But I'm not quite done reflecting yet. I tried to put these 20 things in a special order, but that was turning out to be impossible, so, know that the order isn't important. And that this post is really long. Don't say I didn't warn you.
1. All the pampering
Once I graduated from the starving student period of life, I slowly slid into a whole new world: a world that included non-essential but delightful things. I bought a queen-size bed so I can sprawl out as much as I want to when I sleep. I discovered how amazing pedicures are. I found a hair stylist who gets my hair and has helped me figure out how to manage it. I spent too much money on clothes, movies, books, and music. I didn't get to do these types of things much during the first 22 years of my life, and the novelty of being able to casually cough up money for temporary pleasures still hasn't worn off. Sure, I've had to relearn how to stick to a budget—it's a lot harder when I'm not punished with a shortage on food every time I splurge—but I really, really enjoy having the time and the means to relax about finances every now and then and enjoy some of the frivolous things.
I'm a hobby person. Cross stitching, crocheting, photography, reading, design projects, piano, and journaling helped make my free time—when I had it—more meaningful. Even cooking got to be more enjoyable. It's quite an indulgence to invest in so many hobbies, some of which I've been developing for a lifetime, some of which are new. My twenties were great like that.
One of the hardest things about college was not having my own piano. Sure, I could run down to the basement of Miller Apartments or to virtually any classroom on BYU's campus, but it wasn't the same as having one in your own home, waiting for you whenever you needed it. I've made other major purchases in my 20s, but buying a piano was the most important. I don't use it as consistently as I used to, but having one at my disposal at all times has played a large role in helping me de-stress, sort through my muddled thoughts, and find joy during rough stretches.
I started taking regular evening walks soon after moving to Midvale, and it's often my favorite part of the day. It's my time to enjoy being outside, to think, to listen to podcasts, or simply to just move around for an hour. Walking may not be the best workout, but it's the only one I've been able to stick to, and it does more for my overall well-being than anything else does. They've pretty much become a non-negotiable part of my life.
I learned a lot from four years of roommates. Like, how to (finally) make my bed consistently. And how to make do with a small amount of space. Having roommates helped me come out of my shell more, and we did a lot of fun things together. Those were good years, for the most part; I'm really grateful for those memories.
I loved being a BYU student. Those years are among my fondest memories of the past decade, and it's not just because of the social life. I just really loved being a student on such a beautiful campus, no matter how grueling it was at times.
7. My "no studying on Friday nights" rule
Not long into my freshman year at BYU I made a personal pact: I would never do homework on Friday nights. Even if I had a ton of work to do. Even if I was bored. The only time I broke this rule was when I had a test on Saturday morning (or when it was fun homework like reading a novel), but the rest of the time I guarded this precious homework-free time. I almost always had too much work to do, but I desperately needed this block of time to allow myself to relax. It saved me from many a meltdown. I've continued to follow this stricture, not doing freelance work or any other brain work if I can avoid it. I am beyond spent by Fridays, and often the only thing that gets me through the day is knowing that I have an evening of nothing to look forward to. I wholeheartedly recommend following a similar practice if you aren't already—it's one of the best decisions I ever made.
8. Grad school—SNHU
Grad school was not part of my master plan until it happened. And it ended up being the least stressful part of my academic life. The fact that I wasn't expected to pursue this degree, and that I was concentrating entirely on things that I liked (except for that dang teaching class), made it a luxurious experience most of the time. I've often said that the journey of completing my MFA was more important than the actual diploma or any monetary rewards, but it actually has helped in my career, too. I spent 18 months living the life of a writer, and while I eventually decided that writing full time was not something that would make me happy, it did give me some valuable insight into how writers' minds work. It was a treasure trove of information that I've drawn from heavily as I edit other people's writing, reminding me what sort of feedback is actually helpful and keeping me humble—because the writers have the harder job. And since the entire program was online, it opened my eyes to the many ways to keep learning that don't require a traditional classroom environment. Which is a good thing; otherwise, I may have had to go get another master's degree, just to keep myself entertained.
Podcasts are the number one reason I haven't been tempted to go back to school. They don't replace taking an actual class entirely, but they do fill the void, the one that must be filled with learning. And some of them are just plain fun. My podcast addiction has only gotten worse since I gave Alohomora! a chance 3–4 years ago, but I try not to let that bother me. Having too much to listen to is a problem I enjoy having, for now.
Podcasts I'm especially loving right now: the Legendarium, Literary Disco, and Annotated. If you want some non-book recommendations, try 99% Invisible, Lexicon Valley, Gastropod, Myths and Legends, and BackStory.
|Sometimes career advancement hinges on appearing in dorky promotional videos.|
My career is not the most important part of my 20s, but let's be real—I spent too much time at work for it to not be one of the most important things in my life. I've worked with a lot of words and wordsmiths over the years. You'll just have to read this post again if you need a refresher, because, ironically, I can't put together an assembly of words I'm happy with. Something about this subject is just hard for me to write about.
