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.


  1. Once again, you reach out across the universe and remind me how much I adore you. Your authenticity, your depth, and your love. xo Tami

  2. Wow. That was beautiful Sara, thanks for sharing.

  3. Apparently I was supposed to read this today, Sara. You truly know how to ride the waves of the Universe and inspire those who are blessed to cross your path in life. You are truly a blessing. But I know you have heard that many times from many souls in this life. I want to lovingly give you something different because you are one of the few that can do something with it, with intention.

    There might be those very _close to you who unconsciously compare their happiness to your own almost as if they are in your "happiness shadow". The gravity of your beauty and self-worth is so radiant, it might be hard for someone to recognize their own unique beauty and self-worth - if, for instance, they unconsciously want the same kind and miss their own uniqueness. And in order to do their best to shine their light through yours, their hurt would be hidden from you in an attempt to shine even brighter. Who would tell their hero _all_ of their weaknesses if their hero was actually a part of their weaknesses?

    There is always balance... keep on smiling and inspiring. You are truly a gift who does so much good in this world. Happy birthday, Sara. Feel free to delete this comment if you would like. I just hope you read it.

    1. Mmmm... Good comment :) Thanks for trusting in me enough to write it and share it! I hear what you're saying - though I don't know where to start in responding ;) Primarily, I feel like I understand this deeply because I have struggled a LOT with recognizing my own beauty and self-worth. Because you're commenting anonymously here, I don't have the honor of putting an example in to context, but I can tell you that self-love and self-compassion is something that I struggle with in a BIG way. Ask my partner, any close friend, or my therapist ;) I know that the times in my life where I've felt the least healthy have been those times that I compare my energy/self to someone else, and fail to just let me be me. So when you say, "it might be hard for someone to recognize their own beauty and self-worth", that hits close to home. Thank you for bringing that up.

      The other thing that I felt come up as I read this was, if someone is feeling like they cannot share who they really are with me (be it sharing hurt, or sharing anything about themselves), that's a pretty big shame, and it cheats them, me and the rest of the world from not knowing who they truly are. That said - easier said than done, right?! ;) Again, that point hits close to home... One of my biggest faults is often caring about what other people think more than I should, and oddly enough, I find I feel that way when I'm around people that I don't know all that well. Those that I'm closest to understand that I feel like my life is a total shit show, I get depressed and angry, and impatient that I haven't figured out a "life purpose" quite yet - - but my relationships with those folks are the ones that are the most valuable and deepest to me. I would say, "be vulnerable and share!" to everyone, but again, like you so beautifully put, "There is always a balance." It doesn't feel right for me to share my deepest darkest with the entire world - but I can push myself to be more open and more true to those who are willing to do the same with themselves.

      Anyways. Brain dumping! Thanks for taking the time to share... I really appreciate it, and if nothing else, it helps me feel normalized for feeling those same things! ;)

      All my best,

    2. You're welcome, Sara. You show your human side with grace. You have done so much to take the right steps in life and it is very admirable. This is probably another reason why you were her hero growing up and still are today. To dial this in, just ask yourself who, specifically, in this world might look up to you? Who _closest to you might you be a hero to? She might have been hurting longer and deeper than most people realize. Think about that and then re-read the first comment once you know who it is.

      I apologize about not being more direct. There are reasons. All my best.

    3. This continued indirectness is starting to feel like a game to me, so respectfully, I can't respond to this anymore. You might think that you're helping, but being vague and secretive about something as significant as hurting someone apparently very close to me isn't help - it's hindrance and drama-inducing. If you'd like to email me off line about this, I welcome that, but I don't appreciate this type of communication. Thanks for your comments which have all been lovely and useful - but as for involving yourself in one of my relationships only to the extent that it makes me feel uneasy and it doesn't shed any direct light, I'll graciously decline continuing with that.

    4. And what's more, it's not your job to fix the relationship that you're referring to. It's being me and whomever you're referring to. If it's important to her, she has the power to bring up these feelings with me, and when she does, I'll be there to hold space and listen. If you need to encourage someone, maybe it should be her - encouraging her to speak, rather than you feeling like it's your job to do it on her behalf.

  4. I love that I've seen you from near and far as you have grown, pushed, pulled, been filled and drained through more than these past ten years.

    You are blessed to know the feeling of intense longing for who you are.
    You are blessed to love the unplanned perfection of your past.
    And now you are blessed to have a man who finds you so intoxicating that he would find his future lacking without you :-)

    Keep enriching,
    Love you!

    1. Kevin - you're the best :) That was such a cool comment to get on here! Lots of love, old friend....

  5. You are an amazing woman Sara. Keep on being who YOU are because no one else can be you, no one else can be me, no one else can be him, or her. We are each our own individuals. period.

    The one thing I've learned in life, we (each and every person) cannot be responsible for anyone's happiness. We are the only ones responsible for our own happiness. We create our own reality and our perception of our reality (good or bad, each of us owns it, it's ours). Once anyone looks to someone else for their happiness, instant fail!

    So, keep on keepin' on, shinning bright, being beautiful & radiant. Because, that's just who you are!

    Love ya,
    Girdy Shapiro ;0)

  6. This was so nice to read, Sara, you've inspired me to do one for my 32nd birthday! (Didn't know you were younger than me!) I can definitely agree that I would have never guessed the things I'm doing now if you asked me 5-10 yrs ago where I'd be. Cheers to unpredictability and the journey of learning about ourselves!

    1. I want to read it!!! What's the link? Hope you're well :)