Today isn’t just a birthday; it’s a hello to a new decade and a goodbye to my twenties. I will say I never anticipated I’d be living through a global pandemic, particularly at my 30th birthday, but if I’ve learned anything over my 20s, it’s that you should prepare to be surprised by a lot of things.
Thinking back to when I turned 20, I was a sophomore in college who had short curly hair, was experiencing the first acne of my life, and was on Weight Watchers (and hiding it from all of my friends). I didn’t have a smart phone. I was so sure I’d become a lawyer or maybe a librarian, and that I’d definitely leave Michigan. I never thought I’d own a business — I never thought I’d be good at it. There’s no way I’d be a homeowner or married at 30. Maybe a dog, but definitely not pregnant for a fourth time with what I hope is the first baby I’ll be able to hold.
My 20s brought me (in this order): meeting many of my closest friends at college, a BA in literature, a career in marketing, my first big purchase (a new car that I still have), my first romantic relationship, becoming a homeowner, becoming a dog parent, moving in with a partner, getting engaged, starting a business, getting married, leaving my career, fertility struggles, living through a pandemic, and now, finally, a much-wanted baby who will join us in 11 weeks or less. I didn’t include all the traveling I did but I traveled A LOT, including an amazing four month road trip around the country.
When I list it out like that, it feels tiring. And it was tiring, especially the business part. I sacrificed a lot of normal 20-something things for my business back in 2017-18 and though I know I wouldn’t have my business without it, it feels like I went too hard and was too hard on myself at the time. My hope for this decade, and something I’ve learned from this pandemic we’re in, is to slow down. But you bet I want to travel as far away from my house as possible as soon as I’m able (which will probably be in five years since we’re having a baby, let’s be real).
Looking back and remembering the girl I was at 20 and thereafter, I realize how much this decade has shaped me in ways I never imagined. I remember going on internship and job interviews in my early 20s and being asked about a five year plan. After awhile, I started saying that I didn’t have one because I kept ending up in places I never planned for. I learned to say “yes” to opportunities that felt right and worked for me, and none of those opportunities really fit with a five year plan, especially when I decided to leave a really good full time job to pursue my business full time right before my 28th birthday.
Looking into my 30s, I surely don’t have a five year plan. Five years ago, I didn’t think I’d be a full time photographer. I had just started my business and was like well I guess this might work out. I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest dreams (thank you all for your support), but I honestly am trying to keep as open mind as possible as I start this decade with a life changing event – becoming a mother. Will I still be doing this in five years? Maybe. Will I want to do something else? Maybe. If I’ve proven anything to myself in my 20s, it’s that you can indeed forge your own path and change your mind; and that’s okay. Work isn’t everything and there’s more to me than just a career, even if I do find great fulfillment in this work.
In my early 20s, I can remember thinking and caring so much more about other people and what they were doing, specifically right out of college. A lot of my actions and self-worth was driven from what I thought I should be doing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped caring so much and just did what I wanted. Let me tell you how freeing that was/is. I really came to this realization more after I got married and entered my late 20s.
Something I’ve learned about adulthood is that no one really knows what they’re doing. We’re all just kind of making it up as we go along and learning from our mistakes. There’s not one way to do something or be something. Finding what works for you specifically is key. In my early 20s, I was so SURE of a lot of things but now I look back and know that I truly had no idea! For instance, I thought we could do a bathroom remodel in less than a month. Three months later, we had it mostly done.
At the end of my 20s, I learned a lot about myself and my marriage from my fertility struggles. One of the most difficult parts of my 20s was the last two years, where I spent my time worrying that all of the plans I had for our family might not become reality. The grief I experienced as a result of my three losses really changed me in a way I don’t think I’ve fully processed. It has completely changed this pregnancy experience for me and I’m sure it will continue to shape my experience of motherhood as well.
Sometimes I think back and wonder if I made a different choice — where would I be? If I had gone to grad school post undergrad, would I have met Josh and gotten married? What if I hadn’t accepted my first job and lived with my parents for a year? Would I live in Metro Detroit at all? What if I didn’t bother messaging this beer-loving guy on a dating app? Would I be with Josh? It’s strange to realize how so many decisions led me to the place I am now. I hope there are less choices to be made in my 30s but I know that the choices will just be different.
I know I’m on the edge of another season of life and it seems appropriate that it’s all coinciding with this new decade. I know that just when I feel comfortable and like I have life pretty down, a curveball will get thrown my way. That’s just how it works. My hope is to get better at fielding those curveballs, knowing that I’ve fielded a few now and I should be wise enough to know that I will be okay somehow in the end.