A lot can happen in ten years. For some people, they can fall in love… become engaged… get married… and have a baby. For others, they may study abroad and only come back to The States every other Christmas. Then there are those who enroll law school or med school and lose track of time (and their social life)altogether.
But for me, the past ten years since I graduated high school have, in essence, taken me away from everything I knew during the first 18 years of my life. (Interesting enough, I say this as I prepare to embark on a roadtrip back to Pittsburgh with Cubby, my boyfriend.) However, ever since I made the decision to plan my 10-year high school reunion this week, high school doesn’t seem that long ago… until I think about everything that has changed since my teenage year.
I don’t talk much about my high school days, and really haven’t done so since I left “The Bubble” (which is what we all used to call our hometown) officially before my sophomore year of college. In essence, so many things have happened since then, and I’ve grown so much, that they really are simply part of past now. They include some good memories, as well as some bad ones. But most importantly, as I reflect upon that time in my life, I have no regrets. Now I’ll be honest and admit that wasn’t always the case; however, ten years later, I’ve finally let it all go.
If I took a shot every time one of my teachers said, “When you enter the real world next year…” during my senior year of high school, I would have been drunk more times than I was in college. (Okay, probably not entirely true but you get the point.) We all now know that for the majority of us, ‘the real world’ did not start until after college, grad school and/or when we finally moved out of our parents’ houses and changed our permanent address. For me, that new permanent address and real world experience was far from Pittsburgh, PA; however, I cannot say the say for most of my high school classmates. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that at least half of them remain in the same state, if not the same city.
Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, but will say that I’m not planning on joining the Pittsburgh Residency Club again anytime soon. To tell you the truth, I knew that ever since high school when I would spend my days and nights dreaming of a life outside of here. I imagined living in New York City and working for a popular magazine, or traveling the country as a sports reporter. Other daydreams took me to Florida, California, Hawaii, and any other sunny spot that was far, far away from snowy winters. In essence, I didn’t know where exactly the future would take me but knew it would take me anywhere but here.
Because of this notion, I find myself struggling with trips back home since I know I don’t belong here.
Last night I spent some time with one of my only (remaining) true friends from high school, Matt (MT). As custom after our hangout sessions, I find myself in a juxtapose of thoughts and emotions. My Past vs. My Present/ Future. What’s Made Me vs. Who I Am Today. Most days, as I flicker through Facebook, I struggle to remember those people from my past; and, more importantly, I struggle to remember who I was back then. Or better put, I struggle to figure out if I really am that same girl who once called Pittsburgh ‘home’.
So much has changed these last 10 years. For goodness sake, I’ve changed a lot- or better put, I’ve grown a lot. For starters, I’ve ventured out of the Hampton Bubble and been practically living on my own since then. The friends I had in middle school and high school haven’t been friends since then, and if anything, most of them are nothing more than a Facebook ‘friend’ and someone my mom asks about from time to time. Those former classmates of mine don’t know me anymore, nor do I know them. According to Facebook, most of them are living in Pittsburgh with either a significant other, fiance, spouse and/or child(ren).
And to them, I’m probably just a name from the past that is now living in Chicago and involved in a lot of charity work. Maybe they wonder, or assume, that I have a boyfriend (which I don’t)- although my empty relationship status and lack of photos with guys probably assures them I’m still single. (After all, I’ve always been single. Guess I haven’t changed that much.) And they probably think I’m happy too- as I’ve always appeared to be to those from Hampton. (Happy and very nice is how I’ve always been seen.) To be honest, I don’t remember a time during my teenage years that I was fully happy… which has a lot to do with why I always imagined myself getting out of Hampton in the first place. I just knew there was some other place for me.
But to be fair, there are moments when I wish that I could be one of those people who found happiness in Pittsburgh. Not only would I be closer to my family, but it would be nice to sustain friendships with those who I’ve known since my childhood days. (Thank goodness for Stef and Matt.) But while I could wish and hope sometimes, the truth is I know whole-heartedly that this place isn’t the one for me.
