29 and counting…Its Over. My 20’s a decade in review

Welcome 30! Today I have officially made it out of my 20’s safely, and kleenex free. Luckily I have avoided the emotional meltdown that I was highly dreading.  Surprisingly I still feel good, actually I feel great.  I hope age 30 will be my best year ever! Let’s check in on that a year from now.

As I say goodbye to my twenties, I must say that I am really not too sad to see them go. I have made mistakes, learned how to get over those mistakes, made more mistakes, and again continued to grow. Life is a journey. One word to describe the last 10 years of my life: Transformation. A year ago I would have never been able to understand this transformation fully, but over time, I have been able to look back on events in my life and learn from them. I have been able to transform into the product of a collection of lessons learned from every phase of life over the past decade, for if I have not been able to learn from it then what was truly the point of living it.

My 20’s a decade in review: A decade that can safely be put to rest

Ages 20-22: I was really dumb. Seriously, I knew absolutely nothing at all about anything. During this phase of my life I graduated college, so I knew enough to get by in higher education.  I started graduate school, so I even knew just enough to get by in continued higher education. OK so maybe I was book smart. However I was still dumb. My weekends were spent partying at the club, and I think I tried about every type of alcohol that was in existence at the time. During the age of 20 I drank so much, that by the time I turned 21 I really didn’t have the desire to drink anymore. But I did. I kept drinking, I was having fun. That’s what you do when your young right you have fun and binge drink. During my early twenties I learned how to express love to another person, I thought was in love for the first time (or at least I really really  liked my boyfriend a whole lot), and I learned there are hundreds of ways to have the most amount of fun in Manhattan on a super cheap budget! Most important lesson learned: Stop being dumb and grow up!

Ages 23-25: Ahhhh my mid twenties! I was still dumb. Maybe not as dumb as my early twenties but still very much dumb. By this time I thought I had found love for the second time. Even had those crazy thoughts of having that nice shiny ring, with that whole wedding thing to match. Yeah I was a serial monogamist. But, I am also a romantic, so if I think it is love then I will run with it. The highlight of my mid twenties; graduating from graduate school. The low point of my mid twenties, actually having to go out and get a job! Adulthood came quick, I wasn’t even looking and it hit me on the head. No more living on grad school budget with two part time jobs, I had a real salary and real responsibilities. As a new psychotherapist I knew nothing, and I imagined all my clients hating me and walking out of my office because they would eventually realize that I knew absolutely nothing. Yeah that was me. Fresh out of school, student loans galore, and I still knew nothing. Lesson learned: Just because someone gives you a job, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to do it.

Age 26: In basketball, during  a seven game playoff series, when both teams each have 2 wins in the series, they refer to game 5 as the pivotal game 5. Age 26 was my pivotal game 5. To be honest, age 26 was probably the darkest year of my life to date, and I never want to go back to that point again. It was my make or break year, and through much of the year I was broken. If I could describe myself at age 26 the word would be, uncertain. I was uncertain about everything, and just surviving to make it to the next day. Life was there, but I was no where near living.  My job was a daily form of torture. I was on a roller coaster ride of a relationship, so that was just more self-inflicted torture, and everything about New York City seemed to increase the daily torture meter. To describe my mood as unhappy would be the ultimate understatement. The age of 26 was pivotal because I knew something needed to change. I needed a big change and I needed it quick. If I had stayed in New York, I saw my life on a downward spiral towards the abyss of depression. If I left, well I figured it couldn’t be any worse than what I was already facing. And on that note, I left. Lessons learned: Stay away from douche bags, and self-inflicted torture is never a good idea. If you are not happy with something in life, It is fully your responsibility to change it.

Ages 27-29: The transformation years: These are the years that I will miss. I am happy and sad to see them go. During this period I was no longer the college drinking weekend alcoholic, or the unhappy, job hating New Yorker. I found a way to just be me, and I found a way to be me on the other side of the pacific. Who knew that would happen? No, everyday was not the best of days, I still very much struggled with days of unhappiness, and even lingering depressive thoughts. Lessons learned: How to take control of my own life. How to make it work for me. I learned how to combat negative thoughts, negative energy, and negative experiences, so I can the avoid the downward spiral. I learned to depend on myself. To not look for love from others, but to look for love within myself. I learned how to work at a job that I love. I have developed into a great therapist, and no longer worry what my clients think of me. I have learned to appreciate the life that was given to me, and over the past few years I have developed a stronger understanding of how I can make it better. I have no regrets. Most importantly, I learned that life involves taking risk, without my risk who knows where I would be today.

