excited and nervous I didn't notice her puffy eyes.

Something tells me your momma did the same.

These transitions, Ash, are bittersweet. But you and I both know we only gain the road ahead if we leave the traveled road behind.

Seas the Day

Tell me how you're holding up this week, dear girl. How are you processing this massive life move you've embarked on?

I'm giddy with excitement for your "firsts." The first awkward meetings with lifelong friends, the first classes that will lead to majors and internships and careers. The first time you realize you're away — I mean, really away — from home. Away from all the comforts and familiarities, the soothing drudgery of predictable days, and thrust instead into the reckless, wild ride we call collegiate life. I can almost taste the cafeteria food.

I envy this new adventure you're stepping into. I envy it in the way I would envy a friend setting off to sail the Pacific. I know there will be sea-green days of sickness, ink-black nights of storms, and salt-encrusted everything. There will be exhaustion and disorientation and loss, and so much open ocean you could go blind from all the blue. But I envy that what's staring you straight in the face is nothing but that open ocean. The setting that will bring your miseries will also carry new worlds of delight: the bronze sun above, the wind whipping your hair, adventure stowed like treasure beneath your mainsail. Nothing but you and your boat and the possibility of a sea that will shape you and teach you ten thousand things you never knew about yourself, and would never have known, had you not left the comfort of the familiar wood dock.

Change is fraught with uncertainty and fear. But it's an exhilarating fear, don't you think? You feel as though your life is unfolding before you and every offer is available. Every failure and triumph and heartbreak and victory lap a pending possibility.

Which leads to my confession.

The Journey

Ash, for as long as I can remember, I've had a deep-seated sense that one day I was going to arrive — that I would wake up one morning and stretch out my arms to the world and revel in a sense of finished self. Probably around the age of thirty-five.

Have you felt this?

I never used to admit it to myself, and I certainly didn't announce it to anyone else. What normal teenage girl daydreams about her graduation into midthirties adulthood? I'm almost embarrassed to write it now. And yet, from a very young age, I had this unrelenting sense I was moving toward a destination. I was becoming someone, becoming the finished me, and one day I was going to get there. Even as a child, I couldn't wait to meet this worldly, wisdom-filled, thirty-five-year-old self.

I'll never forget the evening that all changed.

I was just a few years older than you are now, lying stomach-down on my mattress on the floor. We were approaching the start of senior year, and my girlfriends and I had moved four miles off campus into the Country Club Apartments. Each night we piled side by side into rooms that smelled like chipping paint and aging carpet, with more telephone wire than country club in our view, and it felt like the ultimate freedom.

I remember that evening so well: bright clangs of laughter and dinner dishes in the other room, the final strokes of neon sky outside my screen door. The flimsy lamp that had followed us since freshman year burned amber overhead as I flipped through a wine-red devotional: Oswald Chambers's classic, My Utmost for His Highest.

I've always equated underlining to learning, so, pen poised, I found the day's page: July 28. I skimmed the first paragraph and, out of habit, pressed a line of ink beneath what seemed an important stretch of words: "What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end ..."

I stopped. I put my pen down. I read the passage again.

We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God's purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

Ash, the soul — tuned by character — is an instrument. When words strike a chord, our spirit resonates. I think the heart can discern a cadence of truth as much as the ear can discern a melody, and that night, those words felt like music.

I lay there for a while, on my mind's empty beach, as the cold truths caught me up like a tide. What we see as the journey, God sees as the destination. I wondered if I'd had life a bit wrong all these years.

Once upon a time, I believed that who I was today didn't matter as much as who I would become. That what mattered most was whether I achieved the goals I set for myself, the goals I felt called to. I believed that hitting the sands of some tropical shore was what made the sailing trip worthwhile. But God wasn't waiting for me to get somewhere. He saw my life, the entire span of it, from birth to death, all at once. And he loved me as I was and as I am and also as I would be, in some eternal moment outside of time.

