I’m about to enter the last year of my twenties and here’s what I’ve got

0: marriages, children, pets, properties owned.

1: flawed body that I appreciate greatly; family of origin– also flawed and yet, embedded with elastic love; Bachelor’s degree; 1 Master’s Degree

2: Years left of law school; cars I purchased and paid off by myself by the age of 26.

3: trips abroad between 19 and 25– all paid for out of my pocket; daily medications that allow my brain to exhale.

4: jobs I worked simultaneously to support myself in undergrad; different full-time jobs since undergrad; siblings.

Too much to count: moments I’m glad that I’m alive; student debt; mentors.

This isn’t about any of those things.

I’m 373 days from 30. Your twenties feel like you’re screwing up no matter what you’re doing, and it’s hard no matter what you choose. Nobody tells you that so I’m telling you that right now. That first year out of undergrad (if you are fortunate enough to attend college)? It is the most underrated hard year of your life. I’m posting what I’ve gotten from the past 3,279 days. Think of these as more souvenirs than advice. You can take it or leave it and there’s no moral tether to that choice.

  1. There is no real way to “waste” your twenties. I’ve spent a lot of this decade worrying about that: this paranoia that I’ve missed my chance, and I am hurdling toward a full-Havisham future. I can’t say that this won’t be my fate if I’m being honest. Still, the only way I’ll meet a life I like living inside of is by making authentic choices. Where I’m empowered to choose, I reject settling. It’s a self-worth power move when we choose nothing over crumbs, it shows that we understand our worth enough to believe that the real deal is on its way to meet us. Patience is easier when desperation is absent.
  2. Not getting what I want doesn’t automatically equal getting nothing. It could, but sometimes, there’s something better or different.
  3. My nerve/confidence can trigger other peoples’ demons, and I can’t fix that.
  4. While intuition is natural, we have to nurture it in tiny moments so that when the big stuff arrives, our intuition is a good friend whose language we interpret clearly. I ask myself what I want to eat, and I eat it. My gut tenses as if to nudge me, “no”, and I do not do it. For a long time, I strangled my intuition because I had to in order to feel normal in abnormal situations. The habit refused to die. I dated people I didn’t like purely because they liked me. I exercised when my body begged for rest. I socialized with crowds of people who made me feel lonelier than I was in my own company because I felt like this is what I was supposed to do. I swallowed screams and yells and reactions so that I wouldn’t be a “bitch”, “difficult to work with”, and whatever else. Denying that inner-voice carved separation between my intuition and me. It’s hard to feel, decide, and understand myself when there’s no compass. The thing is, that was a trauma response, a survival mechanism. Intuition is a flicker that I’ve created some safety for my existence that wasn’t always there.
  5. It’s none of my business whether or not people are only happy on the internet or in real life too. Other people’s happiness isn’t a comparison tool for my own.
  6. I now get what are real obligations vs what are reflexive things I’m told are obligations. The former is a priority. The latter is subject to routine, brutally honest review.
  7. Give people, places, circumstances the same energy that they’re giving you. It’s not your perpetual obligation to be a saint.
  8. If you have the resources, just buy the bigger pair of jeans, and move on with your life.
  9. Neutral is having a close, secured parking spot on a cold winter night. Neutral is all green lights on the drive home. It’s when the car alarm finally stops blaring, and peace rushes back into the atmosphere. That is to say, neutral is a great place to be. I’m a sensitive creative who will always feel a lot, but knowing that I do not have to hike the way to elation all the time. I can just allow the feels to course through me how they’re going to whether I like them or not, and then, I can let it go. There is no aspirational mood. I don’t need to effervesce to exhaustion. Neutral is a great setting for sanity.
  10. There’s nothing embarrassing about wanting all of the things. I want them all, and they’ll all come to me when they’re ready. I’m not rushing anything but hopeful for everything.
  11. People are hard to hate up-close. That doesn’t go for everyone. There are a few people whom I hate. We don’t exist within the same orbit anymore so it’s fine. But in general, most people are just doing their best. Once we recognize that someone can’t show up for us because they can’t show up for themselves, it’s a lot harder to hold it against them.