For now that place is Chicago. Chicago is fulfilling those big city dreams of mine, and the people in my life are certainly the friends I’ve been longing to have for some time now. To me, that’s what makes me most content with my life. Sure, I may not be in a relationship, expecting a child, and/or own my place, I know that I’ve living out my dreams. This is something I need to remind myself instead of worrying about what Facebook friends of mine have that I don’t. They may be living out their dreams, just as I’m living out mine.
It was two weeks into my senior year of high school and three days after my eighteen birthday. A group of us were sitting in the Yearbook room having a typical high school-esque conversation of no extreme relevance…when the startling news made it down the hallway from Mr’s Palmer’s Anatomy class to us. “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center” was what I remember hearing from a fellow classmate.
With a minute or two we were standing in Mr. Palmer’s classroom being notified that a second plane hit. It wasn’t a fluke accident. It was a planned attack. We must have all been numbed with confusion as we stared at the television trying to understand what was going on. The news soon spread and all classrooms were now tuned into the travesty that was unfolding in our country. What was happening to our world? How did a typical school morning soon become a national tragedy before fourth period? How could someone be so evil as to plan such an attack and take the lives of innocent fathers, mothers, husbands, wives…. Why?
No one wants to spend their birthday at work and in a classroom, but this full-time employee and full-time graduate student didn’t have a choice. Memories of my 28th birthday will have to be just that, as well as the abundance of love that I got from friends, co-workers, and family members today. (Thank you all so much!) It’s fine. I’m not one for celebrating birthdays anyways, nor do I really like attention drawn to me. Quite frankly, the best way for me to celebrate my 28th birthday is to reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned this past year.
Twenty-Seven Lessons Learned as a Twenty-Seven Year-Old
1. Never underestimate the therapeutic powers of a long walk. One of the best decisions I’ve made since moving to Chicago is not buying a car. Besides numerous trains and buses, I’ve relied on my walking shoes to get me around. Whether it’s my walk home after volunteering, babysitting, or a night out on the town, the cool night air really helped me gather my thoughts these last few months.
2. There are people out there who recognize your potential. I’ll never forget reading an email from my friend, Linda, while at my parents’ house this past July. Her kind words hit me hard because 1) I didn’t expect them and 2) I didn’t know she saw me that way. “Don’t worry, Kristen. We know good people when we see them.” So many people have said such sweet things to me this past year, making me realize that good deeds and an altruistic heart aren’t taken for granted.
3. It’s never too late to go back to school and/or pursue your passion. Grad school was never in my plans, and honestly it never crossed my mind during undergrad. But life is unpredictable. Becoming a Child Life Specialist became my goal and if that meant going back to school then so be it. So here I am, spending the last days of being 27 as a grad student.
4.Your parents really do want the best for you- even if they have a hard time showing it. My mom claimed she was playing devil’s advocate to make me think about my decision to enroll in grad school and accrue more debt. Sometimes I went days without talking to them because I hated knowing that I didn’t have their support. But now I know, that I had it all along.
5. Babies and toddlers are always an instant happy pill. Between volunteering and spending time Max, and sometimes Keira too, my worries always seem to go away as soon as I’m around kids. And not only that, I feel happy. Perfectly content. Like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
6. Sometimes you just need to let yourself cry it out. Plain and simple, this year I’ve realized that sometimes you just need a good cry to get you back on track. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes you just need to cry.
7. There’s nothing wrong with saying “No”. What can I say, I’m one of those people who carries a lot on her plate. I like to keep myself busy and help as many people as I can. On top of it, I’m lucky to have very good friends that I like to be there for. But this year, under the coaching of many friends and family members, I’ve learned that I can’t always do everything and be everywhere. Sometimes I just have to tell myself “No”.
8. Every girl needs a best guy friend- or two, or maybe three… I’ve always been a girl who has guy friends. In fact during my teenage years, most people told me that I needed to make some girl friends since all I seemed to do was run away with boys. (It isn’t as scandalous as it sounds.) Nowadays, I run with mostly girls around the streets of Chicago. Though I consider myself lucky to have my guys a mere phone call away. While girl friends are wonderful, sometimes it helps to have a guy’s laid back, go-with-the-flow perspective.
