Embrace Change – On Turning 26

I cried on my 20th birthday.

I remember it vividly. I was up late studying with my then college boyfriend (my first ever boyfriend, how cute) in my first single apartment in Pittsburgh. I was so proud of how I decorated it – full of string lights, taped up photographs, and bodybuilding tropies as decor. I thought I was such an adult, until midnight hit and the texts started coming and shortly after, so did the tears.

I cried because I hated the thought of things changing. I hated that I would no longer be a teenager anymore; I was getting closer to graduation and I wanted things to stay the way they were forever.

It was completely unrealistic and borderline schizotypal (not really). But it was definitely an unhealty perspective that I’m glad I brought myself out of. Fast forward to my 26th birthday which is TODAY🥳 and I couldn’t be happier with where I’m headed in my life.

My favorite parts of this past year as a 25 year old include the meaningful relationships I developed, the wonderful new people I met and the awesome memories I’ve created. 26 is here and I’m ready for more.😊

It’s amazing how something I used to fear has become a part of life that I embrace and look forward to with excitement. I used to be afraid of change; I used to run from it and avoid all confrontation with it. If I committed myself to something – a career, degree, goal, location, relationship, whatever it was – I felt that I had to stick to it and do everything in my power to make it happen. Over time I’ve come to realize that some things are simply not meant to be for me – and it’s caused a beautiful shift in my life. I no longer stay in relationships or environments that I’m not happy with, or pursue career paths that take away from my quality of life. Accepting change is what’s caused me to recognize that my happiness is completely up to me.

I used to be so apprehensive about change because I couldn’t let go of this ‘image’ I had in my head of what success meant for me. As scary as it was at times, when I finally accepted that things were going to and had to change, I became so much more empowered. When I proved everyone wrong by acing my classes, when I dumped that abusive ex, when I booked a solo trip to the islands without telling a soul, when I picked my life up and moved, changing schools and careers because that’s what I wanted, I finally found a sense of control and happiness that I realized I had unknowingly been searching for in my previous dedication to what I ignorantly thought was success.

My whole life I’ve envisioned a path for myself based on certain goals: graduate college, go to medical school, become a doctor. I refused to veer off of this path even for a second because these are the things I said I would accomplish and these are the things that were expected of me. I realized deep down that this just didn’t feel right. After lots of traveling, starting my master’s, quitting my job, traveling the world again, I finally found my place in life and while it’s still in healthcare, it’s something I know I never would have considered 4 years ago because I was never open to other opportunities. I felt like the pressures I was putting on myself and the expectations I felt others had for me were completely lifted off my shoulders. As we get older I think we often feel like we have to have everything figured out by a certain ppoint, but I don’t think this ever really happens. I known I’ll never have my life ‘figured out’ because there will always be more I want to learn and improve, see and do, and that’s what’s fun. Having realized this has put me in a much better place and I’m just grateful to be here and happy.

When I was younger, my grandmother told me that I’m like the whitewater that breaks at the end of a wave – gentle but strong. As a young girl I found it fascinating that someone could compare me to something so bizarrely beautiful, and of course this stuck with me.

Through all the difficult, challenging, exciting and wild things that happened over the past 2 decades, one thing I’m proud I never compromised on was kindness. Obstacles strengthened my resolve and roadblocks made me find other paths forward, but I always made sure to stay happy and optimistic. My attitude was my decision and even in the worst of times, I always tried to smile and see the good in people and situations. Because of my parents I was given the freedom to live a life of self actualization, along with the opportunity to pursue an education, career, and a life that I want and I could not be more grateful for that.

Let your smile change the world, don’t let the world change your smile.🙂

Cheers 26 and so many more🥳🎉❤

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