1 till I’m 30

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” -Iyanla Vanzant

Well, tomorrow is the big day. It has been an emotional roller coaster this past month putting to paper 30 reasons I am grateful to be turning 30. When I decided to take on this challenge, it was to change the stereotype that it is all downhill once you reach that third decade on this earth. Part of this challenge was to celebrate all of the reasons why I love where I am in my life and why I am so grateful to be done with the stress, uncertainty, and growth that my 20s forced upon me. Sure being in your 20s is great and all…and, yes, you have perfect baby-soft skin, but those awkward transition years aren’t all they are cracked up to be. So, what is with this societal notion that you getting older is something to hide? Getting older means getting wise. And I think that’s pretty fantastic, personally. The other part of this challenge was to remind myself just how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for. The past few years have been filled with trials, self-discovery, pain, and fear. They’ve also, of course, been filled with joy, laughter, growth, and love. So often I find my mind listing off the failures more than the successes, but this project brought to light all of the reasons I should be thankful for this 30th rotation around the sun. This countdown forced me to share things about myself that I have never shared before. It made me admit things that I hadn’t quite admitted to myself, let alone the entire electronic world. But, in sharing there is healing and I feel that a weight has been lifted off my chest. The stories and memories that I played over in over in my head have now been processed and set free into the blogosphere, where they will hopefully inspire others to cherish their moments on this earth and learn from their experiences. Time is fleeting. Take a moment, sit down, look back on how you have evolved in this thing called life. The little details we take for granted everyday are often the most beautiful miracles. The struggles we survive through often spark the greatest growth. The moments that take our breath away are often the most life-changing. 

What do you have to be grateful for today? I am grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting me through this journey and letting me share a little piece of my story with you. 

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2 till I’m 30

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe, it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

I can’t believe all of the people who traveled from around the US to surprise me at Disneyland yesterday. I was shocked and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. During my 29th year on this earth I felt alone and broken. My life and family were falling apart and I was empty. When I reached out for help, I felt like no one was there. But, yesterday, there was so much love. I was surrounded by so many friends and family who came to celebrate with us. People took vacation days, traveled hundreds and even thousands of miles, and planned Disneyland vacations to be with us. It’s still taking me time to process all of the support, love, and joy I received yesterday. It was a reminder that I have so many amazing friends who support me, even if I don’t get to see them on a regular basis. And, I now get to join a family who loves and accepts me for who I am. My cup truly runeth over and I no longer feel alone. 
I will be saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as I have a voice.  

6 till I’m 30

“I feel in every little girl there lives a spirit: a wild pixie, that if let go would run and dance in grassy fields until the end of the world. And when that girl grows up, that pixie hides, but it is always there, peeking out from behind old eyes and reading glasses, laughing, waiting to one day dance again.” -Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird

As I get older, I’ve realized more and more that I have a vibrant personality. I like color in my life and life in my color. I like to wear tutus and polka dots. I like to be completely ridiculous and dress up to teach Halloween themed yoga classes to my students with thriller kicks and crazy dragons. It’s fun and it’s exhausting but it makes me happy. The older I get, the more I let my inner ridiculousness out. I let that wild pixie in me shine brightly and dance often (usually on a yoga mat). The lovely thing is, the more I show that crazy, exhuberant, silly personality to the world, the more people accept and love me for precisely those things. It’s amazing how when you are authentically yourself you give others permission to be themselves-to step into their own light. So, find your own wild pixie and let her dance.

7 till I’m 30

2016 was a rough year for me. I suffered illness after illness caused by lack of sleep due to major pain from an internal injury. For months, it hurt to breath, let alone do my two favorite things: singing and yoga. I struggled to continue to teach through the pain. The simplest of tasks was daunting– from washing the dishes to getting dressed, I had to prepare myself to breathe through the inevitable pain. I put a good face on it. Most of my students didn’t know how I was feeling or they only vaguely noticed that my energy and vivaciousness had decreased. I showed up to teach each day and counted the minutes until I could go home and lay on the couch again, too exhausted to move. There was nothing to be done but wait for my body to heal itself… but I’m not very good at being patient. The 8 months it took for me to become myself again felt like a lifetime. There were moments when I was lying on the floor at 3 am with tears streaming down my eyes from the electric shock of pain when I didn’t know how I could carry on with this life. But, slowly my body did heal. What once was debilitating pain turned into minor discomfort and then finally faded away. 

While I sincerely hope that I never have to live through such pain again, I can still feel gratitude for this period of my life. I now know true suffering and how difficult it is to function with that kind of pain. I have so much more compassion and understanding for those who suffer from chronic pain or depression. As a chipper optimist growing up, I never understood how someone could live under such a black cloud. I now get it. I lived through it. Thankfully, I survived. And I enter into my 30s the wiser for the trials I have endured. 