9. Come up with a fake bar name. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. This is definitely one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned. I’m sure Lana, Addie, Jordan, and Mitchell, DTF agree. Not only does it protect you from creepers and potential stalkers, but it can also prove to be a lot of fun. XOXO Kendall
10. No matter how much the truth may hurt, closure is the best medicine. This year, after 7 long years of self-inflicted suffering, I let him go. I got the closure I needed to move on, once and for all. It may have hurt to learn what I needed to know, but in the end it was all worth it. Moving on was worth it.
11. A little country music and a cute pair of boots will always make you feel better. Whether singing around to Taylor Swift’s catchy lyrics or soothing my heart with Lady Antebellum, country music has a special place in my heart. Paired with a flannel short, cut-off shorts, and some faux-cowboy boots and there’s no reason not to have a smile on your face. Whether at Houndstooth for country night with friends or taking in one of the hottest summer tours, I’ve commonly use country music to ease the funk that hit me these last few months.
12. You are never too old for day-drinking or a good old-fashioned bar shuffle. Let’s just say that I’ve enjoyed some amazing days/nights out with friends these last few months and caused my share of trouble while making the rounds in Chicago. If I can provide one piece of advice based on my own experience, never turn down a bar shuffle for charity- especially if it involves a mustache.
13. Always let your friends be there for you. True friends will never judge you no matter what situation you find yourself in. This is a lesson that I keep learning, but one that was especially apparent these last few weeks. To cut to the chase, I lost my trust in people back during my teenage years and never fully got it back. But this past year, with the support and encouragement of many fantastic friends, I’ve learned to trust again. I’ve learned that it’s important to let your friends be there for you, especially in cases where you think you’re better off alone. The truth is, if you have wonderful friends then you’re a fool if you don’t let them in.
14. Confidence is indeed the best accessory a girl can own. I could tell a story or two. Okay I may be able to tell four stories, actually five or six about my confident escapades this past year. Yes, they all take place at bars- in both Columbus and Chicago. But the stories don’t matter too much, it’s the message that proves to be the important factor here. On each of the nights, between the shots and adventures, I mustered up enough confidence within myself to appeal to someone of the opposite gender. While four of those six scenarios resulted in a kiss, the confidence that I exhibited is what I remember the most. Well, it’s at least a tie in some of those situation. PS. Confidence always works well outside the bar scene too.
15. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. I swear I didn’t mean to put this next lesson after the last, but because I did I won’t indulge you in any story telling. Instead all I’ll say is that I took a few chances this past year and made the first move. Gosh, I even pulled out a few (ridiculously direct) lines in doing so. My point is that there is nothing wrong with making the first move and in fact, it may be the only chance you have since guys don’t seem to be doing it too often these days.
16. Some Facebook stalking is okay. It just is, and if it isn’t then I guess we’re all guilty of a felony. After all, if you meet a cute guy at a cupcake shop, you’ve got to see if he’s on Facebook. Right, Jenny? And come on, how many of us have to do some stalking on that guy we ‘accidentally’ made out with at the bar? Admit it, we’ve all been there.
17. Be guarded, but not too guarded. Okay, I have issues. I’ve said that from the beginning and all along it’s been one of my motives for creating my “free therapy” blog. Now blame it on my lack-of -trust issues or my last-relationship-was-a-friends-with-benefits-‘situation’ issue, but whatever the case may be I am guilty of being very guarded with my heart. However, this year I’ve learned that being too guarded has you running the chance of missing out on an opportunity worth taking.
18. Whatever is holding you back, let it go. Two of my friends said this to me this past week and it really hit me deep. Foolish me thought I’d be letting things go for a while now, but I trust that they can see that someone is still holding me back. I’ve shed a lot of baggage this year and taken some risks in an effort to live fearlessly, but I guess there’s more to do. I guess this is one lesson that will definitely be carried into my 28th year.
