A decade in review.

“Ten years ago” hasn’t ever really felt like a long time passing until today, driving in the car. Thinking back, I couldn’t quite remember where I was or what I was doing when I turned 20. With friends? At university? I still don’t have a clue. Without a doubt I felt ready to be 30 – constantly characterized as an “old soul” – and had my sights fixated on working in the Peace Corp or being an intelligence officer with the CIA. (cough, cough)

Research & Interviewing in Sinthou Malem, Senegal.
A year passes. I get straight A’s. I sing and dance a lot, and life is about “love, hugs, and pizza.” With a year left in college, I decide the Peace Corps is what I want to do after school. I turn 21 and go to live in Senegal for a semester. I live in the bush with my African translator studying female circumcision, but spend the days really watching people struggle with growing food and clean water and malaria. I realize they don’t care about why I’m here – you can’t care when your basic needs aren’t being met. I watch a woman embark on horseback travel 20 miles in labor, and realize that I don’t know pain yet in my life. I withdraw my application from the Peace Corps.

So - The CIA. It’s all about the CIA. I come back to the states 20 lbs. lighter, break up with my boyfriend, graduate from college and am staring in to a future of interviews and waiting periods for security clearance.

While I’m waiting, I go to Colorado. I buy my first car (which I crash into a canyon 6 months later while listening to Dave Matthews) and drive across country to our family cabin. I get a job as a wedding planner across the river. Who knew? I love wedding planning.

I start 23 by calling my mom: “Mom, I’m not coming home.” I withdraw my app from the CIA. I start climbing, and running. I learn to not run on my toes like a ballerina. I love running so much that I run my first full marathon. I teach yoga at a local gym and to the kids climbing team. Life is full. My boyfriend moves to Colorado. I get engaged to youthful enthusiasm.

I turn 24 and spend a cold lonely winter running an entire lodge in the Rockies. I snowshoe to work. I love my job, but am bored to death and need something more. I put in my application to the Peace Corps. Say good-bye “forever” to Colorado. Move to Seattle until I have to leave for Africa. Then a friend comes back early from his term in the Peace Corps, and says, “Don’t do it.” I withdraw my app, and move back to Colorado. Boulder this time. I have a new job. I love it.

Shortly after 25, the engagement is off. I’m running and climbing a lot. One day I fall, and come to find out, my hip bone got lodged up on my spine. Fix the hip, but the pain persists. My leg goes numb. Then I find out I actually bust 3 discs and vertebrae. Get surgery. Spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in a back brace with Ashley and Jeb. Realize they’re family.

I meet a friend, who introduces me to a brother, who introduces me to a boyfriend. His name is Jonny. I’m smitten. A crazy lady in the park tells us we’ll be together forever, and we believe her. We travel the world in a year, move in to our new home while he is away on a climbing trip, and he never comes home. The day he dies I have a dream so vivid of him, I actually think he’s walked in to the house. I still think that’s what happened. His memorial is my 26th birthday.

What to do when you’re in pain? Burning Man is always a great option. I dance my heart silly and shake big heavy tears into the playa dust. But I’m oddly blissed out in a way I’ve never felt – SO alive. So lucky. So in love with the feeling of what it’s like to burn and grow through tragedy and life.

I spend the holidays at home with my mom and dad. We spend New Year’s labeling the backs of family pictures stuffed in to shoe boxes. A few days later, I hug my dad goodbye and feel so intensely that it’s the last time I’ll ever see him, that I cry the whole way to the airport.

The phone rings at 5am a few mornings later – It’s my mom. “Your dad died.” I’m standing in the living room of my house in the dark and I can’t even cry or feel. By some great universal happening, Matt is in the airport when I go to fly home. He is going to China. We take tequila shots. And then another.

The funeral happens. There’s a military fly over and the family tries to cope with laughter. This grief feels different. I go back to Colorado to be with friends, decide to take life by the [insert descriptor], and get a tattoo. I start scuba diving, turn 27 and go to Mozambique for a month to dive. On the back end of that trip is another Burning Man and a best friend’s wedding – and on a Tuesday I decide to quit my job.

Three days later, I get the opportunity to do development work with a new nonprofit and sail. I leave Colorado, spend Christmas in the London airport eating sushi, fly to Namibia and sail across the Atlantic Ocean to Uruguay. I puke every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day. Once I puked purple. I learn all the constellations in the southern hemisphere, dive off the bow of the boat in golden sunsets and make life-long friends.

I’m staying in an apartment in Buenos Aires when one day a friend messages me and asks “Do you want to learn to fly?” Why yes. Yes, I do. I go to Florida to learn to hang glide and fall in love. One month later and trips to the South Pacific (me) and the Grand Canyon (him) under our belts, we meet up in L.A. to see if we really like each other. We do. Game on.

That was the summer I turned 28. I flew all over the west, learned about the rivers, got way in over my head several times, and blew my previous perception of myself to pieces. (Which is quite fun.) I open my consulting business and move to Baja for the winter to surf and learn to kiteboard. Kiting is a giggly sport. I feel like I’m dancing again. I fall in love with the water and the ocean in a new way.

One day, visiting friends, I tell Seth I want a dog. He rolls his eyes. I say, “Hey, at least it’s not a kid!” We laugh, and about 10 minutes later “the dog” walks in to our lives. She’s Kira, from the transvestite Mexican brothel. She’s on the team, and after a three-day post-spaying scare where she turned in to the exorcist, she turns out to be the best gift we could have ever asked for.

Back to Montana. Get a new client – all women, so cool. Spend the summer flying, paddling and dancing. Montana grows on me a little more. I turn 29 and my favorite 9-year-old in the world decorates my cake with two entire bowls of rainbow sprinkles. Perfect.

That winter, we head to Baja again, and stepping off the plane, it smells like home immediately. Even the smell of coffee grinding in the morning had me jumping up and down in the kitchen. I spend my days working, kiting, learning Spanish and teaching yoga. I realize how much I miss teaching yoga. Friends come and friends go that winter and too quickly we are back in the states. Seth and I take our first “real” vacation in two years to the Caymans, and I realize how much I want to spend the rest of my life with this man.

We move back to Montana. I take a great part-time job, and decide to buckle down and enroll in school, too. It’s stressful, but it’s good. One day, at the end of a really long week, I go flying. It’s so nice out that I take two laps. At the end of the evening, we’re basking in gratitude and golden hour light with beers, and Seth drops to a knee. He asks me to spend the rest of my life with him, and I’m not sure if he’s kidding or not, but he assures me he isn’t – because thank god, I really think that’s a great idea. We kiss, and I cry a bit as I think of my dad not being around to know him, or witness the last few years. But I think he’s probably had something to do with it all.

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of preparation for Seth leaving on his trip to Africa, enjoying Montana summers and spending time with loved ones. We decide on a wedding date, and I think, Wow, you really do never know how things are going to line up.

Two days ago, right on cue, I find my first gray hair. I pluck it of course. Not yet, not yet.

And tomorrow, I turn 30. As the last few hours of my 20s come to a close, I realize that life has HAPPENED is such a big way for me in the last 10 years. Had you asked me then what I’d be doing and where I’d be now, I would have never in a million years guessed that it all would have transpired this way. I feel like I’ve been walking around in a bliss bubble the last couple of days, with awe and thankfulness busting out of every seam. To turn that page with so many loved ones and experiences woven in to who I am, I don’t feel expectation about what the next 10 years have to be like. I just feel like myself. And I think that’s the best thing that came out of my 20s.