11. BYU basketball
|I was at this game. It was the most awesome sporting event I've ever attended.|
I didn't get into college sports until after I graduated from college, but now I'm really dedicated. Jimmermania is to blame. Some years have been better than others, and some years I was unhealthily obsessed, but it's something I look forward to every year now and that brightens up the dreariest part of winter. Call sports pointless if you want, but reigniting my love for basketball has made my life better.
12. Stake softball
|Pretend that's a softball field in the background, not my apartment. I am terrible at taking pictures in the moment. When I have to be in them, anyway.|
Of the many times I've tried to get some sort social life going post college, stake softball is the only area I really succeeded. I have a much higher success rate when the activity involves, well, an activity ("show up and eat and mingle" themes are usually a bust for me), and when it's an activity I enjoy, it becomes more than just another opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I played all six summers I've been in Midvale, and it's provided much needed balance—and fun—to my summers. Again, sports play an important role in my life. I did not expect that to be one of the takeaways from my 20s.
|The great 2016 book cull. These are the books that made it through the screening process. I alphabetized them.|
I wish I had joined Goodreads a few years earlier so I could give you an exact count of the books I've read in my 20s. I'm very sad about this. But I'll try to get over it. Since I opened my Goodreads account at the end of August 2009 (just before I turned 22), I've read 509 different books. Many of which were re-read. In college I didn't have time to read for fun, but I read for homework. This was when I finally started to appreciate the classics, although I still don't consider classics "fun" reading. Good for when I need some brain stretching, though. And since getting my master's, I've become the textbook definition of a voracious reader. It's been a wonderful luxury to have the freedom to devote so much time to chipping away at my endless TBR pile. I've become a more active part of the reading community (mostly through podcasts and Twitter), and books are more important to me than ever—as evidenced by my growing book collection at home. If there's one thing that will finally give me the courage to buy a house, it will be the fact that I need more room for my books.
I still haven't stepped foot out of the country, but I've visited a lot of the states (thanks to the many vacations made possible by my dad's Frequent Flier Miles/Marriott Rewards Points and the ACES conference my work pays for). I've seen most of the Western U.S. now and have even made it east of Utah a few times. I am not a seasoned traveler by any means—I leave Utah maybe two times a year, and never for longer than a week and a half—but I'm grateful for any chance I get to explore another piece of this great country. But I think returning home is my favorite part. One quick adventure is all I need to fully appreciate my boring life again.
15. Alone time
If I ever get married, you'll know it's true love because that's just about the only thing I'm willing to sacrifice my alone time for.
16. Being single
This was "the" trial of my 20s, but I eventually came to not only appreciate, but love, the single life. The dating (or lack of) part of being single sucks, but pretty much everything else is great. The freedom. The independence. The money. The not having to plan around others. Honestly, if there ever was a decade to enjoy being single, the 20s would be it. This is no big revelation because that's what the world is always shouting at us, but I needed to experience it myself to believe it. These "me" years have been a gift.
17. YSA wards
|This picture was taken so long ago it feels like it was another age. This was the year my roommate was one of the relief society presidents and she made me teach relief society.|
I've spent a third of my life going to singles wards. That kind of boggles my mind. But they've become the norm for me. During my BYU days I longed to graduate into a family ward, but now you'd have to drag me—death glare and all—into one. Part of the reason for that is that I don't feel like I have a place in a family ward as a young single adult. Some singles integrate just fine into a ward that focuses on already established families, but I need to be somewhere I'm not an anomaly. But even if I was properly married with kids and fit the mold for a regular ward, I would miss the energy of YSA wards. The absolute silence during the sacrament. The fun. I know a lot of YSA wards have problems, but most of my wards have operated the way they're supposed to. So well that I don't want to leave.
It's been a huge source of comfort to me to not have to wait for marriage—something I seem to have no control over—to enjoy the blessings of the temple. I would not have made it through the last six years without it.
19. Family relationships
Your relationship with your family changes as you get older. In most cases, you either become each other's obligations or each other's closest friends. I see my family much less than I did when I was living at home, obviously, but those family bonds are strong. Not unbreakable—even the relationships with your favorite people require work if you want them to last—but strong. It's cool that we're all in the adult stage of life now and can relate to each other on more equal planes, without the pointless bickering mucking things up.
I saved the best for last. I spent many years being envious of all my friends and cousins who got an early start at aunthood, but my turn finally came five years ago (coming up on six, actually). Being an aunt has lived up to the hype. I adore those little tykes.
So for this section, you get four pictures. One for each unique little person. Narrowing it down to just one favorite for each was a tragic exercise.
Jaxson is a precocious kid who wants to be an adult RIGHT NOW. I love this picture because he manages to look both grown up and perfectly childlike.
BRONX'S FACE. This is the oldest picture of the bunch. I've been gushing over it for five years.
Not quite a typical Avonlea smile, but it's a pretty good portrayal of her personality. A little bit sassy, always ready to pose, exuding adorableness.
Noah is a little daredevil who's always looking for an excuse to giggle about something. Such a funny kid.