Thursday, November 20, 2014

A message to the twenty-somethings

I've been watching a lot of NBC lately; between The Today Show, Ellen, Parenthood, and SNL, it's pretty much the only network I watch anymore (unless I'm watching Law & Order: SVU marathons on USA).  During all my NBC watching, I keep seeing a commercial for the Meredith Vieira Show in which Jessica Alba says something about being sad that she'll never be in her twenties again, and it's struck a chord in me.  Every once in a while I find myself reflecting on my life now and the way my life used to be and sort of comparing the two.  And I know that they can't really be compared because they're different life stages, but it doesn't keep me from thinking about how much has changed.  I'm turning 30 in less than a month, and it's amazing to look back at the past 8 years and all that's happened since I became a real "grown up."

I have to say, the greatest decision I ever made was to move away from home.  I think it shocked a lot of people when I announced my plans, including myself; it was definitely not a "Rachel" thing to do.  I am a creature of habit/comfort, and I cling to the familiar.  I've always been a bit shy, and it takes me a while to warm up to new people and situations.  I also don't enjoy deviating from my plans much, even if I can't completely control said plans.  I thought that I was going to graduate from college, get a teaching job somewhere in Ohio, and have a blissful future with my college boyfriend.  
The summer after graduation, I applied everywhere but I couldn't find a job at an elementary school in Ohio, so I started working in the toddler room at a local daycare.  I enjoyed the tots, but didn't care to do that job long-term.  And then my college boyfriend and I broke up.  And then one day in late June, a college acquaintance and I were catching up on AOL Instant Messenger (old-school texting), and she told me that she got a teaching job in Maryland and that her district had lots of openings.  So on a whim, I applied.

Within a matter of days, I was called to set up a screening interview.  And then I was sent out to interview at 4 schools.  And then my favorite of the 4 schools offered me a position.  I was hired.  Before I knew it, I was putting in my resignation at the daycare and preparing to move to Maryland at the beginning of August for my first real teaching job...the start of my career.  If you would've told me at graduation that I would be moving to Maryland by the end of the summer, I would've laughed in your face.  Funny how things work out.

Now, I know what you're all thinking.  "Oh, she's saying that moving to Maryland was the best decision she ever made because if she hadn't, she wouldn't have met Victor and they wouldn't have gotten married and then she wouldn't have Max..."  Well, yes, and no.  Of course, I'm beyond grateful for all that I have been blessed with since moving east, but so much more resulted from my move to Maryland.  It really shaped me as an adult.  I was forced into an unfamiliar world and had to find my way on my own.  I was scared, and at times it was difficult, but it's brought me to where I am today and I truly believe I am a better person as a result.  

My early twenties were so much fun. I moved to Maryland with a good friend from high school, Michelle, and we lived together our first year here.  We're still close; our babies were born about a month apart, we took Mommy & Me classes together, and we live about 10 minutes away from each other now. 

Me, Max, Michelle, and Baby M
My first year in Maryland was a blast (as were the subsequent years).  Thinking back to that time, I still get butterflies when I reminisce about how exciting it was to be on my own in a new place, with my first post-college apartment, making my own money, providing my own health insurance, paying my own bills, making my own decisions about how I spent my time.  It was such a thrill.  I made new friends and spent many a weekend whooping it up in Annapolis, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the nightlife. 

Still love Annapolis
I was completely independent.  When I hear some of my favorite songs from that first year here, I'm immediately taken back to that carefree time.  Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" is one that really brings the memories to life.  Seeing young people with their small suitcases at Metro stops on the weekends also takes me back.  I did a lot of solo traveling during that time, mainly back to Cincinnati for quick weekend trips and holidays.  There's something so "grown-up" about making your own travel arrangements, getting yourself to the airport, and taking that flight back home.  I'd also go visit college friends in our respective new "homes."

Our first "housie" reunion after we all started our first jobs or grad school
 My second year in Maryland brought along a new series of adventures, the first being living alone.  Kenny and I rented a 1-bedroon apartment just 10 minutes from my school, and we lived there for 3 years.

