Tuesday, October 22, 2013

25 Redux

Last weekend I celebrated my 26th birthday. Or as I like to call it, the first anniversary of my 25th birthday. (That's a thing, right?)

Celebrating our birthdays together.

Twenty-five was certainly a year of personal growth and discovery. I set out to live more fully, to conquer fears, and to become a better person. While in many ways this year was an uphill climb, the good outweighed the bad and I can definitively say that I am far stronger now than I have ever been.

To mark the occasion, I'd originally set out to compile a list of 25 lessons I learned while I was 25. Instead it came to include not only what I learned about myself, but observations, accomplishments, and memories of the people I love most. This past year may not have always been easy, but it was certainly worth the journey.

Make yourself comfortable and be sure you have a full cup of coffee, this may take awhile.


:1: In my daily life, I realized that I crave autonomy and variety while still thriving on routine and a sense of order. I need to pursue careers and activities that foster this and stop trying to force myself to be someone I'm not. 

:2: I've finally reached a place where I am comfortable, dare I say confident with my body. Thanks to body-positive blogs like The Nearsighted Owl and the writings of Lesley Kinzel, I've embraced the idea that my body is just that--mine. I don't need to present myself in any certain way to appease anyone else or fit into society's standards. 

:3: Physically, I'm the healthiest and strongest I've ever felt. Running on an almost daily basis has taught me discipline, endurance, and how to push beyond my limits. When I'm running, it's just me, the sidewalk, and the music in my ears. It helps me think, elevates my mood, and boosts my creativity. I may not be the fastest and I will probably never run a marathon, but I will be forever grateful for the strength and confidence it has given me.

:4: On a somewhat superficial note, I bought a bikini this year and actually wore it to the beach. Do I have what society would define as a "bikini body?" Not even close. But thanks to :2: and :3:, I told society to suck it. I wore a bikini because I wanted to wear a bikini, dammit. 

:5: On a similar note, I decided that I was tired of blending in. My entire wardrobe doesn't need to just be shades of brown and gray. Bring on all the colors of the rainbow! Yellow skinny jeans? Yes, please!

:6: I joined a community orchestra and brought making music back into my life. When I'm playing the violin, my mind is completely free and focused. In real life I'm constantly multitasking, my mind constantly jumping between a multitude of thoughts simultaneously. But when my eyes are reading the notes on the page, my mind is solely focused on translating those notes to music through my fingers. It is so freeing to be focused on one thing.

:7: Through my involvement with The University Wits, I've been involved in more theatre (both onstage and behind-the-scenes) this year than ever. Few things elevate my spirit like making people laugh, and I was fortunate enough to make entire audiences do so multiple shows per week. 

:8: Alaska. Oh, Alaska. This beautiful adventure swept me off my feet to the West and will forever make me yearn for a horizon lined with mountain peaks. Alaska was the catalyst for giving myself permission to choose happiness and gave me the courage to take that leap. The Last Frontier with always, always hold a special place in my memories, and in my heart. 

:9: Shortly after returning from Alaska, I broke. I know now that this was a blessing in disguise. (Hindsight is truly 20/20.) However, I also know that I will look back on those few weeks at the beginning of August as some of the darkest of my life. Not only did I not want to get out of bed every morning, the crushing weight on my chest made it almost impossible. I felt broken beyond repair and was certain I would feel this way forever. 

:10: But in the midst of this storm, I prevailed. I learned that I'm resilient and that I am far stronger than I (or anyone, really) give myself credit for. With the constant support of Kyle, my parents, my closest friends, and my therapist, I was able to pull myself out of the deepest depression of my life. 

:11: I am continually learning that recovery from depression and anxiety is an ongoing process. It doesn't happen overnight and there will always been blue days. Depression and anxiety should not be equated with brokenness and weakness. There will be bad days and that's ok. I'm learning to not fight that, but also to not let it steer me off-course. 

:12: Calm body, calm mind, calm heart. I try repeat this to myself when I feel a wave of anxiety coming on. I've learned that if I can just catch my breath and have a moment of clarity, there are other things I can do that will quell the panic: drinking water, walking outside, listening to my aptly-titled "Don't Panic" playlist. If I can calm my body and mind, my heart is sure to follow. 

:13: Being true to myself, my needs, and my passions is not being selfish. The Boss said it best: It's your heart that holds your fate. So often I look outside of myself: for approval, for acceptance, for answers. But more than likely, those things that I search for are held inside of me. And I'm learning to trust myself above all.

:14: I've also come to realize that I am an introvert. While I enjoy going to parties or out to the bar, love being around my friends, and don't mind occasionally being the center of attention, I also find these things emotionally exhausting. When I need to recharge, I need to be alone. I've always known this about myself, but I just recently accepted that it is not a personality flaw. It's just who I am.

:15: I've defined spirituality on a personal level and its meaning for my life. In the words of Hushpuppy, "I see that I'm a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right." Indeed.

:16: I began identifying as a feminist. I'm unsure why it took me all this time to embrace the not-so-radical idea that women (or any person, for that matter) should not be forced to conform to social and societal stereotypes or norms. We should all be free to live our lives and make our own choices, without pressure to act or look or dress or speak or think or be a certain way. This should not be an earth-shattering concept; however, it is one that I am proud to support.

:17: Direction and vision, two things that have been missing (or at the very least misplaced) are slowly but surely returning. For so long, I felt like I would always feel stuck. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who I am, and have an idea of what I want and where I want to be. 

:18: I took the biggest leap of my life and quit my well-paying, full-time job in search of fulfillment rather than a false sense of duty. No prospects. No clue. Just free. 

:19: With my newly found vision (and free time), I applied to grad school. When I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I swore up and down that I was done. Not only did I not want to continue on to a Master's, I didn't have the foggiest idea of what I would pursue. Now over three years later, I've done a complete 180. It feels so right. (But more on that later.)

:20: After a indeterminate hiatus, I've been doing a bit of creative writing. Years of writer's block ended and I have ideas for stories floating in my brain and words flowing through my fingers. The going is slow, but it feels so good to be writing consistently again, both creatively and on this blog.

:21: I rekindled my love for a good cup of coffee, the fiction section, and having long hair.

:22: These guys.

Photos courtesy of Chuck, Gyllie, & Victoria.

This year, I have truly learned what it means to have a chosen family. 

:23: These guys.
Photo courtesy of my sister, Svet.

My family family. They are behind me 110%, no matter what. Always. I would not be where I am or who I am without them.  

:24: This guy.

Alaska <3 br="">//Jul2013

Forever and always.

:25: I set out to live my twenty-fifth year to its absolute fullest, to live with purpose and intention. In many respects, I succeeded. The happiness, sadness, joy, and pain that I experienced in this past year have shaped me and molded me into a more confident, stronger person. The road ahead remains uncertain, but it is also an ongoing lesson in embracing the journey. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Here's to yet another trip around the sun. 

Thank you for reading, friends. 


  1. Beautifully written and inspiring. Love you.

    Emily M.

  2. I've been following along with your major changes over the past few months and I am so happy to read this post. Your writing feels SO inspired! Sounds like you're learning a lot about yourself and embracing positive changes in your life. How lucky you are to have such a supportive husband and family! You go girl!

    1. Thanks, Kara! It's been an interesting few months, but I'm so happy to finally feel like I'm really living again.