8 till I’m 30

When I was deciding what school to go to for my undergraduate degree I had to choose between a full-ride scholarship to Cal Lutheran or massive student loan debt from the University of Southern California. My gut told me to go to USC. I loved it there. It just felt right. But, my high school councilor told me to go to Cal Lutheran to enjoy that free education. She said there was no guarantee that a vocal performance degree would make you money after school. Actually, she told me that I was “wasting” my exceptional grades by going into an arts degree. She wanted me to go into the sciences or business… something that would “make money.” It took me 30 minutes of pleading to get her to sign off on an arts degree which she did so grudgingly. So, with crippling doubt, I accepted USC and the debt that went with it. By working two jobs while I went to school and summer gigs between school years, I was able to keep on top of the acruing interest while I was still at USC. I was then blessed to obtain a full scholarship/assistantship and stipend as I pursued my masters degree, so I thankfully did not add to my student loan debt. Still, when I finally finished my 6 years of schooling and that first loan repayment notification came in the mail, I had a mini panic attack. How was this starving artist, currently living at her parents’ house with no clear job prospects going to repay this massive sum? Looking at the interest projections, I was daunted by the fact that by the end of my repayment schedule I would have paid almost double what was originally loaned to me….. I couldn’t accept that. So I got to work. I took on any extra jobs I could find. I helped my mom at her flower shop. I worked a catering job, I started teaching a few voice lessons a week. I saved every dollar I made to pay my student loans each month: starting with the loans which had the highest interest. Later, as my voice studio took off and I began teaching yoga classes, I continued to live frugally, working extra gigs here and there and paying all of my remaining income each month to my student loans. I was going to pay these loans off as fast as possible. Every time I was about to buy something which was not a necessity, I first thought “but this money could go towards my student loans” and I put that item back. I am happy to say that this workaholic and ridiculous self-restraint worked–I paid off the remainder of my student loans in just 4 years. It felt so good that I decided to pay off my car early as well.

As I enter my 30th year, I am happy that I stuck with my gut instinct and went to USC for my undergraduate degree: loans and all. But, I am even more ecstatic that today I am completely debt free. Not many 30 year olds can say that. It’s enough to make one jump for joy. 

9 till im 30

Today I am grateful that, at the end of a long day, I don’t have to come home to homework. I get to make dinner, prep for the next day of work, do a little yoga, and go to bed. I don’t need to stay up all night worrying about pop quizzes and exams after 12 hours of classes, work, and rehearsals like I used to. After 24 years of schoolwork, I am so happy to be done with the phase of my life where I had to write essays, take tests, and cram knowledge into my brain. Now, when I do research, it is on my terms. I decide what I want to learn and I study for pleasure and self-improvement rather than to get a good grade. That choice is so freeing. It’s good to be heading into my 30s and not have to be that overachieving school girl any longer.  Reading for pleasure is so much better than reading for homework. 

10 till I’m 30

“Letting go, of course, is a scary enterprise for those of us who believe that the world revolves only because it has a handle on top of it which we personally turn, and that if we were to drop this handle for even a moment, well–that would be the end of the universe. But try dropping it. Watch what happens. Life continues on.” -Elizabeth Gilbert 

As I move towards my 30s, I’ve started to learn how to let things go. It has been a slow and arduous process of baby steps, but I’ve begun to process and release the little annoyances, to-do lists, emotions, opinions, criticism, and things which used to haunt me for years and even decades. For the better part of my life, I struggled with perpetual anxiety and fear of failure. I lived my days in a constant struggle of trying to be perfect, trying to get people to like me, and trying to be and do everything. I spent so much of my time worrying about all these things that I never truly lived any of them. I was so worried about being perfect, that I made more mistakes than were necessary. I was so worried about people liking me that I shut down and turned into a wallflower when others were around. I was so worried about doing everything that I did not have the energy to do anything. It was a vicious circle of perfectionism and I was trapped. The problem was, I was spinning my “world handle” so fast that it rocked off its axis. Everything fell apart and I would usually end each day curled up on the floor as tears streamed down my cheeks. The pressure I put on myself was unbearable and, when I couldn’t live up to my own impossible standards, I broke down. But, as my meditation practice became stronger, I started to realize how deeply I yearned for the peace of letting these things go–of releasing the yoke of stress from my shoulders and just letting go of the things that I cannot control. I’m still a work in progress and I continue to fight with my control issues, but I am slowly learning to release the little things so that I can focus on and enjoy the bigger picture. Letting go let me live again.