Thirty-one things I did in my twenties.

I’ve seen more “20 Thing You Learn in Your Twenties” lists than I can count or link to. I appreciate these lists for perspective and a social expectations check-in. But I don’t find those generic articles to represent my experience AT ALL. My life in the last decade much more closely resembles the things one checks off their socially-assumed “list” in their thirties. Except the parts where it doesn’t. And so I decided to make my own end-of-a-decade rundown.

Thirty-one Things I Did in my Twenties

  1. Went to rehab. Four of them. I celebrated my twentieth birthday in a house associated with an intensive day treatment center. When I was twenty I went to inpatient rehab twice, lots of outpatient stuff and right around my twenty-second birthday I started my fourth–and last–outpatient program. And, yes, in that time I also did my share of drugs.
  2. Went through my first big break-up. Good-bye high school boyfriend whom I dated for like four years…and was never that good for/to me anyway. Hello a few tearful afternoons, and burned notes, and awkwardly negotiated shared history.
  3. Lived with roommates. When I went to University of Oregon for my freshman year of college straight out of high school I paid a premium fee (or my own money) for a single dorm. In my twenties life forced me to live with other people. I shared a two bedroom apartment with two other girls from my treatment center. I rented a room in a townhouse with two Chinese brothers and their friend. I was a shitty roommate.
  4. Got my own apartment. When I was twenty-one I got my own apartment. It was a studio in the basement of a hotel complex and I don’t think it was even legal since there was no address associated with it. But it was mine.
  5. Supported myself. When I was twenty my parents (unexpectedly) cut me off and I supported myself by working at Subway until I moved in with my now husband.
  6. Was saved. I understand the hesitation to claim any person(s) can save someone else, but I truly feel like there were two people (and one unborn baby) in my life that stepped in, stepped up, and saved me when I really thought all hope was gone.
  7. Turned to religion…and then walked away. I had a period in my early twenties when I thought my mental health issues were a spiritual issue–or at least had a spiritual component. I gave God and Christianity one more “all in” try in my early twenties, but ultimately I don’t subscribe to religious ideals–and I can, have and do live within that reality.
  8. Lived with a boyfriend. At twenty-one I met a boy and moved in with him about two months later. One week shy of the one year anniversary of our first date we…
  9. Had a baby! By far the biggest life change in the last decade (in all my decades thus far) was becoming a mother. I had my first daughter at twenty-two and completely altered my entire life for her, for our family, and for my own survival. I was a stay-at-home mom for her first year and then an “online school at home mom” until she was two and then I was a “mostly stay at home mom” who went to school a couple days/nights a bubbles black and white
  10. Doubled my weight in a year…and then took most of it off. I had a raging eating disorder when I turned twenty. In the summer of 2006 I hit my lowest weight ever. One year later I had literally doubled my weight, gaining 109 pounds (weird, that’s my lucky number) ninety of which was through pregnancy. Apparently if you’ve starved and abused your body for six years and binge and purge through much of a pregnancy it will literally hold onto every.little.thing. During pregnancy I learned how to eat. I learned how to keep food down. I began to learn how to cook and grocery shop and exist among the living. I learned the importance of sleep and routine and the vitality to my personally (and my mental health) of exercise. I took eighty-five pounds of my pregnancy weight off over two years, without extreme dieting or exerciseninety pound gain eaiting disorder recovery before and after side by sidepostpartum healthy weight loss low fat wiiFit
  11. Lived at the Oregon Coast. When I was twenty-three years old and my little baby was three months old we moved from a suburb of Seattle to a small beach town on the Oregon Coast. We lived there for a year and a half and learned how to be a family, be self-sufficient, and embraced a slower pace of life and simpler living. rockaway beach oregon woman and baby walking
  12. Lived in poverty. I lived in/near poverty for the first half of my twenties. I ruined my credit. I navigated the social service system. I made seemingly bad choices and I was dealt many tough blows. We (once “I” became “we”) had a “government baby”, spent a lot of time on food stamps and WIC, and once almost lost our house to foreclosure.