As I reflect on my twenties, I start to smile. Through the laughing, the crying, the love, the heartbreak, the pain, the isolation, and the starting over, I have really had an emotional, purpose driven last ten years of life. I am grateful for the lessons learned in life through each year of my twenties. I am also very happy that I am no longer dumb. I still do not know a lot, but at least now I recognize what is unknown, and as always I am ready to learn so much more.

So today at 30, bring it on. What do I want to do? Well to start expanding my career options, move back to the other side of the Pacific, possibly closer to the Atlantic, and if that love thing happens to come around again, I’ll be even more ready for it this time. I can’t help it, I will always be a hopeless romantic. 🙂

 

Positive thoughts, positive energy, positive experiences

Self Reflection: A letter to my 7th grade self

I hated Junior High School. It sucked. Even in times where the drama of current life appears to look like  Junior High extended drama, I am so happy that I will never have to return to Junior High.

I am very appreciative that I was able to endure the Intermediate school experience long before the days  Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and You Tube.  What happened in school, had to stay in school, and the past was stuck in the past.  Far before the days of cell phones and text messages, if you didn’t have my home phone number, then there was  no reaching me.  In essence, maybe I did go to Junior High School at the right time. Because,  if I went today I know for sure it would really suck.

I say all that to focus on my present day self-reflection. I reflect on my Intermediate school days because it was a period that encompassed the height of childhood confusion. Particularly 7th Grade.  Why 7th grade? As with most kids who are in Intermediate school you are stuck in between two worlds. In 7th grade I was 11 turning 12. Too old to be considered a true kid, like in elementary school, and too young to be a real teenager. I had responsibility, but not the responsibility I wanted. In my current job I have clients who are 12. At 12 life is rough. Adults don’t understand why it is so hard, and kids wonder if it will ever get easier.  At 12, developmentally you go through a stage where you want to fit in, you want to be liked,  your body is starting to change, life is starting to change, and then you realize you have no idea how to just be 12.

In exactly 3 months from today I will be 30. So as I reflect back on what I have learned from life thus far, I have some very profound advice that I would tell my 12-year-old self. Here is my opportunity in a letter to my 7th grade self:

Dear Jennifer,

Right now seventh grade seems like it is one of the toughest school years of your life. Yeah, up to this point it is. It’s different from the other school years, everyone is growing up and you find yourself struggling to keep up. It was easy when you could just play with dolls and your mom would drive you to school. But now you have to take the city bus, and hanging out watching with friends while watching music videos has become the cool thing to do. It may seem hard now however,  life gets harder after the seventh grade. But, don’t worry you will be just fine you will be prepared for it.

You know that shyness that you have, that makes it difficult for you to speak up in class or talk to new people. Though you will always secretly be shy, you will enjoy talking to new people. Along the way you will discover that you just have an introverted personality, and sometimes shyness is not so bad.  You will be able to express yourself just fine, and you will learn to love that you have an introverted personality with extroverted tendencies.

Although you hate the way you way you look right now, and think you look like a child compared to the other girls in your class, you actually look just fine. You look like a normal 12-year-old. It is not so bad that your parents keep you sheltered and they won’t spend money for you to keep up with clothes that are in fashion. Well, your parents want to protect you from the city streets, and everything else dangerous. Don’t be angry with her mom because she won’t let you take the bus to Jamaica Avenue with your friends, or ride the subway into the city. When you are able to do that you will realize that it is not that fun. Your days of wanting to wear baggy jeans, and stealing your brother’s clothes will be short lived once the style changes. Though it seems impossible now, you will eventually love to wear tight jeans (even if they do stop you from breathing).

Eventually your mother will allow you to relax your hair, you actually may want to keep your hair natural for a while. You don’t realize it now, but your hair is perfect the way it is. It is strong and healthy without chemicals, no need to rush on getting a relaxer. You will also be able to eventually do your own hair without your mother’s help, you will learn it’s not that hard to blow dry and curl.

You hate wearing glasses, and hate being refered to as “the girl with the glasses”. You don’t understand why your mother won’t let you just wear contacts. Well eventually she will let you wear contacts, and despite what she says you wont get an infection in your eyes and you wont go blind just from wearing contacts. However, soon enough you will also appreciate wearing your glasses more too. Glasses will become a fashion statement.  So no matter if you are wearing glasses or contacts it won’t matter,  you will still look like you.

I know some days you can’t stand your own body type, and wish you looked different. You wish your skin was lighter, your hair was straighter, and that you could be a few pounds thinner. Well you look the way you do for a good reason. You look just fine the way you are. You are beautiful, and in a few years you will actually believe that. You feel overdeveloped thinking your breast are too big, and you wish your hips would shrink down over night. In a few years these will be your favorite assets. You will love your body because to have curves is to  be beautiful. Your body will adjust itself, and you will love the result. One day you will feel sexy, so just be you for today.  You walk with your head down now, but you will learn to hold it high.

