Although I’ve maintained a
sparsely updated pleasantly minimalist chronicle of my year of being a 29-year-old elsewhere, it seemed fitting to return here to compile the big goodbye to a decade. I’ve been anticipating my 30th birthday with mixed feelings. For a long time, I looked forward to it. After all, a lot of what I’ve pursued in graduate school has been geared at challenging perceptions of aging as an inherently negative process. On top of that, when I look back at how – well, how frankly dumb I was 10 years, five years, or even just one year ago, I look forward to being older and becoming aware of all the dumb stuff I’m doing now. And then getting all smug about it. Oh ho ho, Past Joie, you poor pitiable fool. Good thing we never make bad choices now!
But as the day has drawn inexorably closer [Number of Times Some Form of Inexorable Has Been Used in a Blog Post About Getting Older: 1], my feelings have been mixed. What did I do in my 20s, I wondered? Have I wasted… an entire decade? It’s like the dream we all have where we don’t realize we’re registered for a class until the day of the final exam. Oh shit, my 20s? I forgot to do that! It probably doesn’t help that in the era of Facebook and Twitter – much more geared to brief, misleading, calculatingly curated updates than the more long-form social media sharing of ten years ago [Number of “Back in My Day References”: 1] – it’s hard not to feel a sense of being behind everybody you know. Behind on what, I wonder? Life? Progress? Inexorable [Inexorable Count: 2] march toward death? I don’t know, but nobody likes the feeling.
And so I wondered – truly, what did I do in my 20s? I know I got a few things accomplished. Laundry wasn’t really one of them, and frankly neither was decisive action. But unlike Joie in the dream, I’m sure I studied for this final exam. So let’s review, shall we?
20-22. I came so close to revisiting LiveJournal and my now-defunct Vox to relive this era – I even got a password reset and logged in! – but then you know, I just don’t have the time or emotional stamina to go through THAT much stuff. But I’ll say that I was extraordinarily whiny and entitled in my early 20s (hey, some things never change), and completely unaware of the good things I had going for me. I spent a nice chunk of this time engaged in music – hosting a weekly coffeeshop open mic night with my best friend, singing hymns for pay at a nice, small church, getting paid to monitor a mostly empty music technology lab. I completed a Bachelor’s of music with a concentration in music composition, which if nothing else is a fun bit of personal trivia to bust out from people. I had the amazing experience of a combined composition + piano performance senior recital where I (1) was a terrible performer largely owing to my terrible work ethic, and (2) was freakin’ astounded by my incredibly talented friends, who dedicated their time to bringing my music to life on stage. The second part is one of my favorite memories of my 20s.
Other details of this time period, in no particular order (and in the spirit of honesty, including some negative ones): My first time leaving the South (on a cross-country road trip in a Jeep whose air conditioner failed and flooded the car in Texas in summer). I had a brief stint as an English double major. I got a new car (and bid a sad farewell to my beloved first car). My parents’ house was hit by a tornado. I moved into a nicer dorm, and then I moved into my first apartment (which I loved!). I got drunk for the first time. The lovely cat I’d had since I was little died, and I couldn’t be there. I made a lot of wonderful friends in college. (I was not as good a friend as I could have been, but my friends were so great they opted to just make fun of my reclusive ways instead of cutting me off.) People started getting married and I started feeling like a weirdo for not wanting to get married (and later felt like a weirdo for not getting marred). I was pretty convinced I’d go ahead and become a famous film composer. I was really, really uncertain about what I was doing with my life.
23-25. What a weird period this was! I took a staff position at the University library where I’d worked as a student worker and worked with some of the most fun people you can imagine getting paid to spend your time with. I initially had every intention of applying to a graduate program in film scoring… and then found I simply couldn’t muster the energy. I was exhausted of music (is “exhausted of” a phrase? IT IS NOW), so much so that for the early part of these years I barely enjoyed listening to much of it – much less writing it. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was heading; with a music career apparently out for me, I toyed with the idea of library school. Instead I decided to pursue a second Bachelor’s and opted to give English another try… and promptly rethought the whole thing upon discovering the professor I most enjoyed working with was leaving the University. I recalled how much I enjoyed my psychology intro course and figured hey, why not give that a shot? The good news was, this really terrible way of deciding a new career path worked out pretty well in that not only did I enjoy learning about it… I started enjoying music again now that I didn’t have to. (We’re all just Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence, I guess.) A particularly fun element of this time period: years (years!) of carefully executed online flirtation over instant message finally paid off when I started dating a certain Stephen we all know. (His voice was much deeper than I remembered from age 19.)
Other details of this time period, in no particular order:I got a cat! Actually, I got two… and very sadly, lost one to a pretty terrible incurable disease. My previously long-distance relationship from my early 20s became not-long-distance, and it didn’t make it. I DISSECTED A SHEEP BRAIN OMG. I visited new areas of the country for the first time (Colorado! upstate New York!). I went on a true family vacation identical to the vacations of my childhood except for we were all technically grownups. I became a Mac person. I was really, really uncertain about what I was doing with my life.
26-29. A time of big change – within a few months of turning 26, I graduated with my second degree (a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology) and applied to graduate schools (and made pretty deluded choices about which ones to apply to). I was beyond ready to be out of the South and super excited to begin a life with the person I loved, and a few weeks after graduation I moved out of Alabama. We spent five days driving across the country with Fritz the cat (hey, that’s a blog post here!) to get to Bellevue, Washington, where I spent 8 months and completely, 100%, in-every-single-way took that time for granted. (Did I mention how dumb past Joie is?) Aside from missing my family, I was itching to get into adulthood at some point – and was ecstatic to accept a graduate school offer for a clinical psychology PhD program, which brought me to (and Stephen back to) Colorado. I completed my Master’s, engaged in a lot of trial and error
for funding to figure out what specifically I want to do within the field, and possibly really found a viable career path for myself. Here’s my favorite update of this time period: I got engaged to and married the love of my life, who is currently sitting next to me in TMNT pajamas I probably bought and made him wear. We took a honeymoon and a second honeymoon to the beach, and discovered how fuggin’ terrifying the ocean is. (Did you guys know stuff lives in there? Stuff?!)
Other details of this time period, in no particular order: I lived in four different homes. I kind of stopped blogging, and feel my creative writing abilities have suffered as a consequence. I did a lot of psychotherapy and quite a bit of cognitive assessment; I worked at a community mental health clinic, a primary care clinic, a hospice, and a hospital. I got bummed out about a lot of stuff, including minor and major family illnesses and dramas. I played an
embarrassing amount of completely acceptable and very mature amount of Animal Crossing. I started but didn’t finish an album. I met Neil deGrasse Tyson. I learned that there were lots of things I liked about Alabama, and appreciated opportunities to go there. I got to attend trendy tech company parties. I started using e-readers for the majority of my reading. I went ice skating in downtown Denver. I set a new record for number of times I’ve seen a movie in theaters (hello, Interstellar six separate times!). I was really, really uncertain about what I was doing with my life.
And here we are – a few hours from 30, and still mixed feelings. There were so many things I wanted to do in my 20s, and it’s been unsettling to see how many of those gather dust. And there were so many moments, experiences, people, and opportunities that I didn’t recognize for what they were until after the fact – which I think is simply the way it goes. This hasn’t been my most articulate (or probably even interesting) blog post of all time (see years 26-29, “lack of blogging”), but it seemed important to acknowledge the passing of a decade – including how much can happen in that time if you want it and how little can happen in that time if you let it. I don’t know what the next ten years will bring, but I hope I make the most of it, whatever may come. Here’s to 30… and to being really, really uncertain.