10 Defining Moments of My Twenties.

In counting down the days of this full, sometimes seemingly endless, confusing decade of indulgence, harsh lessons, stupidity and eventually finding my way out of this cave with a helmet and a light, here are ten (at least relatively) vivid moments of my twenties that made me who I am today.

Being placed on an academic notice during my teaching degree. 

It’s true what they say sometimes: the best lessons to learn are also the hardest. When I entered the teaching profession, I stupidly assumed that kids just ‘listen’ to their teachers and respect them because there’s an adult at the front of the room talking to them. I was wrong, and my confidence was shattered and so I was placed on an academic notice during one of the most stressful times in my life. When this happened, my Faculty Associate told me, “I’m not doing this because I don’t think you have potential. I’m doing this because I believe you can do this. But you need a kick in the butt so you believe you can do this too.” This woman is the best teacher in the world and someone I aspire to be like, because she was so right. And when I heard those words I realized, this is not just a ‘teacher me’ thing. This is a ‘me’ thing. Hearing that from someone I trusted, liked and respected meant everything in that moment.

Being heartbroken – really heartbroken – for the first time.

When I was 21, the heartbreak I experienced seemed to follow me around like a Grim. I couldn’t push past it or mend it or fix it, and I especially couldn’t make sense of it. What had happened to me was wrong; it wasn’t supposed to end like that. This person I was so crazy about, who finally returned my affections, had ended things so quickly. It was like the sky had fallen. Looking back now, that was ridiculous; he owed me nothing, it was a silly situation to place myself into, there’s no such thing as ‘the one’, and even if there was, that useless, snivelling jackass was certainly NOT him. But as soon as this happened, this horrible ugly thing I had never felt before, I remember writing something in my journal like: “I’m alone now and now I have to stand on my own two feet and push through all of this.” I felt like that was the moment I grew up and I had to pick up up all my My Little Ponies off the floor and put them away. I had grown up.

My Bachelor of Arts graduation ceremony.

University was a bubble. It was a glorious, wonderful, easy place to be where everyone is young, every day is a possibility, you can make adult choices in a safe environment, and everything feels optimistic, and possible. My undergraduate degree years at the University of Alberta were some of the best days of my entire life – full of life, energy, excitement, possibility, and most of all, fun. I loved every good, bad, heart-wrenching, hilarious difficult minute of my time at the U of A, and my graduation ceremony was a culmination of all of those things. I remember marching into the auditorium and hearing Pomp & Circumstance, and thinking: this is what I’ve worked for for five years. This means everything to me.

My major friend breakup.

Your twenties are full of deciding what’s good and worth holding onto, and what’s worth letting go of. And sometimes you think someone or something is the former, then you are slapped so far into reality that you fall over. That happened to me. I’m not going to get into the whole story again and lament about it again. But the fact remains, what happened between me and my former best friends – who were like sisters to me – in instants, changed my beliefs and philosophies about friendships, about what good friendship is, and isn’t, and what fault I have or had in this messy divorce-like moment.

The first time I heard, and said, “I love you”.

Seattle, 2014. It was cold out and windy and frost-glazed leaves’ edges crisped in the bitter breeze. We were walking together, my hand in his hand, in his jacket pocket before he swirled me around to face him and he looked at me and said, “I love you, you know that?” The world stopped. It was like being born again.

The first time I saw Ryan Adams/Meeting Ryan Adams.

Only a few select people actually get to stare their heroes in the face and engage with them in a place other than on a record or from a theatre seat. I was one of those people on a magical night in Vancouver on July 29, 2016. This was my first of seven (so far) Ryan Adams shows I’ve seen. I’ve never simultaneously felt so big and so small as I did that night.

The first time I was referred to as someone’s ‘girlfriend’.

I spent most of my twenties being single, and so the term ‘girlfriend’ in reference to me, hit me like a ton of bricks. It was kind of shocking, it was kind of awesome, it was kind of distant, as if me and this ‘girlfriend’ were two different parts of the same person strewn across a field somewhere. I remember the exact moment I first heard it: we were at the Vancouver Fringe Festival beer gardens which was essentially a huge theatre crowd party in which my boyfriend is/was very much immersed. And the first person we ran into that I didn’t know, he introduced me as “my girlfriend”. I was floored.

My first A+ in Creative Writing.

Everyone has a talent. I wanted mine to be creative writing for as long as I can remember. I used to tell people when I was in elementary school and junior high that I wanted to be “an author” and I’ve loved stories since I was old enough to listen to them. But, I never let anyone read my work. One of the first times I did, and it was for a grade, I was absolutely petrified. And when I got it back and checked my grade it was A+ I was absolutely ecstatic. It was as my calling appeared before me in the form of a letter and a mathematical symbol. I remember coming home drunk that night and freaking out before my half-asleep roommates. It truly is one of the best feelings in the world to be recognized for your passion.