19. Be a mentor for those younger than you. Life is tough and they could use someone to look up to. And on that note, let your older peers serve as a mentor to you. After graduating high school, my cousin, Becca, and her friend, Kenna, flew to Chicago (from Atlanta) for a weekend full of excursions. While I’ve always recognized that importance of looking after those younger than me- especially girls- I’ll admit that my weekend with Becca and Kenna definitely opened my eyes to its importance. Unfortunately I didn’t have an older sister nor an older female role model to guide me through those dreadful teenage years. Because of that absence in my life, I know how beneficial one is. So if I can play that role in at least one younger girl’s life, then I’ve fulfilled a responsibility that is special to me.
20. Do something that scares you. So this may sound really strange to some, but I’ve always been scared to go to the movies by myself. For years I’ve tried pumping myself up to just go and get it over with. FINALLY, earlier this year, I took myself to the movies. Me, myself, and I- as well as approximately two dozen other singles- took in the 11 am Saturday morning showing of Blue Valentine. I swear I left that theater feeling like I could do anything. (Silly, huh?) Since then I’ve seen another movie by myself (One Day) and I promise there will be others to follow.
21. Be patient. Good things really are worth the wait. This is one of those lessons that I’m still working on applying. Patience is certainly not my forte. Both of my parents will tell you that. My patience has been tested A LOT this year and while it’s never easy, I do agree that certain things are worth the wait.
22. Always be as honest as you possibly can- especially with those closest to you. I’m a horrible liar… and that’s why I don’t lie. A few weeks ago I kinda-sorta lied to one of my best friends because I was afraid of losing her friendship over a situation I found myself in. Not telling her killed me and therefore I ended up telling her the truth. Because she’s fantastic, she accepted what I saw as a flaw- to put it gently. And more so, she made me realize how beautiful of a person and friend she really is by making me understand that I can tell her anything. Moral of the story: If you think you have to lie to your best friends about “it” then the situation/circumstance probably isn’t the right one for you.
23. Being single is not a bad thing. My friend, Michelle, has really opened my eyes this year and brought some clarity into my always-thinking mind. Our talks together sometimes revolve around the theme, ‘Enjoy the Now and Don’t Worry About What You Don’t Have’. As a mother and a wife to two very handsome boys, she appears to have everything a girl could want. She knows she’s lucky but she doesn’t take anything for granted. Instead she tells us that we’ll have it too, but enjoy the freedom life has bestowed on you. Enjoy knowing that you’ll find it once day. Isn’t that enough to keep one taking chances and exploring all that life has to offer?
24. Believe you are beautiful. I had to include this on here even though I’m hesitant to address it. The truth is, I know this is a very important lesson; however, it’s still one that I haven’t been able to master. Being a girl isn’t easy. Trust me, I’ve been trying to tackle it for the last 28 years. I’ve made progress, but this is definitely a lifelong journey of mine.
25. It’s okay not to always be okay. I’ve learned a lot of lessons this year, but this may very well be the one that I (need to) value the most. For someone who unconsciously overlooks her own needs, I’ve run myself down for years. But this year under the coaching of several friends and a family members, I’ve gotten better at taking care of me. There have been days when I cancelled plans- which I hate doing- because I either needed a time-out for some ‘me’ time. All in all, this is a lesson I wish I learned years ago, but later is better than never.
26. There are good guys out there. I met one in September, and then another in November. Then there was one really good one in February, and I like to think I met one again in August. Anyways, my point is that there are good guys out there. There really are. A lot of my friends are either dating, engaged or married to some of them, and I, myself, am friends with them or others. So don’t lose hope that they all disappeared down some black hole. There are some good guys out there. Just don’t give up.
27. Trust yourself. Dina said this to me in an email once and I’ve thought of this line every day since. “Trust yourself.” So simple, yet so important. For a long time I relied on others’ input to help me make decisions. But this past year, I learned that the only opinion that matters is my own. I was the one who had to decide to attend grad school. I was the one who had to turn down my family vacation because it was too much with school and work. And I am the only one who can decide who I like and want to take a chance on. All of the decisions I make, for my own mere benefit, are made because they’re best for me. Whether it’s following my heart or trusting my gut instinct, I have the responsibility to do things for myself.
