The days turn in to weeks, and the weeks turn into years. Time seems to speed up as we age. My birthday is next week, and I’ll be turning 28. Wait, what? I thought I’d take a few minutes to contemplate life, complete with a few of my favorite quotes about living life.
Since I routinely get mistaken for a college student, and I don’t feel nearly adult enough (despite owning a house and a business and having been married for almost four years) to be 28, I still feel pretty young. It’s more of a shock because it was ten years ago that I had my first international flight. Ten years ago, right after my 18th birthday, I left my hometown and flew off on the adventure of a lifetime. I spent a year with AFS in the Czech Republic, living in Olomouc, with a host family that I still try to keep in touch with (hi Lida! hi Honza!) and friends who, to this day, take time to meet me for coffee when I manage to find myself back in country. It was one of the most significant experiences of my life, and changed almost every view I had of the world. I have never regretted traveling.
Ten years ago, I’d never left the country. Ten years ago, I had no idea what my future would hold, but I never predicted this. I was going to have a job working in some kind of international company, or maybe for the European Union, or the United Nations. I was going to change the world, in big and abstract ways. Instead, I’ve changed the world in concrete, little ways. I’ve worked with children, hopefully teaching them to be dreamers and doers. Teaching them creativity and compassion and the strength in knowing their own minds. I’ve used my camera to capture moments that are precious, and will become even more precious as families grow and change and leave us. I’ve tried to run my business in a way that is good for my life, my clients, and my community. I’ve done my best to wake up every morning and leave the world a better place than I’ve found it.
In the past ten years, I have loved and I have lost. I have climbed to the top of mountains in Switzerland, visiting the small village where my great-grandmother was born, and traipsed through Beijing. I have shot weddings in four different states, traveled to more countries, states, cities, and little towns that I could count. I’ve gotten a college degree (that I’m still paying off), and I’ve married a wonderful man. I have cried, so many times. In joy and in frustration. I’ve laughed, and felt joy so all consuming that I couldn’t sleep. I’ve moved over a dozen times, and left a little piece of my heart in every place I’ve lived. I’ve traveled across the world only to find that home is more of a feeling that an actual location.
Since starting the business, I’ve pushed myself to work harder, and play harder. To develop my talents as a photographer, and as a business owner. After years of struggle, long days, and sacrifice, I’ve finally seen a payoff in my business after learning that I need to do things my own way, not the way everyone else does them. In these days of constant connectivity, I struggle with comparing myself to others’ curated feeds, and remind myself that, if you only knew me from my Instagram feed, my life would seem pretty charmed too. I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to live my life by others’ timelines, and that working in a construction zone (with a cat in my lap) is normal.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned in the past ten years is to be your own person. And maybe that’s a lesson I’ve been working to learn for the past 28 years, but in the past decade, in going to college, finding a degree, numerous jobs, getting married, and owning a business, I’ve learned that you have to be true to who you are. You can’t fake it, because if you do, you’ll never be happy.
And I’ve been lucky enough to marry a man who respects me, supports me, cheers me on, and picks me up when I fall. He makes dinner when I’m stuck editing at my computer at all hours, he sends me silly texts in the morning to make me smile, and he has been here with me every step of the way for the better part of the last decade. He’s been there for (most of) the long haul flights, the middle of the night Skype sessions when we’re in radically different time zones, the early mornings, and the late nights.
For some reason, 28 feels like a milestone to me. I guess I’m officially in my late 20s, but that feels more like a badge of honor than something to panic over. I never felt this way about 25, and I don’t know that I feel anything towards 30. But 28? It feels good. And I feel good. I feel confident – and happy – in a way that I couldn’t have imagined at 21, or 25. Now, all I have to do is decide what flavor cake I want this year. Decisions, decisions. :)