Currently you have an English teacher who you consider to be a major bitch. You assume that she hates you. You don’t understand why she is always so evil, and why every assignment you turn in you get a C. You constantly wonder what you have to do for this lady to get just one A!  Well let me tell you, she gives you a C because that is the grade you deserve. Your won’t understand her purpose in your life for another 8-10 years but she is teaching you to do better. You need her in your life. This teacher sees the potential in your writing that you can no way possibly see in yourself. She doesn’t let you get by easy because she knows your true ability.  The result of all those C papers you earned; well, you are able to excel at AP English during your senior year of highschool because she secretly taught you how to write with a voice. You breeze through college English with no problem and, you finally earn that A that you didn’t deserve in 7th grade.  When you publish your first novel you should probably send her a personalized thank you note, because she saw ability in you that you were years away from seeing for yourself.  Just think, if she gives you that A, she will set you up to struggle with writing  for the rest of your life.

You’re a smart girl kiddo. Even though some kids may consider you a nerd right now, in adulthood it is actually cool to be a nerd. See when the country goes into a recession, the nerds will be the people who have jobs contacting them to work, while many other people are out looking for work.  Keep studying, you have plenty of time to do everything else. One day you will be able to laugh at your own quirks, and your flaws are what make you different from everyone else. Your sarcastic and witty, keep that. A good sense of humor comes in handy when life gets rough.

Your friendships come and go. Lucky for you, you meet one of your best friends in seventh grade. You have other  friends, but you are not always sure if you should trust them.  The friends that you have now will not be your friends for the rest of your life. However, you will gain some pretty awesome friends along the way. Through high school and college you will meet friends who will change your life. Don’t be afraid to trust them, they are good people, I promise. You will gain friends who care about you more than you sometimes care about yourself. They will be there to catch you when you fall and, when you cry they know exactly how to make you smile. Though some experiences will be crazy to  say the least, it will be well worth it.

Although it seems that boys don’t like you now, and you wonder if you will ever have a boyfriend, don’t worry about that. You are 12! The boys who make fun of you now, will be the same boys who want to date you in 10 years. You have plenty of time to have boyfriends and date. You will even get to date the cute boys! You will go out on more dates than you ever really wanted to in your entire life. Then suddenly you will realize dating is not that fun. There will be plenty of  boys who like you, so you  can be picky about who you date. Never settle, you’re better than that. You will fall in love, fall out of love, and do it all over again. And even though the relationships don’t end in happily ever after, you will be Ok.  There is a reason for that. You will learn that you love being in love. You are emotional, so naturally you love hard. That can be a gift and a curse.  When you do love, you will fall in love with a man who will also be your best friend for the time that he is in your life. You will teach him how to love, he will teach you what it is really like to be in love. When that relationship dies, you will learn to grow into the woman you were meant to be. With maturity and time, you learn more about yourself,   more about life, and so much more about love, than you can ever imagine. When your close to 30, you will suddenly realize that your story is really just beginning.

Finally, Listen to your mother when she talks. Listen hard even when her conversations are long and drawn out. Her fears are only there to protect you. Don’t let her fears become your fears. During the times when you think she is not supportive of you, she is still proud of you. She realizes more than anyone that you march to the beat of your own drum.  When you grow up she will be a friend to you, you will have fun with her, and amazingly be able to laugh and talk with her. She is smart, she has lived,  she only wants to help you avoid making mistakes. You dream of being a doctor, but then you realize you hate college math classes, and those science classes do nothing more than put you to sleep. You will find a career path where you feel you are a true natural . Once you find it, you can’t see yourself doing anything else. You will eventually love your job, and realize that you are an important vessel in changing the lives of others.

You will make mistakes, actually you will make a lot of mistakes. Do not have regrets about anything you do, every mistake comes with a valuable lesson learned, and a new opportunity to grow. Live your best life, leave the past in the past, the future will take care of itself, just  focus on the present.

By the way, you may want to tell your parents to start saving for college, because you are going to go to college. My best advice: Avoid student loans!

At the age of 12 life seems boring, and it is. You can’t do much. One day it will get a whole lot better. You have an imagination that extends far beyond living in Queens for the rest of your life. You have a desire to see more, to do more, and eventually you will find a way. You will walk a path that is personalized just for you. Keep that imagination, use it wisely, it will take you to paces you currently only dream about. One day you will truly be a free spirit, you can go anywhere, anytime you want. The world is your sandbox, go play.

Love,

Jennifer (age 29 going on 30)
What advice would you give to the 7th grade version of you?