It’s been quite a year for me and these 27 lessons are just a portion of what I’ve learned and experienced as a 27-year old. It’s been a crazy/beautiful year for me and I fully embrace every opportunity I’ve been granted. I’m extremely thankful for the people who have helped me learn, grow, and live up this past year. Without them, I wouldn’t know half of the things I know now. So a special thank you to all of you.
In a matter of seconds, I went from a Chicago-living 27-year-old to my former 12-year old self by simply seeing a “Frozen Lemonade” sign in the window this morning. Before I knew it I was lost in memories of those summer days spent at my brother’s baseball tournaments and all those Aunt Thelma’s Old-Fashioned Lemonades that helped me beat the heat. Besides supporting my brother, I soon found myself noticing those cute boys in ball caps more and more. Boys: Our sweetest downfall.
Those days were fifteen years ago, yet I still remember how innocent things used to be. Actually, if my memory serves me correctly, that was one of the last summers- if not the last summer– of innocence for me. Shortly after that summer I had my first ‘real’ boyfriend and first kiss- soon to be followed by another boyfriend and another round of kisses. But as sweet as those days proved, the Terrible Thirteens also introduced the terms Frenemies, Pettiness, and Jealousy. Yep, the Age of Innocence was definitely over for me!
As I walked in my office and reality set in, I couldn’t shake this thought: Am I really that same girl? And if so, how did that teenager eventually become…well…me?
I’m heading home (Pittsburgh, PA) this weekend for some time with my family. To be honest, right now I’m hoping that those four days can be filled with some innocent fun and family therapy. And maybe, just maybe, I am hoping to connect with my former self a little bit more. Having only lived in Pittsburgh for a year and a handful of summers since college, I feel very disconnected to the girl who once only knew the world inside the Hampton Bubble. So much has changed since then. I’ve changed so much since then.
For instance, I associate more with being an Ohio girl than being born & raised in Pittsburgh. Not to mention, those crushes on baseball players are certainly a thing of the past as I’ve been categorized as having a ‘soccer player type’ for at least the last 8 years. Still, the memories catch me off guard every now and then to remind me where I came from.
Even as an innocent and happy pre-teen, had dreams about leaving everything I knew and adventuring off to the unknown world. I was always fascinated by the big city lights and meeting new people. Quite simply, I guess I always felt like there was more out there for me. I always knew the day would come when I’d say ‘goodbye’ and try to find a new place to call home.
But sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I didn’t have that itch; or if I didn’t have the courage to pursue those dreams. Or what if I would have fallen madly in love with one of those boys in ball caps from my hometown? What if I never had the opportunity to crush on those soccer boys? Would I have kept my innocence? And more importantly, would I have been happy?
Sometimes I find myself a little lost in this big city and get to wondering if there’s somewhere else I’d be more fitted for. Truth be told, I don’t think it’s Pittsburgh. (I really don’t.) But I really do value my past and truly believe that it provided me the challenges that I needed to face. I’d love to have an innocent heart again, but then again I don’t know if I would really change it for everything I’ve been able to experience thus far. Nor would I give up those irresistible soccer players that seem to always find a way into my life. Do you hear that, Mr. Beckham?
So I haven’t been doing too well with dates lately. (And that’s putting it nicely.) Besides knowing Max’s birthday (July 11th), I promise you that I hardly remember the day of the week. But according to the desk calendar in front of me, today is Monday, July 18th. How did I not realize it until now? How did I type it multiple times today and not recognize its significance until right now?
Last year on July 18th I wrote this post: we were both young when i first saw you. i close my eyes and the flashbacks start. Those are the thoughts that composed my mind on this date last year, and now all I can say is, “Wow! What a difference a year makes. What a difference 8 years makes!”
Although I can still vividly picture the moment that cute boy appeared in my nineteen-year old life, today I find myself embarrassed by how many July 18th’s I’ve
spent wasted reminiscing about the past. How many days within those years I spent holding onto his memory and foolishly believing we’d end up together- eventually. However, more so than embarrassment I find myself relieved that I finally let him go. I know this to be true because not only did I forgot to remember today’s date, but I also find myself questioning why I feel the need to write this post about him today.