I'm not sure where you are with God, but I'd love to know. I have a lot more to learn about you, Ash, and you about me, as well. But what I do know is this: That night was a revelation for me. The thought washed over me like a wave, and I pressed in until I was soaked. Absorbed by, and absorbing, this new reality: our life's journey is our life's destination.

Be Everything

We are living in one of the most remarkable periods in history for young women. When I look at you, dear girl, I see limitless opportunity. Never have young women been given greater access to the world — education to seize, information to gain, platforms to create, blogs to post, social networks to join, online stores to shop!

Think about this, Ash: With just a credit card and a travel-booking site, you can be anywhere on the globe within seventy-two hours, reading the comment thread on your Instaposts before you even feel jet-1 agged. Your dad might not be thrilled with your reckless spontaneity — but that's not the point. When in history has this level of access existed for an eighteen-year-old, let alone a woman?

A young woman, especially in the West, has never had more choices before her than the girl of today. Ours is the era of options and opportunities, and endless public opinions on how we might make the most of them. And yet, the girls I see exiting our twenty-first-century graduating classes seem burdened with more questions than answers, more pressure than prospects, and more feelings of doubt than direction.

I think our generation is caving under the many new and, dare I say, unrealistic pressures of this brave new world: the societal, social, familial, and, most of all, personal expectations for what we should make of this life.

There's pressure to meet your dream guy, to land the perfect job, to design a storybook home, to raise a small tribe of cherubic children. Pressure to look like the cover girls, to know the most glamorous people, to attract millions of followers, and, of course, to change the world. Or at least end extreme poverty by the time you hit thirty. I hope you don't feel all these pressures yet, but you probably will. I certainly feel them, and more.

A woman named Courtney E. Martin once wrote, "We are the daughters of feminists who said 'You can be anything' and we heard 'You have to be everything.'"

Don't be everything, Ash. Be you.

Don't do everything. Do you.

There's only one you, and the world needs you desperately.


I'm so glad I saw you last week, dear girl. You have courage and character and a beauty that breathes deep. I'm honored you would ask me to walk with you over what could be the most transformative season of your life.

It certainly was in mine.

I've never been terrific at keeping in touch, and the coming distance won't help, but I promise you this: I will write you every other month over these precious college years. Please write to me the months in between, so I can know you better and know how you are. Tell me about all of the challenges, joys, and triumphs of everyday living, for living is truly a triumph.

I can't give you all the answers, but I hope I can help you ask some good questions. I think asking, the very act of it, is our lifeblood. Wonder and courage pump through us as we question, giving breath to our beings, strength to our bones. Some days it's tempting to live in concrete planes of black and white, but the world is full of color, and growing up is learning how to navigate the hues and the infinite gradients of grey.

There's so much more to say: on romance and justice, on wanderlust and red lipstick, and on the goal itself. I'm excited for this season you're stepping into, Ash. Thank you for letting me journey with you.


PS — Do you mind that I call you Ash? It suits you. PPS — Call your mom.

What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.




Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.




My dear college student, I don't know where to begin! I have so many questions.

How do you like your classes? Are you enjoying the day-today? Have you fallen in love with this glittery seaside city? Or plain-old fallen in love? I can't believe just as you are settling in, I am preparing to move away — t o San Francisco of all places. But I know you are exactly where you're supposed to be, and I am too. I think.

Sunset Decisions

Thank you for your letter, Ash. I cherished every word.

You wrote about the peace you felt the moment you first stepped onto campus, and I remember feeling the same. Which was strange, because until that point I'd been convinced I would attend some legendary East Coast school with more college students than the population of the town where I grew up. I wanted to spread my wings, and I assumed that meant getting as far away from the California coast as I could.

Then I set foot onto Westmont.

I was in the midst of college applications, and my parents thought it would be a good idea to drive down the coast and let me see a few schools before I made a decision. You know, get a sense for what the next four years could look like, since I really had nothing to picture. They had never sent a kid to college, and I had never been, so the process was new for all of us.

