There I was: eating an entire tray of chocolate cupcakes alone in the middle of the day; feeling grossed out about the squishy pair of contact lenses some stranger left on my bedside table after I had sublet my apartment to make rent; questioning everything I was doing and was about to do. Of all the questions: am I actually an adult?
The closest I’ve come to owning a house is sleeping in the back of my car. I’m not married yet, and what if I never meet that special person who also likes the smell of spray paint and can put up with how I trim my toenails into the sink?
In the days leading up to my thirtieth birthday, questions of this gravitas have repeatedly crossed my mind, and I’ve had more breakdowns than a Guatemalan chicken bus. Getting real, I wish sometimes I felt more like of an adultier adult.
I still wear fluffy pink socks to bed, get carded at every bar I go to, and people still tell me all the God damn time I look just like that girl from Clarissa Explains it All — ya know, like that 16 year-old from Nickelodeon who lived in scrunchies and had a male friend who climbed through her window via a ladder? That girl. I can tell you now, there’s a lot of things Clarissa didn’t explain, which is probably why I continue asking myself questions I don’t have answers to just yet. They really should have just called that show, Clarissa Kinda of Explains a Few Things, but Leaves Out a Lot of the Details.
Nonetheless, in the last few days I’ve decided that instead of hiding my feelings about adulthood, I’d open up and share my experience with people I know. That’s when I realized, I am not alone in the 30-something blues. One person made me feel better when they shared a story about how they shit their pants at an oyster festival in Ireland on their 30th birthday, which definitely underrated my cupcake binge. I also chatted about it with my therapist who, in an expressionless and monotone voice, literally said quote, “well, it’s not like you’re at home on the couch shooting heroine.” She has a point.
At the end of a tumultuous cycle of meltdowns, I’ve regained my ground to consider all of the epic stuff I’ve accomplished during my twenties, which I actually feel pretty great about. This also includes feeling good about things I’ve chosen never to do, like heroine.
I feel ready to transcend out of my twenties, but I’m also scared and excited enough to shit my pants without even going to an oyster festival.
However, most importantly when I look back on how I’ve chosen to spend the last ten years of my life I feel proud of myself. At the basis of all the bold decisions was a fundamental question: how can I live to die? To explain: when I was 14, I became obsessed with the song Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, and I knew this was the type of living I wanted to do.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it, but your own living room.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
On top of the impact of that song, losing my dad when I was 25 made me really experience in my soul the true brevity of life. I hope that you don’t have to go through something like that to really get how fast this life can go by. The most precious thing that you have is your time and your strongest source of power is the fact that you can choose how to use it.
So embracing that ideal, I’ve loved hard. I’ve laughed hard. I’ve made bold choices. I’ve done crazy things. I’ve felt the extremes of the human spirit and survived to recount it all.
Now without further adieu, here’s a look back on the epic things I did in my twenties:
- I lived in Peru, Argentina, Spain, Bali, Australia, and New York City. I didn’t just visit, I had an address in each of these places.
- I learned to speak Spanish fluently by living in places where not one person spoke English. That is an insane feeling btw.
- I graduated from college after studying two subjects I loved.
- I lived 100 percent on my own in addition to having a revolving door of eclectic roommates.
- I held a colorful array of jobs from cocktail waitressing at a transvestite bar and marketing at a zoo to assisting a celebrity photographer and leading horseback riding tours on a cowboy ranch.
- I learned how to ride a motorcycle.
- I did almost every adventure activity with the suffix -ing including skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, spelunking, rafting, cliff diving, scuba diving, and flying in a sailplane.
- I said, “I love you” probably a million times.
- I walked away from relationships that didn’t serve my higher purpose.
- I invested my whole heart and soul in relationships I believed in.
- I traveled to 22 countries.
- I danced and swam in the rain.
- I visited the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, the Empire State Building, the Louvre, the Sistine Chapel, and Jerusalem.
- I drank my first beer with my dad in Italy.
- I started an epic dance party at a tech conference.
