Seven years ago today I went to Montauk with my parents. It was one of my father‘s favorite places to visit and, at the time, we had no idea it would be his last time sitting on those rocks.
September is probably my favorite month of the year; it’s also one of my hardest.
September marks the beginning of fall, the anniversary of the day Jeff and I met, first kissed and decided to become a couple 13 whole years ago.
September also marks the anniversary of the day my father went into the hospital, the long days and nights we spent by his side, the last time I heard my father’s voice.
The mind does funny things around anniversaries. Memories I rarely think about during all the other months of the year come rushing back right around September 1. It’s as if I’m right there in his hospital room, listening to him repeatedly ask the nurses when he’d get to go home. It’s as if I’m sitting by his side as he eats his lunch, asks me about my day, offers me his dessert. I can clearly hear his voice, see his face. It’s as if he’s still right here. But he’s gone.
It’s during this time of year, from now until the anniversary of the day he passed in October, that I’m a little gentler with myself, a little more forgiving. It’s during this time of year, when the flashbacks happen a little more frequently, when I close my eyes and see him sitting on those rocks in Montauk, that I miss my father a little bit more.
(Yes, I just called you a blogface. It’s my birthday. I do what I want)
I’ve officially entered the last year of my 20s and I have a beast of a post today to celebrate. So grab some coffee or wine (or both!) and let’s get to it, shall we?
I originally planned to post a list of things I hope to accomplish in my 29th year- in fact I had already written the post. Then, as I twisted my body into all sorts of ridiculous positions in yoga last weekend, I had an epiphany. OK, epiphany is kind of a strong word, but, again, it’s my birthday, I say what I want. Instead of writing about what I hope to accomplish over the next year (I’ll probably write a separate post about that), I want recap each year of my 20s leading up to today! Sound good? Good.
Warning: Some of this post is very detailed and very emotional (because that’s what your 20s are about after all!). Proceed with caution.
To be completely honest, I don’t really remember much about the first year of my 20s, but knowing what I do about myself, I’m pretty sure I probably thought I was SO old and SO awesome for not being a teenager anymore. I’m the youngest of three so I was probably excited to not be seen as a baby anymore, although I’m pretty sure my mom still thinks of me as the baby of the family. I’d also officially been in my longest relationship ever. Jeff and I met when I was 18 and he was 20, so a two-year relationship was a pretty big deal for me. At 20 years old, I had never touched an alcoholic drink in my life and wanted nothing to do with it. Sad, I know. Yes, 20 was a pretty uneventful year- little did I know the adventures that lie ahead.
Oh, 21. My golden birthday. I remember sitting at the DMV with Jeff waiting to get a new ID without UNDER 21 plastered all over it. This is the year my mom officially considered me an adult. Up until then I had a curfew, couldn’t stay in hotels with Jeff or stay overnight at his house (I did anyway- shh- don’t tell my mom). I remember fighting with her about it up until the day BEFORE my 21st birthday, and then it was like something switched. Suddenly I was 21 and could do whatever I wanted. I had my first alcoholic drink at midnight on the 21st: a malibu bay breeze at an 80s night at a night club in New Paltz, NY. I couldn’t drink a cocktail that sweet today if I tried.
21 was the year I moved out of my parents’ house and in with my boyfriend. Not only that, we moved 2.5 hours away to go to school in Albany, NY. Both of my brothers lived at home until they were 30 (to be fair, they lived in the separate apartment in my parents’ two-family house), and they each stayed nearby when they finally moved out. So when I announced that I was moving out at 21…with my boyfriend…two hours away, I think my parents just about exploded.
22 was a pretty big year. Not only was I adjusting to moving out of my house for the first time and starting at a new college, I was adjusting to moving in with my boyfriend. If you’ve done this, you know that it definitely takes some time to get used to each other’s habits and quirks. But we’d been together for 3 years at that point so slowly, but surely, we adjusted. I started 22 as an English major and ended as a Journalism major. I loved writing and telling stories.
22 was the year I started this blog, when I combined my love of writing with my sudden desire to become healthier and lose weight. Hard to believe I’ve been blogging since I was 22! From 22 to 23, I wrote this blog religiously and lost 30 pounds along the way. I learned all about the blogging community, from Jillian Michaels to Oats in a Jar and I made tons of online friends that I still connect with today. At 22 I also made one of my best IRL (in real life) friends, Jess. They say the friends you make in college will stick with you forever, and that’s so true for Jess and me. In fact, she’s one of the bridesmaids at my wedding this year.
