Friday, December 31, 2010

How do you measure a decade?

Instead of rehashing the past year and it's broken resolutions, I decided to take the lead from a college friend and look back over how the first ten years of the twenty-first century have treated me. As the arrival of an invitation to my high school reunion recently reminded me, I’ve changed a LOT.

2000 – I graduated from high school and broke up with my boyfriend of three and a half years. I moved out of an extremely over-protected home in a small town and began college at Western Washington University, where I immediately became overwhelmed by being on my own for the first time. I drank too much, stayed out too late, and dated the wrong guys. After being put on academic probation for failing grades (I had an almost perfect high school GPA), I spent Christmas break nursing a severe case of mono.

2001  I was feeling uninspired by my pre-declared major in psychology, so I decided to pursue a career in the medical field. I enrolled in a local community college with plans to complete my prerequisites and transfer to a nursing school in Seattle. I became involved in relationship where I was manipulated and emotionally abused constantly, but I couldn’t seem to get out. I began taking anti-depressants and struggled to get average grades in my classes.

2002 – I quit my part time job at a restaurant to work in a medical office, but this situation combined with my school courses quickly made me realize I would not be happy in the medical field. People just kind of gross me out. Uninspired, I began working in retail at the local mall and taking generic classes with no specific goal other than completing my associates degree. I continued to let the same bad guy jerk me around, convinced we were meant to be.

2003 – I continued taking community college courses and working at the mall until I eventually became so discouraged and depressed about where my life was headed that I dropped out of school and moved to Waikiki with one of my girlfriends. We lived near the beach and I worked at an ice cream shop and a clothing store to make ends meet. My parents were less than thrilled. I eventually started to feel claustrophobic and lost on the island, so I reapplied to WWU and was accepted to begin classes in the fall. I decided on a journalism focus and for the first time in a long time I started to feel confident about school and the direction it was taking me.

2004 – I took huge credit loads every quarter to make up for lost time, and was getting almost straight A's in all my classes! I felt confident and motivated, and all my professors loved me. But I basically lived on campus and my personal life began to suffer. I gained weight (which my boyfriend at the time never failed to point out), and felt left out by my roommates, who were enjoying senior year slack off partying. I went to school full time and worked a part time job on campus while simultaneously completing an internship at the local newspaper. Even though I felt amazing about what I was accomplishing academically, I felt miserable about my personal life and relationships. I graduated in December and was relieved to put this part of my life behind me.

2005 – My boyfriend and I had been together for about two years at this point, and planned on moving in together wherever he got a job. In the meantime, I moved home to Olympia and lived with my parents while working as the city government and health reporter for the Centralia Chronicle. My boyfriend got a job in Seattle and subsequently broke up with me over the phone. So I did what any single, lonely girl would do in this situation... I got a job and moved to the city by myself. I re-kindled some friendships with girls I had known in college, lost about 40 pounds, and started to feel good about myself again.

2006 – In between partying it up almost every night with my friends, I dated one bad guy after another. I quit my job at the newspaper, where I had worked in real estate advertising, and took a job as an account coordinator for a real estate marketing company. It didn't take long for me to realize I was completely miserable working for a crazy husband and wife duo, but I didn't know what to do about it so I stayed. I continued to drink too much almost every night with my friends, and when my rent went up I moved into an apartment with a girlfriend to save money.

2007 – Following another particularly painful breakup, my roommate introduced me to Stewart. We became good friends and soon enough, more than friends. We started spending excessive amounts of time together, which took a toll on my friendship with my roommate. I became miserable enough at work that I quit my job and spent the first part of the summer unemployed. Eventually I began working as an administrative assistant for a real estate development company and for the first time in a long time I was happy with my job. Things with Stewart and I continued to progress even though I was dealing with some major insecurity issues.

2008 – I became totally infatuated by my new relationship and loved spending every single second with Stewart. He inspired me to start doing all kinds of things like snowboarding, wakesurfing, and camping. We spent a lot of time integrating our friend groups together and had so much fun taking trips and hanging out in the city. In October we bought a condo in Ballard and moved in together. Neither of us had ever lived with a boyfriend/girlfriend before so it took a bit of an adjustment period, but eventually we settled in and loved cohabiting!

2009 – I was starting to feel like all my dreams had come true. I had amazing relationships with my boyfriend, family and friends and was filling my time with tons of fun activities (other than drinking to excess in the Seattle bars every night). Stewart and I were experiencing many adventures together and we were both very happy in our careers. I started doing boot camps and exercising more than I ever had in my life and was really feeling good about myself mentally, physically and emotionally. I celebrated my 28th birthday in Whistler with some of my best friends and felt so lucky and in love.

2010 – Stew and I celebrated our third anniversary in San Francisco, one of my all-time favorite cities. We continued our adventures and even went skydiving. We spent a ton of time with our family and friends, and I attended my North Thurston High School ten year class reunion. That summer we also started planning a trip to Europe, which Stew had been promising me since we met. We flew out in October to spent almost a month in England, Ireland, Italy and France, and it was hands down the most amazing experience of my life. We were hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy when Stewart dropped to one knee and proposed. Of course I said yes!!

It's truly amazing how much your life can change in the course of a decade. When I read this summary, it seems like I was incredibly sad and lonely for a really long time, although while I was living through it, it didn't seem that way. Hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe things don't seem that bad until you reach a point where you learn what being truly happy is. But I think that's what being in your 20s is for... figuring out who you are and what makes you happy. What your goals are and how you want to achieve them. What I do know is that I'm happier now than I've ever been, and I can't wait to see what the next decade of my life will bring.