Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things I Have Managed to Learn in My 20's

Two days and counting, ya'll!! Two days until the decade clicks over, and the 30th anniversary of the day of my birth will ensue. As the youngest member of my new faculty-friend group, I will be going out with the "gang" to have a few drinks, some smart conversation, and allow myself to be teased for my youth. The following day, I will be packing up and driving to Boston for a week of more birthday celebrations and kosher Thanksgiving festivities in the company of my favorite rabbi-to-be. (But more on this later. I figure, if I drop enough hints, some of you will be on the seat of your pants. In the meantime, let me assure you, it's a whopper of a story.)

That said, I was performing my usual shower ritual after my gym work-out today, and it occurred to me that it would be fun to write a post about the stuff I learned in my 20's. Reflecting on where I was ten years ago until now, I should be the first to admit that I have come a hell of a long way (...baby). Of course, ten years is hard to wrap up in one post, but I'll give it a shot. Here goes:

1. I have learned that I can do just about anything. Anything. In the first half of my 20's, I legally took my younger brother away from my parents and gave him the stability and trust that they were unable to give him. I survived sexual assault. I graduated from college with honors and moved across the country with my life in a station wagon and $500 to my name. I battled my way through graduate school. I fell in love, and (thankfully) fell out of it. I got sick. Really sick. Then, I fought my way to better. I learned a few languages. I got a Master's degree. I changed a few lives, including my own.

2. In the latter half of my twenties, I learned that my future is mine, and so is my present tense. I learned how to express my boundaries, both personally and professionally. I finally allowed myself to be angry and as ugly as possible to both of my parents for the perpetuation of their narcissism and abuse. I learned that I had a voice. I also learned that it was time to allow that voice to grow, in order to be the woman I dreamed of being, not just for me, but for the people who love me, both now and in the future. It is only in the latter half of my twenties that I finally gave myself the right not only to wish for beautiful things in my life, but to practice the daily habits necessary to achieve these dreams.

3. I learned that living my dream involves committing myself to a hell of a roller coaster ride, but it's interesting and well worth it. I also learned that this involves a number of "down" moments, where have often felt like I was clinging to the edge of the world by my finger tips. The great part about this is that I will get through these moments with more emotional strength than most people possess in their pinkie fingers. So there.

4. I have learned to never stop, never give up on myself, and never feel sorry for myself because the opportunity to learn from my pitfalls is far more interesting than paying someone to put me on medication.

5. Speaking of medication, I have learned that I may not be able to successfully ignore my plucky immune system, but I do not need to have my intensity or creativity altered to have the authenticity of my experiences fit within someone else's "bell curve". Nothing against medication at all, but I have found that all of my troubles can be eased with good habits rather than good meds. Recreational drugs depress me; alcohol is not my friend.

6. Good habits: I finally found a diet that suits me, and an exercise regime that feels right. I sleep now. I am forgiving of myself. I practice patience. I breathe. I meditate. I smile at the child within me and say very kind things to her. I wear my seatbelt in all situations. I do not allow my body to fall into the wrong hands, or my heart to land between the wrong set of teeth.

7. I am exceptionally good at being with myself. Because of this, I am a fabulous friend and worthy companion.

8. I am aware of the fact that I have done and seen a number of things in my life, yet I look at every day as a chance to learn something new. Every new person is a new friend. Intelligence is not a number, or gauged by the number of degrees hanging on one's wall.

9. I have absolutely no fear because I fail to live with regrets. In my relationships, I have learned to listen to what is often time's not said, and accept the pain that sometimes comes when my investment in someone proves to be a lemon. Instead, I take the lesson. I deal with it. I learn something. When someone shows me who they are...for better or for worse...I believe them the first time. I have learned to do this, and, in doing this, I have learned to get the hell out of my own way. I don't take things personally, and I no longer allow my ability to love to be clouded by fear of failure and self-doubt. Love happens, so does shit. It is best to know the difference.

10. And finally...finally...I am now only beginning to be a practioner of my passions. In this, I am finally learning where my balance is, and how much I have to give of myself to the world. It's taken a great deal of work, but my foundations are feeling more structurally secure, and so I am moving towards greater social activism and involvement in issues that are important to me. My ideals and ambitions remain high, but they are finally folding together into a life that feels validated, full of integrity and complete.

Like, I said, it's been one hell of a decade. Happy Birthday to me...



Kathryn & Vince said...

Happy HAPPY birthday. You've done so much and come so far and yet you have a lifetime of joys and more ahead of you. 30 is fantastic.

Liz said...

As someone who is on the opposite side of the age spectrum you're leaving soon (I turned 21 last week :-), I find your list wonderfully introspective and inspiring.

I hope by the time I am nearing 30 I will have had as many adventures as you and have developed such a strong sense of self.

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

As someone Really 'on the opposite side of the age spectrum' here, I'm glad you wrote this all down, 'cause I can barely recall it now. It was only yesterday that old one eyed famous flyer Wiley Post was lost with the great humorist Will Rogers in AK.

But it's a solid list, and one to take to heart as you grow & learn.

Cheers & Happy Birthday! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Namaste, and thanks for sharing your list. That is some amazing growth and some of us can only aspire to those things. :)

Estrella said...

Delurking to wish you a belated Happy Birthday. Congratulations to you on reaching this milestone and for all you've accomplished in the last decade. May you be blessed as you enter this new decade!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Namaste. As appropriate for this day, I can truly say "that which is holy in me greets what is holy in you."

Rock on.

Anonymous said...

You learned all this in your 20s? I am printing out this list and taping it to the wall above my computer so that I can learn it all for once and for all--just a couple of decades later. Happy birthday wise one, for one so young.

Jessica said...

I am finishing up Fear of Flying right now. All I can see as I flip through the pages is your face...

Would you believe I have been along for the ride through all 10 of your last years? Wild. I love you.