On a decade of learning

When you can’t bear something but it goes on anyway, the person who survives isn’t you anymore; you’ve changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it after all. | Austin Grossman


When I was 20, I saw a girl dye herself blue. She really looked like a smurf. She was taking over my spot in the dorm and decided to move in early, basically forcing me to move out. When she came in shrieking of her accident, I told her the blue was very becoming and had to hide my laughter when I found out the dye was permanent. When coloring your hair blue, don't take a shower to wash it out.

The best thing that came from that tiny college was my friendship with this talented gem.

There was a brief stint at a community college where I took only art classes and met an adorable couple that made me believe in love. I also went on a road trip to Arizona with a girl I met on a bus to a Christian convention in Idaho. "Can I help you?" were her first words to me after chirpily greeting her. A boy I met while working at a kiosk selling cell phone covers also joined the trip. He made me a mix-tape introducing me to "Indie" music. I enjoyed the not-so-secret messages of his crush. We kissed on a mountain in Colorado.

I didn't see the Grand Canyon, but I did hit a deer on the way back less than 30 miles from home.

Moments before hitting the deer, I got a speeding ticket that tipped me over into the "you-need-to-attend-driving-school" category. So the summer before I went to U of Iowa, I spent a week sharing stories of speeding tickets in "driving school".

Friends were made during music theory in the Voxman music building. I asked the same questions at every football game and we tailgated with spiked coffee. 21 was a shit show (in the best way), Facebook started, and I got hit by a car while riding a bike and talking on the phone. I found my love for volunteering and drunk dialed my sick roommate with John McCrea after The 10,000 Hours Show (10K3). We were sad she missed the show.

At 22 I shared an apartment with 6 roommates. I compared us to the sides of a Rubix cube picking colors for three of them, leaving only white, red, and yellow. It was unintentionally perfect given that the remaining roommates were Caucasian, Hispanic, and me.

Around Christmastime, I brought a wreathe from home to decorate our apartment. I didn't notice the dried cat vomit, but my roommate did. It was this awkward moment that started our friendship. Many adventures were spent together, including a road trip to Texas when we forgot to bring blankets (in February!) and another to Canada where we ran over a trash bag and carried it with us all the way back to New Jersey. On both trips we opted to save money by sleeping in the car. We are now roommates in Brooklyn.

There were shitty jobs and a few months of being really poor. Days were spent alternating giving plasma and going to Labor Ready. Hope was held in strange places, like the time I held a dying deer in my lap on the Coralville Strip or finding a piano on State Street in Dysart and having it fork-lift to my house. I called these my "red skittle" moments.

There were loves and losses, which at the time seemed grand and defining. But it wasn't until the timing was just right for me to date a boy I'd noticed throughout the years at our college radio station, that I would really understand heartbreak and love.

The summer before I left Iowa, a night was spent walking around Iowa City drinking whiskey and sharing stories with a close girlfriend. That was one of the beginnings of my heart learning the lesson that sometimes things can't be fixed and all we can do is listen.

New York welcomed me at 23. I will never forget driving into the sunrise. I was certain that life was going to be perfect from that moment on. The pit stop at a random town in Illinois for cat tranquilizer should have been a reminder otherwise.

24 was full of live music, some crazy nights, living with a 65-year old woman*, and finally learning the difference between the East Village and the Lower East Side—one is above Houston, the other is below.It rained for 10 days straight, which was timely for my first real broken heart. I got really good at crying - release was overwhelming at 25.

But the heart was moved again on a gray day in October and did cartwheels while carrying a microwave through Peter Cooper Village on a cool spring evening. I learned to love freely, even when it was not fully returned.

The garden of friends continued to grow and the tiniest roots of self-love started. I learned that lazy days were my favorite (especially at the beach), along with late nights of painting and singing to myself after sunsets of gold. June became my favorite month. Two lucky children on the 6 train received bicycles after the 4th of July midnight train to Montauk. I blame the heat for my poor judgement on taking the bike in the first place.

At 26, I received a look that made me feel absolutely beautiful and special and all of the things a girl wants to feel. Although it wasn't sustainable for many reasons, I have still to feel that way again.

27 and 28 were some of the most difficult years I've experienced, despite all of the moments of being surrounded by love. Lessons were learned in circles, but each lap taught something different. I learned to navigate extremes and that self-love is really important but really, fucking hard to practice.

29 has taught me that the best way to deal with change, is to just ride the current. Loss is tough, really tough. But sometimes we have to let go because somewhere along the way—probably around lap 1,492—we already changed, despite the years of fighting it.

The lessons continue—I'm not sure that there is a stopping point. There will be moments of rest, but the grounding comes from within. It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't change any of it.

If someone would have told my younger-self that I would be entering a new decade without any semblance of a romantic relationship and have two different cats*, I probably would have laughed or cried or both. Because while that version of myself was adventurous, I was also too afraid of loss; holding onto love for dear life and likely too tight. The lesson of change and loss is one that—in time—will show up again.

We are all walking books—I really believe this—made up of little stories, with big chapters. I'm embarking on a new one. I feel Ready. Capable. Accepting. A little less of certain things, a little more of others, but still the same all around. I'm learning to be less hard on myself and to treat my heart with more kindness.

So here's to a new decade and continuing the adventure.


* The kitty that moved to NYC is still here, she's just with the woman I used to live with. I visit them both on a regular basis.