It’s weird thinking about where I was at the start of the last decade. It was 2010 and I was halfway through my junior year of high school. I was still adjusting to my new school environment, after having to transfer when my beloved all-girls catholic high school officially closed its doors. I was starting a new chapter just as the world was transitioning into a new decade. So many milestone moments happened for me this past decade: I graduated from high school, passed my road test (after many attempts), earned my Associates and Bachelor’s degrees, met my biggest inspiration, and started an online magazine, just to name a few.
Maybe it’s because I’m older now, it seems like I’m always saying goodbye to something, but the jump from 2009 to 2010 didn’t seem that impactful when it happened. There’s something different about leaving behind another decade this time around. Although legally I’ve been adult for quite a few years now, it’s as if another portion of my childhood is slipping away. 2010 to 2019 saw me grow from a timid, unsure teenager to a young woman in her 20s, although still unsure, determined to find her place among creatives and individuals she admires.
Over these past ten years, I’ve read and analyzed beautiful works of literature by some of the world’s greatest writers, poets, and playwrights. I’ve befriended people from all over the world, I wouldn’t otherwise know, because I followed the career of a talented, inspiring country singer whose lyrics and heart have reached me when I needed it the most. I’ve met and seen some of my favorite artists and singers live and up close because music and the human experience are what connect us and it’s built me up when I've felt like my world was falling apart. I’ve grown as a writer, taking on writing experiences with online communities like Dream On Youth that helped me recognize that writing is something I need to pursue. Whether it be through blog posts like this one or YA fiction novels I need the youth and people, in general, to understand that their struggles are valid and they are seen, heard, and understood. No matter who you are or where you come from you and your story are important.
I’ve also learned that your 20s are not always as great as they seem, and it’s been a rather difficult time in my life. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the past few years I’ve been hard on myself and I’ve lost who I am more times than I can count. I immersed myself in the music, the movies, and the tv shows I spent my time devouring. I lived vicariously through the fictional worlds I fell in love with and sought validation in moments with people that can only last for so long. The high of a concert or a show is addicting, but coming down from that high, going back to reality only made me crave it more. I was lost and I felt heard and valued when I sang my heart out with my favorite artists. I’ve done a lot of avoiding since I graduated. Out of fear, out of uncertainty, and out of doubt. I lost faith in myself, more so than I ever have before.
My 20s haven’t been all lows though. In 2016, my friend Gabbi and I decided to start our own online magazine! I ran the social media and wrote articles about things I loved and cared about, and I felt like we were getting somewhere! We were figuring it out, in our own way! Then in the summer of 2018, after a slight meltdown on the way home from what was a memorable weekend, I was reading a book that smacked me in the face with the reality of not facing my ultimate fear: failure. I decided enough was enough. I needed to do something. I was going back to school. And I did! I applied for a certificate program in Marketing, Advertising, and PR and I will be finishing the program this spring! These past few months, I started making myself accountable. I went to the career center and talked to a counselor in terms of my resume and what comes next. It was another step in the process I was avoiding and as simple and easy as it was, I’m proud of myself for doing it. I have a habit of talking myself out of things and once I did go through with it I felt like a weight was lifted.
There’s still more to be done, but I’ve finally started giving myself a chance and that’s progress. I’ve even started using this blog more. I spent a lot of time over the past few years convincing myself if what I’m writing about isn’t profound and motivational, then it’s not worth writing. I compared my own words to those of well-developed writers and even friends of mine who’ve been nothing but encouraging, and I let myself believe that I didn’t have something to say. But, one day I was reading a friend’s blog and I had a moment of clarity: this blog is mine. I can write about whatever I want. Whether it’s gushing over the last concert I went to, or reviewing the movies, books or makeup products I love, who cares! As long as I’m writing, that’s what’s important. I pride myself on the adventures I go on to see friends and the concerts I attend, so why not write about those experiences? Granted you write in hopes that others will read and connect with your words, but I also created this space for myself. Why deny myself the ability to express my love for something or look back on a happy memory? I am a libra and by nature, I tend to look for approval from those around me, I want to be liked and I want what I create to be liked. But if I’m not creating something that I like, or allowing myself the opportunity to write about things I go through, or enjoy just because I don’t think my work will speak to people then what am I doing? I have been holding back out of fear that I don’t have anything of value to say. Well, that stops now. It’s not going to be an easy battle, it’s been internalized in me for most of my life. But if I can fight back, if I can turn off my tv, set my phone aside, quiet the noise of negative thoughts in my head, and just let myself write then maybe I can create something I’m proud of. And maybe someone else will find something in it for themselves too.
I have a positive outlook for this new year and decade. Maybe it’s just the rose-colored, ‘new year, new me’ glasses but I’m determined to make real changes in my life. 2019 was truly...a year. It gave me new experiences, challenged me to choose myself, and reminded me that my journey is mine and everyone’s manifests differently. In 2019 I finally started absorbing the reality of Hannah Brencher’s wisdom when it comes to fear and writing. Every time I wasn’t writing I would hear her words of advice ringing in my brain, and this year they clicked. I’ve taken writing courses with her and courses on fear, and everything she said always made sense and resonated with where I was at the time, but I think I’m finally in the right headspace to apply what she’s been trying to tell me. And it’s been a breath of fresh air. For the first time since I graduated I feel like I’m headed somewhere.
These past ten years have truly shaped me into the person I am today. At the start, I was a young, teen with little to no idea where she was headed. College wasn’t something that intimidated me. It was four more years of school, I could do that. School was something I knew I could excel in as long as I put the time and effort in, my hard work always paid off. Post-college life was the real challenge. But I didn’t worry too much about that either until it was here. And then I really had no idea where I was headed. Reality hit, and it hit hard. I got a part-time job to keep me afloat and I’m still there. I may not be where I want to be but I am working and making money for myself. And although I wish I had had this breakthrough sooner, I went back to school and the path doesn’t seem as dark and eerie as it has since I graduated.
Your 20s are scary, it feels like the whole world is watching and if you don’t find a job, a significant other and have a family before you turn 30 you’re doing something wrong. And honestly, I would be a liar if I said I don’t feel that pressure all the time. I don’t feel the need to be married or settled down right now, per se but as a modern-day feminist, forging a path for myself on my own is a pressure and expectation I inflict on myself. I talk a lot about the influence social media and society have on young people but we have to recognize the pressures we put on ourselves. Being an independent woman with a career I’m passionate about is the dream I’ve had for myself for quite some time now and I’ve been incredibly hard on myself for not being where I think I should be at this point. I’ve surrounded myself with successful women in almost every industry because I really do believe “empowered women empower women,” but I can’t let their inspiration dim my light. I have to remember there’s room for all of us.
I hope in this new decade I continue to fight and win against my self-doubt and fear of failure and rejection. I hope I continue to realize that worth does not come from my career, my romantic experiences, or the opinions of people who don’t know me. I hope 2020 gives me the courage to write and to forge a path for my future. I hope I find what I’m looking for in my writing. I hope at least one person finds comfort in what I have to say. I hope my words give a voice to the people who feel invisible in a world full of Gryffindors and the ones who are chosen. I hope I continue to choose myself, trust the choices I make and see the value in everyone’s work rather than shy away and drown in comparisons. I hope that 10 years from now I can look back on this post and be proud of how much growth I experienced and how much more I did in the years that followed.