I fell asleep many a night on that couch watching TV or movies.  It was also my guest bed.

Countless papers were checked/graded, craft projects were completed, and dinners were eaten at this table.

My first little kitchen where I began to explore the wonderful world of cooking.
I enjoyed my alone time...I always have.  I got to be selfish and spend my time however I wanted, without having to answer to anyone.  I could lie around watching TV and movies all day in my PJs.  I could do my Hip Hop Abs workout DVDs in the living room any time without being disturbed.  I could leave a mess in the kitchen overnight (although I hate doing that, so that probably didn't happen often).

I'm so glad I used those 3 years to really do what I wanted.  Those selfish days are long gone since getting married, and especially since becoming a mom.  My time is no longer my own, but I don't mind.  I love taking care of my little family.  And I had my early twenties to really spend time with myself and acclimate to adult life on my own terms.

While it's not incredibly necessary to move to a new city after college, I do think there is something inherently precious about living on your own, either solo or with a roommate or two.  You learn to be independent and responsible in a way that you've never experienced before.  Living with your friends in a house or apartment in college doesn't count.  Your main responsibility is going to class and your priority is your social life (for the most part).  It's once you're out in the real world, with a real job/career, paying our own bills and budgeting your time/money, making your own decisions and ultimately having to face the consequences (good or bad) on your own...that's when you truly start to find yourself and build character and an identity.

It was very hard for me to leave my family and be thrown into the real world so abruptly.  I only knew my roommate and my college acquaintance when I moved to Maryland.  I was nervous, but I was also so excited.  I've always enjoyed sharing such big milestones with the people I love most--my family--but there was something so rewarding and fulfilling about experiencing that all on my own.  It was mine.  I was writing my story on my own.  And it was exhilarating.

Me and Kenny against the world!

Sometimes I find myself missing that time in my life.  You couldn't pay me to go back to high school.  It wasn't a traumatic time, but it wasn't my favorite, either.  I'd go back to college in a heartbeat, but only if all of my friends could come back with me.  I'd probably do a few things differently in college in my do-over so I could enjoy it even more than I did the first time.  But I think that if I could, I would do my early twenties again exactly the way I did them the first time.  I don't think I fully appreciated how monumental that time of my life was while I was living it.  But I recognize it now.  It was invaluable, and I'm grateful everyday that I had the opportunity to have the experiences I did.

One of many nights in Annapolis

If I had to give a pearl of wisdom to other twenty-something women who are just starting out, I don't think I would advise them to move somewhere new or even to live on their own, even though I've been singing the praises of those two things in this post.  That's not for everyone, so others might not get as much out of it as I did.  But I would tell them this: Do not let fear hold you back.  I think that's what this all comes down to.  I was scared to leave my family and the familiar.  But they're just a plane ride (or an 8-hour drive) away...and, worse case scenario, I could always move back if I was miserable enough.  I was afraid to leave my relationship at the time, which was why I never entertained the idea of leaving home earlier.  But if a wonderful opportunity presents itself to you, and it involves leaving your significant other, DO IT!  Long distance relationships are hard, but if it's meant to be, you'll pull through it.  If you can't pull through it, it isn't meant to be.  There are much worse things you could have to overcome in a relationship; distance is nothing in comparison.

I truly believe that I'm happy and well-adjusted in my life as a wife and mommy as a result of my experiences in my early twenties.  It hasn't always been easy adjusting to these new roles, but it certainly helps that I have no regrets from my single days.  I did my single livin' and enjoyed my freedom while I could.  And now I'm basking in the thrill of this new chapter in my life.

Love my sweet family.  Photo by Dottie Millwater Photography
Did anyone else take a chance and venture out on their own in their twenties?  How did it turn out?  Would your recommend your path to others?  What advice would you give to twenty-somethings?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm twenty one and a whole bright world lies out ahead of me but in some ways fear is holding me back.


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