The first place we stopped was a state school, which looked exciting, except several students from my high school were headed there and I've always had a strange desire to be different. Check that one off the list. Next we stopped at my dad's alma mater, which was large and vibrant and stunning. This could be an option, I thought. Until my dad, with the enthusiasm of a first-time campus tour guide, proceeded to show us the student housing and proudly pointed out all the places he'd lived with flea infestations. He drove us past buildings that were set on fire during campus protests in the 1970s, and told stories of the wild audiences who attended the rock shows he played with his band. My mom shook her head slowly in the front seat as Dad relived the good ol' days and didn't understand my lack of zeal about the school. I'm sure the fleas have long since migrated south — not least because of the fires — but my mind was made up. Sorry, Dad.

The clouds rolled in as our journey continued, and I wondered if any college would be right for me. We drove south down the coast and pulled into a small 1930s estate-converted-to-campus tucked amid the sycamores of Montecito. I had seen Westmont's booth at college fairs and felt an instant draw to the scenic shots and smiling faces on the display boards. It looked magical ... too magical. Too lovely for the stoic hardship I was certain college life would entail. Plus, it was small and on the West Coast, which did not fit my vision of getting lost in a sea of twenty thousand preppy people. But then we parked, and I walked along Kerrwood Lawn, and something in me changed.

Sometimes things that make the most sense in life don't make logical sense in our minds, at first. They are heart-knowing, not head-knowing. It was early January — winter break. The campus was foggy and cold and empty. There was nothing alluring, nothing that matched the sunny, palm tree landscapes on the pamphlets, but Westmont felt like coming home. I can't describe it any other way.

We spent an hour there, strolling the quiet hills, and I took the place in. As we drove off that evening along the ocean-lined 101, I turned back and saw the sky lit up in a brilliant flame of color, blurring with intensity like an oversaturated photo. I'd never seen a sunset like that before. My parents made plans in the front of the car and my brother nodded along to the music in his headphones, but the moment, for me, was spiritual. After that evening, I didn't worry about the college admissions process or fuss over the other applications that had once caused so much stress. That sunset had secured my fate.

I knew, that I knew, that I knew — I was going to Westmont.

Major Choices

Now Ash, let's discuss the overwhelming question hanging over your head — the great decision that will direct the course of your next four years. The choice that could set the bearing of your life's career, determine the places you go and the people you meet, shape the human being you become, and potentially decide the plot of land where you are buried.

Your major.

I began college with a plan to study religion. Yes, I know what you're thinking: I'm even more saintly than you thought. But I actually chose religious studies because I loved my church youth group and my leader and mentor, Lindsey, and I wanted to be like her. I'm loads of fun at summer camp and thought if I majored in religion then someone might hire me as a youth group leader.


Excerpted from Twenty-Two by Allison Trowbridge. Copyright © 2017 Allison Trowbridge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part I Freshman

