Hello, Tirzah ladies! Today we’re hosting Allison Trowbridge, author of Twenty-Two: Letters to a Young Woman Searching for Meaning. She is 31 years old and lives in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is an honor to have her share wisdom as a student, world traveler, author of a new book, and a former director of an NGO. We are excited to have her share some of her wisdom for college week – especially as a current graduate school student.
Congrats on publishing your book, Twenty-Two. I absolutely loved it – it’s now one of my favorites that I will be definitely recommending it to anyone who will listen. What is the heart behind this book? How did it come about?
Wow, thank you–that means a lot. It’s the book I wanted to read when I was 22 and graduating from college. At the time, I looked for a book that would speak to all the questions, challenges, and uncertainties I had in that season of life. It didn’t exist at the time, so I made a commitment that I would write it someday.
In your book you talk about “spiritual MASH” – for the Tirzah girls who haven’t read your book yet, tell us about this concept and how it lead you to figure out the core things you always felt called to.
This story came from an exercise a small group leader did with me and my friends in high school. We listed out five of the people we admire most in the world, and then listed out the quality we admired most in them – things like hospitality, wisdom, and a servant’s heart. When we finished, she explained the traits we admired in others were actually qualities that God was seeking to develop in us.
You’ve traveled all over the world – which of your travel moments made the most significant impact on your life and why?
That would absolutely be a trip to Cambodia I took when I was 22 to visit organizations working on human trafficking and slavery. (I write about it in the book.) I met with a group of girls who had been trafficked as children, and seeing their immense joy and resilience had a profound impact on my life and the work I did thereafter.
What is something the Lord is teaching you today?
To be present, to listen, and to not rush to the next thing. I’m currently finishing an MBA in England, and the truth is, I feel like I’m in as uncertain of a season as I did when I graduated college. Rather than force a plan, I’m trying to find peace in not knowing what’s next. To trust the messy journey, and be completely tuned into what God is teaching me through this season. It’s really beautiful and challenging my faith in all kinds of new ways.
Many young women see injustices in the world that they want to fix, but they just don’t know where to start or how to make an impact. What would be your advice to these young women?
To start somewhere! Begin small in your own backyard. I used to think I had to solve all the world’s problems, rather than opening my eyes to the immediate needs all around me. I’d also encourage young women to focus – choose an issue that speaks to your heart, and find one or two organizations you can really get behind supporting in a meaningful way.
What is your favorite passage/verse/story from the Bible and why?
That’s a tough one! I love the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, because I struggle to wrap my mind around God’s magnificent grace. I want to live with more grace and less judgment – for both myself and others. My favorite verse has always been Matthew 28:20:
Lo, I am with you always. Even unto the end of the age.
It reminds me that God is always with us, and that He always will be. So much of life is simply about learning to walk with Him and exist in His presence.
One who stakes her identity in the truth of being a beloved, adored daughter of the most high God. That she would have the courage to see herself as the Lord sees her, and not as the world sees. That she would live in a kingdom reality, and not get lost in chasing the things the world says are most valuable.
So, we know your book is all about this, but if you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
To enjoy the journey, and do things that make you come alive. Now is the time to explore and discover what you love! Be wise, but don’t waste a moment worrying about the future. The future will work itself out, in time.
Working as director for an NGO straight out of college (btw, I loved how this all came to be!), traveling, raising awareness against human trafficking and organizing events with celebrities – your life sounds so glamorous, but what would you say to a girl who is reading your story but feeling stuck or discontent in her own story? To the girl dreaming of more or just uncertain about what her own story is?
First, I have to say that while I’ve had incredible adventures, life and work is still really hard at times. I think it’s easy to look at other people’s careers and see the highlight reels, so I just want to demystify that a little. To the girl feeling stuck (like I’ve felt so many times), I would simply say: keep dreaming. Take risks and find small joys and prioritize relationships. Trust that the desires of your heart are there for a reason. Pursue them believing that their nudging will give you direction in your own life’s journey, and find things to be grateful for. Focus on seeing the wonder in even the most normal of circumstances, because there’s magic waiting all around you. Sometimes, you just have to look for it.
Speaking of your work, I’m sure there are girls who will read your book and wonder, how do I get to do the kind of work you do? Do you have any career advice for young women looking to work for an NGO or in raising awareness in human trafficking?
Yes! Start by doing something. If you care about a cause or an organization working on it, then focus on finding ways to support them – rather than looking for them to give you a job. I began as a volunteer packing boxes, and just kept doing everything I could to genuinely support the mission. If that leads to a job, then wonderful! But you may also find incredible opportunities in simply being a volunteer or supporter.
If you could have lunch with any woman – living or someone who has passed away – who would it be and why?
Eleanor Roosevelt, because she was so committed to serving others and pursuing causes that were bigger than herself.
Young women today are told they can be anything – and everything. And that’s a lot of pressure. What is your advice to young women carrying the pressure of becoming girl bosses, mothers, entrepreneurs, executives and so much more?
Take it one day at a time, and enjoy the journey! Appreciate the opportunities, but release yourself from the unrealistic pressures that will steal your joy. I have to remind myself of this every day.
Last question, why 22?
There has never been a more exciting moment in history to be a young woman, and 22 today is what 16 was half a century ago. I don’t think there’s a more wonderful, exciting, hopeful, and challenging season of life than your early twenties. I hope this book can provide just some of the guidance and direction I was so desperate for at that age.
All photos of Alison provided by Kat Harris Photography
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