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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”- Looking Back at My 20s

And just like that, my 20s come to a close. Tomorrow, I turn 30.

As I sit here and reflect on the last decade of my life, I am reminded of A Tale of Two Cities, and how perfect the opening lines are:

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Everyone looks forward to this decade – a time of exploration, maturation, and independence. Jobs are acquired after gowns have been worn and caps have been thrown, and if you are lucky you are actually happy in that first gig and years of schooling paid off. Those who are lucky in love end up celebrating marriage and perhaps the arrival of offspring, while others of us are cursed with the disaster of divorce. The 20s hold a promise of acquisition of property, new friends, and an inflated travel budget. Hell, it’s time to see the world after so many years in prison college.

I grew up fast. I was eager to live the 20s that most of us dream possible, but few are able to attain. And when I think back on my 20s, I’ll be able to pinpoint the most defining experiences of that decade, among which are the following:

1. Marriage

And the elephant in the room has finally been addressed. I was married at 22 years old and not a person could have convinced me that it would end. But it did, and it’s taken many years to understand the blessing in disguise. Though it didn’t last, I can’t deny the profound effect it had on my life, and I am grateful for what it taught me.

2. Divorce

You’d think this would be one in the same, but the things I learned about myself during that time are far more significant than anything I learned about myself while married. I learned resilience, strength, and independence.  I learned how many friends were in my corner, and how capable of picking myself up I really was. Too many years were spent thinking this period was a fruitless one; however, they were by far the most formative of my life.
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3. Graduating – both times

In my 20s I walked across that collegiate stage twice – both at Syracuse University and both to receive a diploma in the field of Education. I am far more proud of the work I did in my Master’s program, and more so because I managed to work full time, go to school full time, and manage a household on my own as I was picking up the pieces of a life gone wrong. I did it though, and even though it is a giant blur, I made it through the rain and across that stage.
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4. Rediscovering the most important stage

I can’t say I was ever bitten by the acting bug; rather, I was born with it. From the time I was a little girl, I would watch movies on repeat so that I could memorize the lines and re-act the scenes in my childhood playroom. I had my stage debut in 5th grade as Prince John in Robin Hood, and though I toyed with an acting major in college, I stuck with what I knew could support me. After I moved to Virginia the first time, I was made aware of the abundant community theater opportunities and dove in head first. Honestly, some of my happiest most peaceful moments are when the lights come up at the start of a show.
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5. My first job teaching

Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds, Stand and Deliver – all of these tell the same tale, but my first classroom has all of them beat. If I close my eyes, I can paint the entire picture as if it were yesterday. I can smell the staleness of that dusty old classroom the day I stepped foot inside, and I can recall countless hours sitting at my desk long after the students fled from school for the day just imagining how many things were possible. I have had hundreds of students since that very first class, but they taught me just how truly great my chosen profession could be.
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5. Moving to Istanbul

I admittedly lost my mind. As a little girl, I could barely spend a full night at a friend’s house before calling my mom to come pick me up. And at 26, I ran off to a foreign country in the Middle East to try to create a distance between myself and my former life. And it worked – for awhile. And then I realized that the distance one needs cannot be measured in miles, but in time. But I did enjoy seeing the world and living in a place that was only ever portrayed in history books and beautiful old pictures. It truly is a remarkable city, and I will hold it in a special place in my heart always.
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6. My Mother’s Accident

Last spring, my mother was in a near-fatal accident that left her with a broken neck and a fractured collarbone. None of us knew how she managed to survive, as the doctors considered her a miracle for living, and even more because she was not paralyzed from the break. My mother is and always has been my hero and my best friend, and the fragility of life never was more apparent than in the weeks I spent traveling back and forth hours to sit with her in the hospital.  Not only did my mother live, but now she really lives. She has an outlook and a renewed passion for life which has inspired me to do the same. The scariest moment of the decade turned into my biggest blessing.

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7. Scott

Last, but certainly not least, I leave this decade happier than I’ve ever been thanks to this most incredible man. Everyone thinks their significant other is better than everyone else, but I know this to be true. Having felt the weight of years of heartache upon me, I almost couldn’t see the light that Scott brought into my life when we re-met over a year ago. He sees me as what I really am – a work in progress. He recognizes the life I have lived and the experiences that have shaped me, but he allows me to dream my biggest dreams and define a new set of ideals for my life. He not only allows me, but he inspires me. He pushes me to challenge myself and see the world with brand new eyes, and I have lived more presently and purposefully in the past year than I ever have. I love my life with him – every last bit of it.

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There were so many other major life events in there (moving to Va, back to Syracuse, and back to VA again) and dozens of friends made who have added to the color of this tapestry that is my life. I have raised two amazing pups, who teach me daily the importance of patience and responsibility, and I have moved from school to school, classroom to classroom, as I found my way to this moment.

I am not scared of 30 anymore, and dare I say it, I’m more than ready for it to begin. I hope to one day look back on this past decade without any semblance of sadness, but for now I can appreciate the best and worst of the times for what they are.

30s, here I come.

-Al

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7 Comments

    1. Happy belated birthday, this post was just so personal and sweet congrats on all you’ve accomplished these past 30 years

      1. Thank you so much for the birthday wishes :) I feel accomplished, but not nearly as excited as I am about all that will get done in the next 30! Again, thanks for stopping by!
        -Al

    1. You are the sweetest and so deserving of all life’s blessings. Happy 30th again. Cheers to the most amazing year yet. xoxoxo

    1. Al!!!!! I’ve found you again !!!!! Loved this post !!!! Happy 30th sweet girl – so glad you’ve found happiness oh kindred spirit blogging bud of mine xoxo

    1. Happy Birthday!! ;)

      “Live long,
      Live for many years,
      Become a grown white-haired woman
      And then everyone will say: There she is, a wise woman”

      (A very rough translation of the Greek birthday song, I hope it makes sense!)

    1. Alix, that was beautiful. I’ve always found you to be a pure hearted individual and a gifted artist. I so appreciate
      You gracing my series 7 Cities and my short film The Wait with your talent and natural ability. I’m sure the future holds nothing but greatness for you and I can think of few people who deserve it more.

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