Tomorrow, I turn 25.
I remember the day I turned 22. It was a quiet day in East Lansing, Michigan and I spent the bulk of the morning at a coffee shop absorbed in the act of rearranging words and sentences for what would become the first blog post for 52 Cups.
I intentionally kicked the project off on my birthday because I wanted the initial post to be more than just the start of a project—I wanted it to be a declaration for how I planned to spend the next year of my life.
That post solidified that 22 was going to be the year of new connections.
I spent my 23rd birthday in London, dancing late into the night at a Brazilian club, recommended by a friend I’d made in Cannes, France, with my aunt, two girls I’d met on a bike tour earlier in the day and a friend’s cousin who was interning in London. It was random, adventurous and the culmination of an eight week trip through Europe. In the morning I’d be boarding a flight back to the US without a clue as to how’d I’d be putting my two-month old Marketing degree to use.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed with the uncertainty, I was exhilarated: 23 was going to be the year of adventure.
Over the course of the next year, I would visit 27 states and 72 different cities; sleep on 22 couches, 7 air mattresses, 11 bunk beds, the floor of two airports and inside a tent, twice. I would learn to milk cows, give speeches, surf, brand cattle, bottle wine, road trip, climb rocks, watch the Sweet Sixteen and take photos (lots of photos), all while continuing to drink coffee and write.
For my 24th birthday, I was on a weeklong road trip to Vermont with one of my best friends trying to maximize every day of July before my nomadic lifestyle came to a screeching halt on August 1st: day one of my first “real” job.
Two months earlier I’d abruptly woken at 3 am with the clear realization that it was time for be to pick a city and plant some roots. At the time I was doing contract work for Michigan State University’s Alumni Association. They were sending me to major cities to work with the local alumni clubs (this explains how I financed my travel from November through May). There was an opportunity to extend the contract but I decided to decline it when I realized that 70 percent of my nomadic lifestyle was a hunt for adventure but the other 30 percent was an escape from reality.
When you’re constantly on the move you don’t have to stop and address tough questions like: What am I doing with my life?
Worse, you can push problems to the fringes. Those nagging little issues everyone faces? Yeah, you don’t have time to think about those when you’re always hustling to catch a flight or plan the next trip. It’s liberating, until the issues catch up with you.
I knew it was time to stop moving and sort out a few details of my life: 24 would be the year of slowing down and working on the foundation.
The thing about foundation building is that it’s boring and the feedback loop is weak. Meeting someone new each week or traveling to a different location leads to a sense of accomplishment (plus stories and adventure). I met this person. I did this thing. It’s a great feeling.
The transition to a new job was not so great. My thought stream for the first six months in San Francisco: I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not doing this right. Am I doing this right? What if I screw this up? Wait, I think I might be good at this! Scratch that, maybe not.
The worst thoughts: I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything, I don’t feel like I’m making progress.
It was exhausting (and I’m guessing something many of my recent grad friends can relate to). Fortunately, I had friends willing to listen to my anxiety-riddled concerns and offer ever-reassuring advice. I mentioned two weeks ago that I write every day mainly as a measuring device to see how I’ve changed and how I’ve stayed the same.
In the past two months I’ve noticed the phrase used to pop up a lot in my writing. I used to think this or that. I used to let this type of situation stress me out. I used to worry about X, Y, and Z (plus 100 other things).
Amazingly, this used to business revealed a different type of accomplishment. Not the tangible type of accomplishment from 22 and 23, but a slower accomplishment. Like the way you don’t notice how much the tree in your front yard has grown until you come across an old photo reminding you how small it once was. I think back to this time a year ago and think wow! I’ve really changed.
And that was the magic of 24: A less adventurous year, but one filled with slow and long-lasting growth. The kind that forms a strong foundation. The kind that I needed.
And that brings us to what happens tomorrow: 25.
I predict 25 will be a fantastic year. (Partly because I oddly love the numbers 2 and 5 in any combination). It will be a wonderful compilation of the past three years: my unwavering faith in the power of building new connections and my spirit of adventure mixed with a much stronger foundation thanks to a year of ‘real world’ experience.
This means taking more chances, trying new things, replacing fear with love, being vulnerable and understanding my actions and decisions won’t be perfect but trusting that an imperfect decision fueled by passion is better than taking the safe route and wondering what if.
In short: 25 will be the year of daring actions.
Daring actions of all shapes and sizes; some of which I have planned and some that will unfold serendipitously. It’s not going to be an easy year, but it’s certainly going to be a memorable one.
So with that daring declaration: cheers to the next year of life!
P.S. If you think my actions aren’t daring enough, bother me on Twitter—half the fun of public declarations is forced accountability. And, while it might not be your birthday, we are now halfway through the year, which is a great time to stop and reflect.