27: My Best Year Yet

As a teenager, I always felt that my 27th year would be my prime of life. I told my friends and family that I “just had a feeling” 27 would be my best year. For proof of this, look no further than all my usernames and avatars: They usually combined my favorite number (11) with the number 27 – the age at which I thought I’d be my very best self.

I’m not sure why I idealized the age 27 so much. I saw women in their mid-20s as goddess-like. They were young and beautiful yet established, had interesting lives, had lots of classy fun, were in the early stages of great careers, had cool friends, dated fascinating men. I just always envisioned the mid-to-late 20s as this magical period between youth and adulthood that would be inherently glamorous, exciting and real.

HAH.

Turns out, being 27 was both everything I thought it would be, and nothing I thought it would be.

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One of the coolest things about having a birthday that falls near January 1 is that I get to equate my age with the year in question. 2015 (for me, year 27) was dramatic, to say the least. I began the year in Fiji, ringing in the new year with a bunch of strangers on a beach, drunk on kava, knowing in the back of my mind that what awaited me back in Chicago was a heart-breaking ordeal that would be both emotionally taxing and completely necessary. This reality hung on my heart like a 50-pound weight, filling me with both dread and anticipation.

When I first returned to Chicago after six months of living in New Zealand, I faced the end of an eight-year relationship that had sustained me throughout my formative years and that took a huge amount of courage to end. I’m proud that my partner and I did the right thing for us – but self-realization comes at a cost. I had doubts. I hurt people I loved. I agonized over my decisions. I constantly asked myself what I was worth and what I deserved out of life.

My partner and I came to the conclusion that we both deserved to be happy.

The spring of 2015 was dominated by this awakening in myself and the actions that became necessary after we’d made our decision. Soon, I found myself alone for the first time in my adult life. I had no idea how to do the single woman thing. I didn’t even know how to set up cable.

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I eventually found my first apartment. It was a cute little attic space above a family’s home in Logan Square, Chicago. My landlords were kind, salt-of-the-earth people, even inviting me to their son’s 6th birthday party just a few weeks after I moved in. I set up my little space, decorating it with quirky animal figurines, my grandmother’s paintings, and the few pieces of furniture I’d taken with me from my past.

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That summer, things began to happen very quickly, like a game of dominos. I got a three-month contract job in San Francisco that offered me the potential for a job in a city I’d always wanted to live in. I left my job at Brafton – a place where I loved working and where I’d met so many incredible friends – to pursue this job in the hopes that it would turn into a permanent placement. I needed a new start: Most of my peers weren’t even married yet, let alone divorced. My cousin John lived in San Francisco, and we’d become close over the years. I felt that this would be a wonderful opportunity to start fresh and rebuild.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I spent about half of my time in San Francisco for three months, staying on John and Christian’s couch and at Airbnbs while doing work for a company I hated working for. The job was a mess, and I knew I wasn’t doing a good job. I hoped I would be offered a full-time position at the end of my contract, but I knew it would never happen. My boss was a horrible manager. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was only in the office half of the time, so I had little hope of getting into the swing of things. The entire experience was a flop.

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And yet during my time in San Francisco, I grew attached to the city. In the weeks I spent there, I had so many exciting, invigorating experiences. I met wonderful, interesting, fun friends, and came to learn about the work culture of a city whose tech industry is far more fast-paced than Chicago’s. I broadened my horizons in about ten different ways. And I had a great time doing it.

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And, yes, I started dating. I tried Tinder, which I mostly just found kind of hilarious. I flirted with people in bars. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend at all – in fact, I was pretty excited to be unattached for the first time in my adult life. But it was also a big adjustment to learn how to be single, especially when I learned that my ex-partner had moved on.

Then, I learned that I wouldn’t be offered that job in San Francisco. My heart sank. My last hope for escape – escape from the drama of my life in Chicago, from the uncertainly I’d learned to live with, the apartment I’d come to resent and love at the same time – was no longer on the table. I wouldn’t be able to start anew in San Francisco with the friends I’d made and the city I’d become infatuated with. I had no choice but to remain at my parents’ home in the small town of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, single and unemployed at 27.

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For a passionately urban, travel-loving young woman, Twin Lakes is probably akin to somewhere near the fourth ring of hell. I moved home, unemployed and dead set on not returning to Chicago. There were too many memories, too many people who could pull me back to unproductive thoughts, actions and feelings.

I moved back into my parents’ house in September. Though I was at a low point in my life, I’d spent the last three or four months having a ton of fun in San Francisco. It seemed so unfair that I’d come so close to creating a life for myself in a place I really wanted to be, and with people I really loved and respected. Yet it hadn’t happened.

Ironically, though, moving back to my parents house helped me grow in a way that San Francisco probably never could have.

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In coming back home, I learned something invaluable: that every part of my life, even (or maybe most importantly) the lows, are part of a journey. They are here to teach us things.

I’ve learned a lot. It’s funny how life works. I’ve always struggled with contentment … I’m easily bored and constantly trying to improve myself. Nothing is ever enough. And yet during my 27th year, I learned how be more at peace. I learned to accept that things take time, and to be present in and enjoy each part of my journey. I also got to spend time with my funny, smart, unique and wonderful family, the people I love most in the entire world.

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For a few months, I thought of my 27th year as one of the worst years of my life. But by the end of 2015, I was able to recognize it as one of the best. It’s not how good or bad your circumstances are that determines the value of a period of time – it’s how much you learn. And I learned more in 2015 than I ever have before.

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Now, 2015 is firmly in the past, and my eyes are on the horizon. Things have started looking up. I feel hopeful and invigorated about my future.

Twin Lakes has turned out to be not so bad after all. In addition to getting to hang out with my siblings (who are now young adults and who I’ve gotten to know on a more equal level), I’ve decided to start a freelance business. I have big plans to publish my work. I’m going to Coachella in April (omgomgomg). I even met a guy.

Part of being a full-time freelancer will include blogging more often, which is why I’ve decided to stop posting links to my blog on Facebook (I’m not tryna flood your news feed.) Please hit the follow button if you want to see new posts as they’re written! I’ll probably do some of these self-reflection posts from time to time, but I’ll mostly be posting about health, fitness, yoga, nutrition, current events, my travels – basically, all the lifestyley stuff that occupies my day-to-day life. If you’re not interested in reading about yoga, feminism or my forays into low-carb diets, now’s your chance to bow out!

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