1 On Seasons & Arriving 3

2 On Beauty & Seeing 11

3 On Time & Becoming 25

4 On Love & Choosing 38

5 On Vocation & Beginning 53

6 On Injustice & Meaning 65

Part II Sophomore

7 On Fear & Walking 77

8 On Impact & Bearing 88

9 On Friendship & Missing 97

10 On Wanderlust & Exploring 108

11 On Desire & Serving 120

12 On Wonder & Believing 133

Part III Junior

13 On Style & Communicating 147

14 On Romance & Leaving 159

15 On Perfection & Failing 172

16 On Dreams & Calling 182

17 On Work & Weddings 196

Part IV Senior

18 On journeys & Resting 211

19 On Hope & Fighting 226

20 On Pain & Surviving 238

21 On Darkness & Healing 252

22 On Commencement 262

Epilogue 268

Acknowledgments 270

Notes 274

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Twenty-Two: Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Riv69 More than 1 year ago
I received a copy for review but all my thoughts are 100% my own. I wish I could have picked this book up without having to write a review immediately because of the way it was structured. Twenty-Two is composed of twenty-two letters from the author to a fictional college student named Ash where the author serves as a mentor to the girl throughout her four years of college. I picked this up because I was drawn by a desire to have a mentor-life figure in my life and I really enjoyed the laid back style of the writing - it's almost as if the reader was Ash because everything was so intimate. Just by picking up this book, I was immediately struck by so many phrases that resonated with me and my experience as a freshman and I had just read the first chapter. There are so many beautiful quotes throughout the novel and great life teachings that I think are really important for everyone to hear regarding different aspects of college life. After reading the first couple of chapters, I already had so many post-its marking special phrases that I knew I wanted to journal on and reflect on later and that just continued throughout the book. There really isn't an exact way to "review" this book because I think it'll speak to everyone differently based on their experiences but it really impacted my understanding of college and it's something that I will definitely reference in the future throughout the years. Find more reviews at Le Petit Photograph
CisnerosCafe More than 1 year ago
Written in letters which are formatted more into sections than actual letters, Trowbridge lends advice to a fictional character named Ash. The reader doesn't encounter Ash's response to Allison throughout the book. We only read Allison's view and well-meaning guidance. Her advice is informed by her own experiences in college. Trowbridge states this is the book she wanted to read when she was twenty-two. Ash is every young woman who identifies with the character - going off to college, making her way through reality, and searching for more than what is presented to her. She is open and ready to receive. I couldn't relate to Twenty-Two. I needed a different kind of advice when I finally made it through college. I enjoyed engaging with the pages as I gear up to see my teenager through her senior year in high school. I gleaned some beautiful advice from the "Last Pick" section/letter: "Being the outsider cracked the soul of my world, and into those deep crevices I felt God pouring the fertile seeds of empathy. One day those seeds would blossom into greater faith - a faith put into practice as I learned to love others in the ways I wanted to be loved" (Trowbridge, 138). I recommend this book to young women going into their senior year of high school or are college bound. It is not bound in scripture but does have a few inspirational ones. I appreciated that. Twenty-Two makes a nice graduation gift.
summer_no9 More than 1 year ago
Twenty Two By ALLISON TROWBRIDGE Letter to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning This book fully of a wonderful story with compelling to read and inspire me in a lot of a great story with a sense of mission and passion to live more fully as a young woman embark on their own remarkable journeys and sharing us with the world of Twenty Two is a fantastic and amazing time in all own life that we all have or we will have too. This book is full of the story and the mild of moment of emotion that we all had been through this will be a timeless guide to life and love, grief and celebration that lunges at you both the spirit of Plato and flashes of uncommon wisdom that also will encourage for all of the age. This book is reminding and pull me out of the time I was had been passed or you will passed for trust and adventure or confuse in life, love and laugh with friend. We are search for wisdom, direction and the heart of a trusted of friend. This book will be a guide or a back up that will make you love every page. I highly recommend to everyone and every age must to read this book. " I received this book free from The BookLook Bloggers program for this review "
OakTreeReviews More than 1 year ago
Sometimes it’s hard to be a young adult in your twenties. You might need to make life-altering decisions and forge a new path for yourself. Or you might need to deal with issues that didn’t concern you in your teens. Allison Trowbridge’s book Twenty-Two: Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning addresses these young adult years, discussing topics such as dreams and calling, seasons of life, friendship, love and relationships, vocation, beauty, injustice, fear, wanderlust, belief, perfection and failing, and so much more. I inititally shied away from reading the book because I wondered if it would be geared specifically for 22-year-olds, perhaps those who are newly out of college and ready to enter the next step of their lives. But the book is applicable for people in their early or late twenties (and maybe even early thirties), and would be good for young women as well as young men. Trowbridge does not tell people how to live, but rather uses her own experiences to show how one can overcome obstacles in their lives. The author certainly gives sound, practical advice to her readers. *I received this book for review*