- I stuck to building a passionate career as a travel journalist and photographer.
- I got really good at writing and photography.
- I got upgraded to first class for free, twice.
- I set a couple Guinness World Records.
- I let people see me cry.
- I gave an epic speech at my dad’s funeral, which moved people to the core.
- I hiked the deepest canyon in the world.
- I cut my hair off and grew it back.
- I played with monkeys in Bali and koalas in Australia.
- I rode in a helicopter, a hot air balloon, and a handful of teeny tiny planes.
- I asked people really challenging questions about who they are and listened to them.
- I tried online dating.
- I ate emu, snails, alligator, frog, and kangaroo.
- I went on a cruise.
- I went skinny dipping for the first time.
- I took French classes.
- I took a singing class then performed a duet.
- I navigated the NYC subway system without an iPhone for an entire year.
- I helped build a cardboard recycling center.
- I partner danced on a crowded dance floor where no one else was dancing.
- I worked with multiple life coaches and therapists to heal, grow, celebrate, and clear.
- I auditioned for the Amazing Race (and got rejected).
- I traveled alone.
- I learned how to properly punch someone.
- I made an epic comeback after getting hit by a car.
- I swam in the Dead Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Andaman Sea, and the Coral Sea.
- Participated in the biggest food fight in the world (La Tomatina).
- Donated blood.
- Rode a camel.
- Snuck into a movie after seeing a movie.
- Got on the news.
- Spent time with a Holocaust survivor.
- Held someone’s hand as they let go of life.
- Hiked an active volcano.
- Saw a Yankee game at Yankee stadium.
- Said the words, “I quit,” then walked away from a f*cking awful job with dignity.
- Surprised a stranger with a homemade birthday cake.
- Drove in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road.
- Walked on a black sand beach.
- Got published in BBC, USA Today, National Geographic, Maria Shriver, the International Business Times, Newsweek, Mens Journal, Yahoo, Fodor’s, the Huffington Post, and Elephant Journal … among others.
- Produced a segment for Larry the Cable Guy and got to be on set with him while filming.
- Met a matador.
- Dove and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.
- Threw up in at least five countries.
- Arrived by seaplane.
- Went glamping.
- Had multiple deeply spiritual experiences.
- Witnessed a ton of miracles.
- Fired a gun.
- Milked a cow.
- Saw some of my closest friends get married to the loves of their lives.
- Produced a short documentary.
- Wrote and published my first (short) book.
- Sold my artwork.
- Jumped into the ocean fully clothed.
- Went paint balling (and hated it).
- Had meaningful discussions of forgiveness with people I dated.
- Appeared on a radio show.
- Healed my autoimmune disease by changing my diet (that was a biggie).
- Took myself on a date.
- Got my photo published on the front page of the newspaper.
- Learned what it really means to grieve.
- Took improv comedy classes.
- Dyed my hair bright red.
- Made a stance for something I believed in and didn’t back down.
- Took a colossal leap of faith.
- Found my tribe.
- Made decisions based on passion, instead of fear, to live a life free of regrets.
- Worked from a hammock and from an ocean-front bungalow.
- Let someone light my pants on fire.
- Bought a few one-way plane tickets.
- Lived entirely out of a backpack for months at a time.
- Photographed someone mostly naked.
- Experienced flattery when I heard someone thought I was gay with one of my best girlfriends because our love comes across that strong in photos together on Facebook.
- Sat in a hot tub on a rooftop.
- Clogged a toilet in Peru then went on an epic pilgrimage to buy a plunger when I had no idea how to say plunger in Spanish. #mimeshow
- Formed a spiritual practice I feel aligned with.
- Gave up trying to get good at things I am not good at and hired people to do them for me who are actually good at them.
- Said no to things that weren’t a “f*ck yes.”
- Fell in love with Tasmania.
- Kicked people-pleasing to the curb.
- Learned to own my needs.
- Held space for people who cried in my presence.
- Released attachment to outcomes again and again and again and again ….
- Made a list of things I’d really like to do in my thirties.