In February of my 23rd year, the doctors started to get serious about a lump I’d found in my breast. I kept this off the blog until August 2010 when I finally decided to share my story for those readers who might have been going through/had gone through/knew someone going through the same thing. I went from February 2010 to October 2011 without knowing if the the lump was dangerous. My attempt to have it removed in October 2010 failed and the blogging community came out in droves to support me. I wouldn’t find out until 24 that it was benign, but that I’d continue to need ultrasounds twice a year for the next several years just to make sure. At the time it was the most traumatic experience of my life. I had no idea then what 24 would bring.
23 was also the year I graduated college, but not before I interned and freelanced for a local paper, where I wrote about vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Saratoga Springs, reviewed Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls concerts, and talked my way on to a Dave Matthews Band Tour Bus and filmed a video tour- something my editor never expected, and what eventually landed me the freelance gig. I also met another great friend, Mareesa, who is also one of my bridesmaids. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that 23 was the year I became a vegetarian.
24. Just thinking about this year brings tears to my eyes. 24 was the yearI lost my father. If that weren’t enough, it was also the year Jeff lost his father, which, at the time, was not something I felt comfortable revealing on the blog. 24 was a really crappy year. Just three months after graduating from college and a few days after I turned 24, Jeff and I moved out of our first apartment in Albany and back into our childhood homes. I moved into the spare apartment at my parents’ house and Jeff moved 40 minutes away with his mom and brother. Looking back now, I am so grateful I got to live with my parents during that time. At the time I couldn’t believe I was living at home again, but I also had no way of knowing my father would pass away just seven short months later. I’m so glad I had that time with him.
24 was the year I stopped blogging as much, because there was too much to share and not enough that I felt comfortable sharing. In August 2011, Jeff and I broke up for a month and he moved to Virginia. But, as fate would have it, he got in touch with me the day after my father went into the hospital and we got back together. 24 was the year I learned that you never truly know what it means to grieve a loved one until you’ve actually experienced it. Sure, I had lots of ideas of what it would feel like to lose someone close to me, but having it happen was a whole different thing, and even now, almost five years later, I’m still learning new things about what it means to grieve. 24 was also the year I learned life truly is so short and unexpected, so it’s important to value all that you have while you have it because it won’t last forever.
After living at home with my mom for six months after my father died, I packed my things and moved to Virginiato be with Jeff. At that point we’d lived apart for an entire year but adjusting to living together again was easy. I landed myfirst post-college job as an executive/editorial assistant at an office in Washington, DC and very quickly learned how to navigate life in a big city (Note: I hate the metro).
I spent 25 adjusting to my new home, working a full-time office job, and still very much in shock from losing my father and the year went by in a flash. Before I knew it, we were at the cemetery having the unveiling ceremony for my father. The next weekend, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend Dara’s wedding. We’ve been friends since preschool so this was a huge day for us (yes, us, not her and her husband or anything). Dara will be my matron of honor this year and I’m so happy for that.
As you can imagine, this all of this left very little room for blogging, and so life went on, undocumented.
On top of this, I was working a job I absolutely hated but felt too trapped to leave. The highlight of the year was our epic 15-state road trip in August, when we drove from Virginia to Utah and back again in two weeks. This was the year we fell in love with the mountains in Colorado and what eventually drove us to move to Asheville (Colorado was too far from our families). At the end of December, I left the job I hated and underwent hip surgery two weeks later in January. Two of the best decisions I’d ever made. I got my anxiety under control and by my 28th birthday, I was feeling a whole lot better.
28 has been the best year of my 20s to date and I’m just a tiny bit sad to see it go. After spending three months in physical therapy post-surgery, my hip felt brand new. I started a job at a small marketin Virginia with a huge focus on sourcing locally, including produce from the owners’ own farm. 28 was the year I became very invested in the local food movement, which is another reason I fell so in love with Asheville (Ashevillians are HUGE locavores). I did a lot of things at that job that I never in a million years would have pictured myself doing at 22, from making slow cooker refried beans that we actually sold to customers to cleaning fresh chicken eggs straight from the owners’ farm. In July, we visited Asheville for the first time with Jeff’s family and completely fell in love. So much so that we decided to pick up and move. A little less than a month later, Jeff proposed after 10+ years of dating and I dove headfirst into wedding planning. Just last month, I fell in love with blogging againand now, here we are, with a book long post about the years leading up to my 29th birthday.
All in all, there have been many ups and a lot of downs during my 20s, but they’ve definitely made me the person I am today and I’m excited to see what this year will bring!
I know some of you have been reading this blog from the beginning. That means you’ve followed along for most of my 20s and I find that completely incredible and am so thankful! Hope you stick around for my 29th year!
Happy Birthday to me!
As always, thanks for reading and have a wonderful Rebecca’s Birthday Monday. <3