Reflections on my twenty first year of life
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Twenty-one. Wow. You were weird. I say weird in the sense that I still feel like I am 13 when i order a drink. Then I have this moment of panic when someone asks to see my id because i feel like a fraud. I don’t feel “adult” most days. Okay all days. I feel like a kid still, just trying to figure out things as I go along.
I didn’t really know what this year would bring me 365 days ago, nor did I think much about where I had hoped to be now. but along with the weirdness, this year was harder than I anticipated. Life through me curve balls and challenges that I had to work through. and most of the challenges have been an internal battle. Probably from the outside it looks like my life isn’t that hard, but there is so much more going on than what everything appears to be online (as with everyone).
But I can confidently say that i am more resilient and mentally tougher than a year ago. I thought I was strong then, but now I see that I had much strength left to develop. I found that I could dig deeper into my core and find new levels of toughness I had not yet utilized. I’m still uncovering new layers of strength every day, and find that if I can endure hard things, I can pretty much do anything i set my mind to.
With strength and being tough, I learned to balance my own shortcomings with compassion for myself. It is easy to give into negative self talk and beat yourself up over small things- whether they are in your control or not. But I’ve found the greatest response to these thoughts that develop is to give yourself endless forgiveness. For either thinking these thoughts or believing them. Then replace the thoughts with a better narrative.
And I would say this year is the year I became fearless. I still fear, but I don’t let it dictate my actions anymore. I decided what I wanted, and I went after it. Even though it was scary and I had no idea what the hell I was doing when I first started, I did the damn thing anyways. and I learned from it. I learned and I grew and I am still learning and growing. I went out of my comfort zone 100x over. I messaged strangers online who turned into friends. I created opportunities for myself that weren’t out there. I carried a 45 lb backpack around Europe for 6 weeks. and hiked 384 steps to the top of Corniglia, Italy carrying it!!!
I quit my job as a baby photographer (which i hated anyways) and became my own boss. I found innovative ways to make money that didn’t involve me having to sell overpriced pictures to new moms who didn’t want them. I started dog sitting and got paid to hang out with people’s dogs all day (and watch netflix- the ultimate dream).
I also started taking my personal photography seriously. I started believing in my creativity and ability to actually do the dang thing. as a business and not just a “hobby” that I dabbled in.
I went to 2 photography workshops- both which let me connect with other photographers, learn from incredible teachers, and develop confidence in myself.
But even with triumph, I still struggled. I wrestled hard with staying in the present moment. my mind spins 1000 mph and when you are in a limbo season of anticipating making major life decisions, it’s not easy for me to to stop fixating on what’s next.
I am still working through this, but I have learned to lean into surrender to God. 4 years ago I was making decisions about college and thought I had my life all planned out- I thought I knew where I would be now, but then God quickly halted those ideas to a stop and put me on a completely different path. I was wrong because i had been living in the center of my own universe.
So now, I am in a similar position-about to make major life decisions- and there is still a part of me that wants to predict. to plan. to control. to know with certainty what comes next. But I have to let that part go. to take each day as it comes. and to accept that he knows better thanIi do. and accept that there is no right timeline for life. that there is no rule book or right way to spend your twenties. or that there isn’t one path for everyone. and to know that life unfolds in radical and unexpected ways. the best we can do is appreciate the moments of unexpected and small joys .
I am really grateful for what twenty one brought. the good. the bad. the ugly. the new places I visited. and the old favorites that I revisited. the new people. and new found community in a career that can be isolating and lonely at times.
So I’m going into 22 (and this next stage of life) with a lot less plans, timelines, and expectations. I still have my dreams that I am working towards. but I am less concerned with micromanaging the how or the when. that’s not up to me really. I’m going to keep working hard and stay humble. keep traveling. keep meeting new people and allowing myself to be my real self. keep questioning and never believe that I have arrived.
I really do believe this year is going to be full of beautiful surprises and transforming experiences.
I am open and ready for what is coming next.