As I continue to fumble my way through the last chapter of my 20's, the hubby suggested that I write a post regarding all the life lessons that I have learned over the past decade. I should probably preface this by saying that although these are my personal experiences, I am in no way saying that you should agree or engage in any of the activities listed below. I had a few choice years where the best decisions were not always made. However, if I could do it again, would I do anything differently? Abso-friggin-lutely not. But my choices and the way I have lived my life are not for everyone. My mother has made me vastly aware of this on many occasions...
So here we go, life lessons (learned the hard way):
1. Don't be afraid to let loose. I pride myself on being a very confident person, but get a little booze in me and there is very little that I won't do. I'm not talking about dangerous or illegal activity, but the "Oh my gosh! Did she really just do that?" kind of behavior. Your 20's are the only time in your life that you can get away with almost anything. For example, it is not socially acceptable for a 40 year old drunk to be dancing on a bar. That is just sad and pathetic. But your 20's are made for dancing on bars, taking dares, and throwing your inhibitions to the wind every now and then. Responsibilities and burdens can wait, but you're only young once. Yes, I may have stayed out too late, drank more than I should, and trusted people when I probably shouldn't have, but without those questionable choices I never would've experienced half of the amazing things that I have. If I could do it again, I'd do it the same. No question. Every. Time.
2. Be there for your friends. In my life, most things tend to happen at inopportune times. This story is no exception. Our sophomore year of college, my best friend just so happened to find herself deep in boy crisis mode the night before a major exam. Being the rock star friend that I am, I snatched up a cheap bottle of whiskey and headed to her house where we proceeded to toast said boy's inadequacies shot for shot until the bottle was gone. I'm not quite sure what took place next, but I'm sure it was along the lines of dancing in our underwear and eating cheese roll ups until the sun came up (not that we'd ever done that before). Regardless, the next morning we somehow managed to get to campus and take our exam all while still intoxicated. The result? World's Most Intelligent Drunk Best Friend received an A and I received a C (too bad the exam wasn't on How to Be a Stellar Friend - I would've dominated). In the end, friend eventually got over the boy, we both passed the class, and we have a night that neither of us will never forget. Oh, and I spent a few hours of my life cleaning vomit out of best friend's hall carpet with Scrubbing Bubbles. The cheese roll ups must've gotten the best of me.
3. Not everything will be rainbows and butterflies. Don't be afraid to live in a rundown, shoe box apartment eating Ramen noodles for dinner every night. There were many times in my early 20's where I had to choose going to work rather than having fun with my friends. I do not come from a wealthy family, and Mommy & Daddy weren't there to bail me out when I didn't have enough money to make rent. In life we make choices and, if we make the wrong ones (which I often do), we have to live with those consequences. The good news is the struggle won't last forever (At least it shouldn't. If it does, you may need to reevaluate.). Believe it or not, it will actually built your character. And once you have made something of yourself, you'll look back on those days and smile because the struggle and sacrifice will make you so much more grateful.
4. Love is complicated. There's a reason that so many TV shows and movies are centered around relationships - they're constantly changing and they provide endless amounts of drama. My love life has been no exception. I met my now-husband at the start of my junior year in college. Was it a love-at-first-sight, life-changing event? No. It was far from it.We became friends as he was still recovering from a break-up with a girl in which he moved across the entire country to be with. Then, one day, we decided to become more. Now, our pasts have been muddled with issues (so I'll spare you the details), but just know that this wasn't your typical courtship. In fact, we never even had our real first date until we moved in together. It has been a long and arduous nine years full of break-ups, make-ups, and lots of fighting, but through it all one thing remained the same - we knew we couldn't live without each other. That's the thing about love: even when you think you know better, your heart tends to prove you wrong. Such was our case. And I'm glad we struggled through all of the mess, because now life is so unbelievably wonderful that I often can't believe that we made it. We spent our 20's growing up together, and through it we became the best of friends. I honestly can't imagine sharing my life with anyone else. And to this day it is constant work and sacrifice, because nothing good in this life comes for free. Some things are worth the effort and some aren't, but that's a lesson you have to learn for yourself.
5. At some point, the party will stop. One day, you will graduate college, be thrown out in the real world, and be forced to start making it on your own. Bills and responsibilities will become a real thing and no one will reach out to hold your hand or help you along the way. Such is life. And while this sounds like a bummer (and trust, for me this realization really sucked), this is a great thing. I needed that wake up call to force me to grow up and decide who I wanted to be in this life. It was scary and involved a great amount of risk, but that's what your 20's are for. It's for making hard decisions and taking risks. For if you fail, you have so much less to lose. Move across the country, travel overseas, take that internship that pays nothing if you think it will aid in landing you your dream job. If you learn nothing else from this post, know that it's okay to make mistakes. And your 20's are the best time to make them.