  12. I used to believe that the magic spell occurred when the accomplishment was achieved, the partner was found, the admission occurred, the game was won, it was my birthday, or something else. We are our own magic spells, and we are enchanting exactly as we are. As I began checking achievement boxes, I never felt better or different. It unsettled me, forcing me to accept that I was worthy of all of those accomplishments and moments and feelings exactly as I was. Going further, I didn’t have to do or become anything for those things to find me and want me. The biggest change in my life was when I accepted that there was no aspirational self or idealized future, that I possess the capacity and worth for all the things I want exactly as I am.
  13. We never stop being triggered or healing, the modes change and some things grow or decrease in intensity, but there is no final form or fixed self. That’s curious and humbling. I thought that I was all GROWN when I enrolled in law school at 28. Turns out, it triggered wounds I forgot existed. It never stops, but it gets easier the more proficient we become in what works for us, what doesn’t, and the more practice we allocate to self-care.
  14. People talk about age as an evolution, often calling past selves, “young and stupid”. I have affection, and sometimes, a soft grief for the women I’ve been before. I‘m not nostalgic. I don’t wish to repeat, but there are things about my younger selves that faded with time. My confidence glowed brighter. I saw myself less as an inconvenience than I do now. Now, my vulnerability lays raw for everyone to see– not in an inspiring Brene Brown way but in a mortifying teenager with acne hoping to fit somewhere way. Past Marisas are reference points, like constellations I can use to guide me now.
  15. Forgiveness is the most profoundly humanizing force— on both ends. I’ve had to ask for a lot of forgiveness over the past year given my absenteeism among friends, family, all the places I loved. Their grace humbles me. It starkly contrasts with the ruthlessness I unleash on myself. Their forgiveness isn’t a carte blanche. It’s not an invitation to re-enter their lives, but it feels good– it feels like love– to know that those who matter to me can give me that grace. Who am I to hoard that good will? The grace and forgiveness my loved ones extended my way inspires my ability to be more forgiving and patient. For a person composed almost entirely of gunpowder and gumption, these traits aren’t natural. It makes me all the more grateful for people showing me what I didn’t always give.
  16. What’s done now can be un-done at anytime. So many twenty and thirty-something moves thump with finality. There are permanent moves like parenthood. Most things are impermanent. Jobs come and go. Moves happen, and our mailing addresses compose an atlas of us. Marriages end. I don’t like telling the future. I’m not looking for the cheat codes on life, just to accept what is and make the best of it.
  17. The contradictory truth that harmonizes with 16 is that no one is destined to suffer. That’s not why any of us were born. So, where you can, opt out. Quit the thing. I overuse this quote, but it’s a fundamental truth of existence, “you are your most important thing”.
  18. Being right almost never matters. Vindication is the fast food of satisfaction. Maybe it’ll be good or may it’ll disappoint, but either way, it will keep you starving. The worst is when you’re right about something you didn’t know that you didn’t want to be right about. That will sour your taste forever.
  19. I build my life for the bad days. What’s going to make my days easier? How do I mitigate beating myself up by implementing ease? Do that. Easy isn’t a bad word. There’s no trophy for who did it the hard way.
  20. Your twenties are overrated. Don’t get me wrong– this decade matters. Our lives are never simpler than now. This is when a lot of people get educations, start businesses, get an education, begin careers, partner, and start a family. There are tangible facts pressing on those decisions. I don’t refute any of that. What I’m saying is that my twenties aren’t my whole life, and I haven’t turned 29 yet. I reject any idea that I’ll expire at 30, and after, life is a desolate wasteland. I don’t know what all the good parts are. I’m just confident that there are many ahead of me and not all will be in this decade. This is appallingly cheesy, but as long as we’re alive, good things will find us.

Having put that down, here’s what’s left

In eight days, I’ll be twenty-nine. Let this year be a lucky one, a time of awe and ease and connection. Let it be a gentle year with full tanks of gas and 8 hours of sleep a night. I hope the excitement I once felt often returns, and there are moments where life astounds me. Those are my wishes. Nothing to count, nothing to control. Just wild hope and optimism.

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