Holy crap, I’ve been alive for thirty years.
That was my first thought when I woke up on July 29th.
My 20s were filled with so much growth and change. I started that decade off with my first real break-up, the ending of a friendship with one of my best friends, and the changing schools, majors, and cities.
I dusted myself off, graduated from college with honors, loved my tribe of friends hard, and opened myself up to new (but not always better) relationships.
I was appropriately reckless – the kind that allows you to make mistakes and choose to grow, grow, grow – and I have my friends to thank for being young and reckless with me. I thank God every day that social media wasn’t a thing.
I deepened my relationship to God – my God, the one who loves us fiercely and unconditionally and without judgement – and found a way to practice gratitude daily.
I landed my first “real” job post-undergrad, and worked harder than I knew was possible because I knew it meant something to be great at your craft.
My boss at that job politely asked me to not fall in love with a new staff member. He was tall, blonde, and handsome. I politely declined, and after meeting him ran home to tell my roommate that I believed I would marry him someday.
That tall, handsome man and I loved each other hard. We also loved our independence. It’s a hard balance to learn in your early 20s – showing up for the kind of love that is deep and all-consuming while staying true to yourself and all that you hold dear – but in the end we agreed that a love that requires work is the kind of love we both wanted.
He convinced me to move to Wyoming. You’ve all heard this story by now… No plans, no jobs. A packed car and the feeling that we could conquer anything. What you don’t know is that the time spent in Wyoming is the most precious gift of time that I have. My whole world changed while I watched steadfast mountains stand firm in their crooked arch toward the heavens.
The night I left to embark on the road trip before our move was the last time that I saw my dad upright. I remember knowing deep down in the core of my bones that something was wrong- but I didn’t recognize that feeling until after it was confirmed. This will later teach me to question everything: Every ache or anxiety or twinge deserves a second glance for fear of actuality and reality. It’s a sixth sense that can’t be trusted, but it’s there, like a cat stalking me from the shadows leaving me to wonder if it’s a purring house pet or a starved mountain lion.
I was a few months shy of my 25th birthday when my father passed away. Death and grief and immense sadness are hard lessons to learn. I encountered them in the middle of my third decade on the planet, feeling so small and childlike and like I never wanted to get any older for fear of more lessons that resembled this one.
The tall, handsome blonde and I eventually moved home and planted roots, thinking about our futures and what we wanted out of life. I completed a graduate program, got engaged, bought a house, welcomed a dog into my world, and got married in front of all of my friends and family. I’ve traveled to the most beautiful places that this country has to offer – our public lands – and savored every step, breath, moment.
I spent the next five birthdays raising money for the American Cancer Society. A ton of money, actually; Close to $5,000 thanks to all of the people who loved my dad, and who also love me.
I’ve binge-watched tv; googled far too many companies, schools, jobs, locations, and symptoms; overused the hashtag and spent far too much time fussing about my appearance on social media; obsessed and agonized over my physical appearance, weight, and athletic performance; allowed several friends to not respect me and to take advantage of me; tried crazy diets and cleanses to see fast and unrealistic results; sold myself short in more ways than I can count or would like to admit; and didn’t always wear sunscreen.
I’ve also spent endless hours reading beautiful books on my couch in my cozy home; googled things that fulfill my curiosity and bring knowledge; allowed myself to share my story and words through social media in hopes that it resonates with someone, anyone; found a way to love my body and respect what I do have – like two legs – and rekindle my deep and meaningful relationship with running; told off and ended friendships with those who don’t respect me and take advantage of my goodness; found a way to eat food that nourishes my body and supports my existence on this planet; and appreciated the beauty of what I bring to this world, because as Brené Brown says, I’m the only one who can bring it.
I’ve also invested in hats and good sunscreen. I still worship the sun, but my skin no longer does.
I haven’t always gotten things right. But I’m starting to think it’s more important to focus on the fact that I haven’t always gotten it wrong either. I’ve figure it out, I’ve learned. Sometimes I hated doing it- but I survived. I survived so many things. More than that, when I look back on it, it seems like I thrived. My father passed away and I woke up every day and thanked the mountains for standing firm when I felt weak. I found a way to still express gratitude even when I felt so low. I hope that I continue to do that forever because those are the moments that save us, that lift us back up into the light so we can focus our shine on something else.
These past few weeks have been hard. I’ve been mopey and nostalgic about leaving my twenties, like it’s a good book that has finally come to an end. I’m missing my youth and the days when I didn’t notice the crows feet along my eyes.
But here I am, Thirty. I’m no longer pining for a race that I’ve already run. I’m approaching today – every day – with the same doe-eyed wonder that I had at twenty. Now that I know what it held for me, would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. But I don’t have to. I don’t have the time. I’m on the first page of a new book. Thirty. It does sound good, doesn’t it?
I notice my crows feet the most when I see a picture of myself smiling in the sunshine. That’s got to count for something.