Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday! So today I decided to look back on the last year and list 22 cool things that happened.
1. I graduated from Augustana College.
Yeah, so I earned a bachelor’s degree. With two majors. And magna honors. Not to mention close friendships, meaningful relationships with professors, two semesters of abroad experience, and two other international travel experiences. That’s pretty legit.
2. I presented my Hunger Games thesis at the Augustana College Symposium.
Over the course of my senior year, I wrote no less than nine separate literary critical papers about the Hunger Games. I spent hours with my nose in those books, highlighting and underlining and post-it-noting things like hegemonic discourse and Campbell hero model parallels and gender theory. It was a solitary journey, so presenting at the symposium was very gratifying, like “EVERYONE SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LISTEN TO ALL THE WORK I’VE DONE AND ALL THE THINGS I’VE LEARNED.” It was really, really fun.
3. I climbed Pike’s Peak.
My friend Emily and I got up at four in the morning and spent over six hours trudging up that mountain. And it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. My legs were exhausted but my heart felt so satisfied.
More importantly, I discovered my passion for mud races. The roughage! The bonding! The training! The battle cries! The barbed wire! That feeling when you cross the finish line, like you’re a warrior and no one can stop you! That feeling when you still have mud in your ears three days later!
10. I competed in my first triathlon.
I signed up on a whim, trained like an animal, and placed third. My post-race pancakes were the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. Turns out I’m not a half-bad swimmer, either. I actually really enjoyed that part of my training. In your FACE, all you swim instructors who failed me when I was six!
11. I went vegan.
I haven’t written much about my veganism on this blog, but it is one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. It feels true to my heart, my beliefs, my body, and my affinity for critters. Making that complete switch was a big turning point in my life, and I’m so glad I did it.
Until you’ve heard this tattooed woman preach, until you’ve sang your liturgy bluegrass-style, until you’ve had service in a parking lot on a summer evening… you haven’t experienced everything Lutheranism has to offer. Because wow, did that church change my life. It led me to my next item…
13. I returned to Christ.
This one seems a little unfair, since I never left with much conviction, but I never went to church in college. The Christian culture on my campus was extremely competitive and sent me running to the comfort of agnosticism. I didn’t feel I had a home in church. There was no place for me.
That’s all changed now, and Nadia Bolz-Weber gets credit for that. Her church family welcomed me with open arms, and even though I was only there for a few weeks, it changed the face of the church in my eyes. When I moved to my new city, I went looking for a church right away and found one that suited me perfectly. I now plan my social life around church functions and my church friends, who are my nearest and dearest. I attend bible study, I help with worship, I pray, I see God in everything. I’m back, and I feel so whole.
14. I attended the Denver Publishing Institute.
Even though I didn’t end up going into publishing, attending DPI was an excellent decision. I learned a ton, I met fascinating industry professionals, I got to spend a month in Denver, and I made friends with some of the funniest, chicest, smartest book nerds in this country. For anyone even remotely interested in books: go to DPI.
15. I started dating Jackson.
Cute guys are everywhere. Cute, sweet, funny, thoughtful, caring, musically gifted, Christian, smart, wonderful guys are not everywhere. But I managed to find one. And I think that’s worth a mention.
16. I landed a good job less than six months after graduation.
I still am regularly shocked at how fortunate I am. I have a job that pays well, uses my skills, teaches me new things, and regularly introduces me to the most fascinating people. My team is amazing and encouraging, my desk chair is comfy, and my potential for growth is great. Also I recently invented a dance move with one of the most influential religious leaders in the country.
17. I moved to Chicago.
I started my adult life from scratch in this city. I moved into my first apartment, started work at my big-girl job, established roots for myself, made friends, found a running route, etc. That’s a big deal. I still can’t believe I did it. Of course, I still haven’t switched my license plates, so that might help.
18. I’ve embraced cooking.
Anyone who knows me now would be shocked to hear that I couldn’t even make pasta three years ago. Now I can boil, roast, simmer, grate, mince, chop, sautee, bake, broil, or cook just about anything you throw at me. I make 90% of my meals from scratch and regularly bring homemade baked goods to the office. Although I must confess: I can make a perfect risotto but have no clue how to cook a chicken breast.
19. I started volunteering at the Animal Care League.
Nothing heals your soul like pouring your extra love out on a homeless kitty for a while. Can I save every single one of them? No. Can I make this one feel better with a hearty dose of cuddling, chin-scratching, and jingle-bell-chasing? Yes. And that means something.
20. I applied and got accepted to a certificate program.
I start class in a few weeks for my certificate of environmental ministry and leadership. This goes hand-in-hand with discovering my passion: care for God’s earth.
21. I dropped some unhealthy relationships.
I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that trimming the bad branches on your tree of life makes a big difference. It was difficult and took me a long time, but I think my pruning skills have grown immensely from this practice of reexamining and redefining my real need (or lack thereof) of certain people in my life. Now that I freed myself, I am more comfortable with being myself.
22. I found my happy.
For most of my life, I wasn’t very good at pursuing what I wanted to pursue for fear of “missing out” on the whole group. I still struggle with this, but it’s gotten so much better. I prioritize my own needs and interests. I make time for the things that nourish me and my soul: running, yoga, cooking, reading, occasional crafting, spiritual practice. I’m more me than I have been in years, and it feels so, so good.
Tonight I’m going out for Indian food with some dear folks and tomorrow is a vegan potluck! Here’s to 23 cool things next year!