6. A college degree does not guarantee you success. I was the girl who partied her way through college. My first few years were a blur. A fun blur but a hot mess, nonetheless. It wasn't until my senior year that I realized I needed to buckle down and decide what I wanted to do with my life. Now, I'm sure you're wondering how one manages to pass classes with this sort of behavior and, honestly, I couldn't tell you. I literally did the bare minimum. Thankfully, I got my act together long enough to learn a thing or two and was able to graduate with a pretty decent GPA. What I didn't realize was that all of my energy spent partying and making friends should have been focused on things like extra curricular activities. I graduated with a BA in Communications, but the only job experience I had was waitressing (which is not very impressive on a resume). So I spent the next 6 months working full-time at Chili's praying that something decent would come along until one day I had enough and I quit. Then, I had the brilliant idea to become an insurance salesperson, but that dream was short lived when I realized I hated cold calling and I hated selling stuff. Then, I stumbled across an ad in the paper for my current job. I never would've envisioned myself in this position, but it has more than paid the bills and it has allowed me to make some pretty awesome contacts. Is it a lifelong career? No. But that's what you get when you jack around for three years. My advice? Suck it up and pay your dues in your 20's. There will be plenty of time to reap the benefits later. Trust me, when you're 30 and working your dream job, you'll be happy that you did.
7. There comes a time when you have to decide who your true friends are. And this time will come a couple of years after you head out into the real world. Things are fun and easy when you're young, but as soon as responsibility and real world obligations enter the picture, people tend to show their true colors. Yes, it will hurt when someone betrays you, but you cannot let that define you. No one wants to be that person who holds a grudge for 30 years. Take life lessons for what they're worth. Send that person on their merry way and hold your head high as you do the same. You really will be better off without them in the long run. And it's funny how much easier you will find life to be without them. Time will move on and soon they (and whatever they did to damage the friendship) will be a distant memory. Easier said than done (I get that), but we're looking at the bigger picture here. And in the bigger picture, they're an asshole and you're awesome. 'Nough said.
8. You will become your mother. No matter how hard you try to fight it, you will. It will make you stop clean in your tracks the first time you realize it, too. And, if you are like me, you will try everything in your power to fight it. Until one day, when you realize that your mom is not the horrible monster that you have made her out to be and, actually, there is a reason that she behaves the way she does - she loves you. And she was right. And turning into her really isn't such a bad thing. It means that you're growing up and making the right decisions now. And once you have your first child (not that this will happen for everyone in their 20's, but that just so happens to be my case), you will call her freaking out about X, Y, and Z and she will immediately comfort and calm you because that's what mothers do. And that's when you'll realize that you want to be the kind of mother that she is. Then you will thank your lucky stars that you have such an amazing woman in your life, because you could've ended up like your friend's weird mom.
9. Our society thrives on stress. Seriously, people make things way more complicated than they need to be. Mortgages, car payments, daycare, doctor bills, insurance - it's enough to make anyone go insane. The amount of crap that you have to deal with as an adult is ridiculous. For example, we wanted to buy a house. We saved our pennies and found the perfect one and decided to buy it. Enter stress. We didn't realize you had to pay taxes to everyone and their Aunt Sally upon buying said house. We also didn't know homeowner's insurance was going to be outrageous. Further, we didn't realize you had to do so much annual upkeep. We just wanted to buy a house, paint the walls, plant some flowers, and have our friends over for cocktails in the backyard. Had we realized the amount of stress involved, we may still be in our shitty rental with a backyard full of cats. Fast forward a year later, we were finally settled with the house, things were going well, and we decided to have a baby. Enter more stress. Not only are there 9 million baby books to read (all of which contradict each other to the fullest extent), but there are classes to take, hospitals to consider, items to register for, and birth plans to create. And then the fun decisions like Do we circumcise if it's a boy? Should we immunize? Congratulations, you now have another million pamphlets to read. Again, we just wanted to have a baby and love it and take it for walks in the stroller - not freak out about things that hadn't even occurred yet. Fast forward 6 months, and here we are, all still alive and seemingly well. Then the other day someone brings up baby proofing and started listing off all the necessities we will need when our baby becomes mobile. Dear Lord, when does it end?! I highly recommend waiting until your 30's to deal with all of this nonsense. Had I known it was going to be such a headache, I would've ridden out the last few years of my 20's in complete and utter oblivion. Enjoy the party while you still can, kids.
10. Family makes life worth living. Growing up, my immediate family consisted of my parents, my older sister (of a mere 14 months) and myself. My sister and I were the best of friends...until we weren't. Now, when you have children who are 14 months apart in age, things are going to go one of two ways: they'll either be the best of friends or they'll hate each other. Unfortunately, my sister and I were the latter. And in an effort to be as different from her as I could, I did the only thing I knew how to do - I rebelled (making my teenage years an absolute nightmare for my parents). It wasn't until I moved off to college that I started to appreciate my family. Growing up in a small town, I counted down the days until I could leave, and while I was stuck there I took my frustrations out on those closest to me (which made sense at the time, because it was their fault I had to live there). Regardless, I spent the better part of my early 20's mending a lot of fences and doing a lot of soul searching, and I finally came to the realization that family is the only constant in this life. Friends come and go but family will always be there when you need them. And now, having a family of my own, I can appreciate that sentiment even more. If there's one lesson I hope my daughter learns, it's that family is irreplaceable. Although we may disagree at times, we are fortunate to have a pretty good one - and that's something to be thankful for.
And lastly, here is the very first picture that Jake and I took together. I had just turned 20 and had no idea that this guy would forever change my life. Mostly I'm just posting this because he hates this photo. But I think it's adorable.