  13. Went back to school. Twice. I went back to school at twenty-four (finally made it to the point I could qualify for financial aid independent of my parent’s income!). I took online classes through Portland Community College, then transferred to Portland State and received my Bachelors in Social Work at twenty-seven. At twenty-eight I went back to PSU and graduated with my Masters in Social Work this past June at twenty-nine.masters degree MSW social work mom student portland state
  14. Moved home. When I was twenty-four we moved our family to my home of Portland, Oregon. I’d basically left after high school but decided to raise my family closer to my own. And Portland is amazing.
  15. Got married. Married my best friend (cliche!) at twenty-four. Our two-year-old was the flower girl. We were cute and folks were happy. We just celebrated our five year anniversary.bride groom flower girl black white red outdoor wedding ceremony
  16. Settled a malpractice lawsuit. First I retained a lawyer (at twenty-one), then I filed a malpractice suit, and a month before my twenty-fifth birthday it was settled about three months before a trial date in federal court. The process was harrowing as all my medical/mental health records were used against me and all my personal communication/social media (even the Livejournal blog I’d kept since I was 16) was subpenaed and scrutinized. And then I got this fatty settlement and could pay off my debt and have this fresh start that so few people ever get a chance at.
  17. Tattooed a 3/4 sleeve. When I was twenty-five I got a half sleeve, camouflaging self-injury scars from my teenage years. This past year I expanded my work to a three-quarter sleeve. I have numerous other tattoos, but this is my most noticeable and significant. I generally do not consider it very remarkable, but whenever I venture out of the Portland area, I remember that I generally mainstream young woman with a significantly tattooed area is actually not the norm. I also work in local government and choose not to hide my tattoos.3/4 joe bass jade mermaid cardinal cherry blossoms flowers bird red pink tree branches
  18. Bought a house. We were pretty smart, paying off debt and cars and putting what was left into a house. We went from food stamps to a spacious house in the suburbs and saw (and now live) the other side of the coin–middle class America and all the privilege and entitlement that entails.
  19. Completed my family. I purposefully(!) got pregnant at twenty-five and had another daughter at twenty-six. I had a healthy and active pregnancy and a natural birth (one of the highlight experiences of my life). We weren’t completely sure at first, but during our littlest one’s second year it became clear that we were going to be a four-person family. Babies are so special and precious but I am delighted to have moved on from that stage.newborn baby girl sister family of four two daughter daughter mom dad big sister little sister pink photoshoot newborn tattoo sleeve half cherry blossoms young family nuclear modern
  20. Prioritized fitness and became somewhat of a food radical. When I was twenty-six I walked into ta new gym and discovered strength training, high intensity interval training…and a paleo lifestyle. (that particular story can be found here: I have never looked back and continue on my fitness journey, my health journey, my life balance journey. I still eat/live “paleo” to this day…three and a half years later.bicep fitness paleo
  21. Got a real grown-up job. About a month before my twenty-seventh birthday I began an internship at the county. Six months later I became a temporary, part-time employee. Six months after that I became a regular status, part-time employee. I then began receiving health benefits for my family (one of my goals of going into social work) after being denied health insurance for years. Part-time became full-time and I now have a career coordinating domestic violence services that challenges and inspires me and has allowed me experiences that continue to surprise me (winning 1.4 million in federal grants, opening a family justice center, training professionals throughout the state). I am able to financially contribute to my family and have developed an identity outside of “mommy” that has been so important for my own sanity and security. And two incomes rock.
  22. #ootd outfit of the day selfie instagram pic a day platinum blonde pixieTook #ootd selfies everyday for a year.  In 2012 I took a selfie (most often of what I was wearing) every day for the entire year. (“ootd” = outfit of the day)
  23. Got a credit card. I ruined my credit in my very early twenties, and for the next 6-7 years could barely get a car loan, much less a credit card. Of course this coincided with the recession when it was difficult to get credit in general. At twenty-eight I was approved for a Gap card and taking good care of that credit line the past two years, while all the negative stuff fell off my credit report, has helped my credit skyrocket and opened so many doors that were closed for a very long time.