My first visit to a tropical place.

Natural beauty has always been a preoccupation for me (perhaps because I grew up in one of the most scenic areas in the world) but never before 2008 had I ever been to a tropical place. It was -38 when we left, and snowing. They, several times, had to de-ice the plane and plow the tarmac. Then we took off and hours later, arrived in humid heat where, on the first night in the dark, we splashed in the waves and looked out over the blackness of the water and up at the billions of visible stars. It was a break – from life, from crippling unrequited love I was facing at the time, from the cold, from myself. I was giggling and giddy without trying.

My first time going to a concert alone.

Disclaimer: my first time going to a concert alone was also the time I met/saw Ryan Adams live for the first time. But aside from feeling small in the presence of an idol and hero and indirect, unintentional biographer of my life it also opened up this world of independence to me. A world where I don’t feel like I need the company of others to live my life the way I want to and enjoy myself, the world where I don’t care what people around me think about this. If I like something or want something, I do it.

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Attraction.

Sometimes I think of the people I loved before (or thought I loved… or didn’t actually love but thought I might eventually grow to love if it was ‘right’ in the end) and it reminds me of what it means to be attracted to someone. What does it mean to be “attracted” and what does it mean to be “attractive”?

When you’re in high school, attraction is all about looks. They like to pretend in high school that they know what it means to be actually ‘in love’ with someone beyond their looks and there may be that capacity there eventually, but I’m of the opinion that when we’re young, we go for appearance first and foremost. And if there is something beyond that, then maybe we struck gold. When I was in high school I had pretty Abercrombie & Fitch male models stuck to my desk in residence and on my locker. I had this huge crush on Josh Hartnett because he represented this tall, dark and handsome ‘hot guy’ I’d love to be with. But I was young. And when we’re young we have just one layer of what makes attraction attraction. We scarcely remember or look at multiple layers.

As I’ve grown older I’ve realized sincerely that attraction is looks, but it’s so much more than that: there’s no scientific formula to falling in love. It’s not something that can be forced, changed or ignored. You meet someone and you feel this initial electricity with them. You can’t explain it but there’s just something you see in them that you know almost instantaneously you couldn’t feel with anyone else. Are ‘looks’ a part of that? Of course they are. But only a small part. And sometimes that little bit of fairy dust magic that is sprinkled on you when you know you’re falling in love is sprinkled before you even know you’re attracted to that person. And then it hits you: they’re the hottest person you’ve ever laid eyes on.

In life we spend so much time looking a certain way for the benefit of others. We try so hard to meet a standard of beauty that supposedly is to help us “feel the best we can about ourselves”. But it’s important to ask yourself, where does that come from? It doesn’t come from within. The motivation does, but what is being strived for comes from some mythical societal standard and we don’t really know where those come from. It’s important to note that attraction is completely subjective. There’s no rhyme or reason why we feel attracted to someone. There’s no magic spell that we can cast to force people to fall in love with you. There is just love, or there isn’t. By all means, meet the standards that society prescribes to equate to beauty. But, it’s not going to help you find love any more than anyone else.

The Biggest Compliment I’ve Ever Received.

So inspired was I by this article, that I felt like writing about the biggest compliment I have ever received.

This was not an easy task. I don’t take compliments well, for better or worse, and I don’t really know that I ever deserve compliments (as a very under-confident person, that struggle is real). Having said that, there is one that sticks out to me as one that really ‘got to me’:

You’re wise beyond your years

This was said to me by one of my ex-boyfriends, a person who I wouldn’t say I’m on “bad terms” with presently, but with whom I don’t speak anymore which is, I think, the best for both of us.

He said this to me in the context of me speaking about my past and where I’ve come from that’s led me to the understanding of the world that I have now. Everything I do, believe in and love is entrenched in believing in and prescribing to the wisdom of people I believe to be ‘wise’. I believe wisdom is something that is to be passed down, shared, and most importantly earned. In short, I hold ‘wisdom’ as a concept, in very high regard.

To be a person who is wise beyond my years implies that I have a sound understanding of the world, my world, and where I fit in and what I can do within the confines of what I’ve been dealt. That this person who said this to me recognized a quality in me like this that I so, so deeply admire in others, was something I will cherish forever.

I don’t really know where this ex-boyfriend is in life right now and if he is happy in life and love or not, but I hope he is. These words will stay with me forever and remind me of just how far I’ve come and how much I really do know and understand about life.