  24. Vacationed. My partner and I understand wholeheartedly that we get to live only this one life and we strive to embrace leisure and adventure and enrich the lives of our children and ourselves. We are privileged to be able to indulge this value and while we haven’t gone anywhere especially exotic, I’ve been to more places in the last five years than my entire live previous. We’ve visited his family in Iowa, taken the kids to Disneyland twice, taken countless trips to the coast, camping, and to Seattle and the San Juans, and we’ve traveled just the two of to the East Coast twice. Most recently we rented an RV and road tripped to the Grand Tetons. In the last year we became time share owners to further fuel our habit. vacation family of four photopass 2012 daughters two girls lightening mcqueen california adventure
  25. Embraced social media. Social media is woven through the whole of my twenties. I started the decade on Livejournal and Myspace and am ending on Facebook and Instagram. I’m no longer the teenage/young adult early adopter, but I do value the role of social media in my life and the people it connects me to. I am also aware of the drawbacks, the risks, and the costs of living virtually. It is a line I choose to walk, and have done so in a myriad of ways in the past fifteen years–and imagine I will for the rest of my life. At times I’ve been very private and at times very public. I’m currently in a more public space and enjoying the freedom of where I am and what I choose to share.
  26. Broke my sobriety. When I got sober a week before my twenty-second birthday I’d only been to a bar twice in my life. While I had abused my share of substances I by no means led a party lifestyle and had never socially imbibed in any form. At twenty-seven–after almost seven years of sobriety–I made the potentially risky decision to try drinking socially. I feel content in the way this decision has changed my life–being sober in your twenties is hard! I feel much more “a part” of general culture, and have found occasional drinks beneficial to my career, social life, and marriage. I struggled with talking about this, because I would never want my actions or experiences to put the sobriety of another in jeopardy. But this is my reality. The biggest consequence is messing with my fitness goals. 
  27. Made friends. For much of my twenties I was isolated and without community. I was lucky to find partnership and create/reconnect with family, but I can’t say I’ve had many friends. In the latter part of this decade, my world grew–and my social circle followed. I made dear friends in school, we made friends with families through the girls’ daycare. I’ve made friends at work and amazing relationships in the gym. I’m not someone who needs a lot of friends, but I feel as if my life is full and my circle of support solid. I have been able to foster relationships that add to my life and leave those that are ultimately a detriment. Good-bye toxic friendships. Hello amazing and inspiring people who make me strive to be a better person.mabel maltese shihtzu puppy littles sister family
  28. Got a puppy. I think this is the step couples are “supposed” to go through pre-kids. But we waited until we’d left babyhood behind. When I was twenty-eight we got my first puppy, and the first pet I have really, truly been head over heels in love with (more on that here). It’s kind of scary to have such strong feelings for something with such a short lifespan. We can’t remember life without our furry family member.
  29. Had plastic surgery. As I mentioned previously I once gained 109 pounds in a year. I fucked my body up. I have stretch marks everywhere, but mostly I had a lot of loose and puckered skin on my abdomen. I also had a separation of my abs, both of which diet and exercise (despite years of trying) were never going to touch. At twenty-nine I had a tummy tuck with muscle repair, waist (i.e. love handle) and outer thigh liposuction. I was pretty extreme, but I am extremely, amazingly happy with the results. This process was truly a dream come true. In the nine months of planning leading up to it, I found myself practically pinching myself daily and walking on air with butterflies in my belly thinking of this impossible thing that was actually happening to me. I feel reinvigorated in my fitness goals, no more stuck at a dead end, and am still amazed daily at how differently clothes fit and my body looks and feels. I am so glad I was able to do this sooner rather than later so I can enjoy it for longer. And I wore the hell out of a bikini in public this summer! abdominoplasty before and after loose skin muscle repair removal excess
  30. My parents split up. This past summer my parents split up after thirty-three years of marriage. This transition is still very much in process, but it has been a life-altering event in many different ways. Absolutely a remarkable experience to close out this decade.
  31. Began to understand and appreciate myself. I have always been extraordinarily insightful, but in my twenties I feel like I’ve begun to understand the depth and realities of my strengths and weaknesses, and how to most effectively use (or guard against) each. I so much better understand my own boundaries and how my priorities affect my productivity (and vice versa). Through this process I have developed appreciation for my unique-ness, my abilities, motivations and my perspectives–at last replacing the self-loathing and deprecation I entered my twenties with.twenty-nine going on thirty
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