I cried on my birthday last year. & not because I was drunk and full of emotions, but thanks for thinking that! Thanks to Lesley Gore’s famous lyrics, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to” this isn’t an abstract concept. And while there is no shame to public crying – seriously, I cried in a grocery store the day after the election – sad crying on your birthday isn’t something anyone should endure. There’s a lesson in there about the people you surround yourself with. You’d think I would have learned that lesson before 26, but apparently, I needed my 26th year of life to really cement it into memory.
A year feels like an equally long and short period of time – long when you’re waiting and short when you’re trying to savor or avoid the panic of getting older. My 26th year felt like a lifetime in itself – partially because of the election but also because there is so much life in a year. It came with growth and setbacks, lessons and heartbreaks, adventures and learning to be still, and lots of happy hours with people I love.
Just like the end of a calendar year doesn’t absolve us, neither does a birthday year. Instead, it represents a construct we can point to and watch it as it ends – a tidy way to package and reflect on our growth and goals.
If we were to measure my year in something tangible, aside from the already tangible form of days, you could measure it in two computer chargers, four USB chords, and three headphones, because that’s how many electronics my cats ate this year.
What I’m proud of
In firsts this year, I got my first parking ticket! Then I got my second and third. Then I got a ticket because I forgot to renew my registration because being an adult is hard. I’m either going senile or I don’t know how to read. Or both!
This year was the first year I was fully supported by my writing rather than a medley of restaurant jobs and weird side gigs. It feels unbelievable to me that I get paid to write, I’m sure it always will. What is believable, however, is that sometimes I procrastinate writing for so long, I forget it’s the thing I love most in this world. It is the only thing that makes sense to me, and often the only way I can make sense of things. It is something I have loved my entire life, but never really considered it could be THE thing I do. Then one day, my saving grace, Sarah Moore, said, “I think you’d be a great copywriter, why don’t you do that?” and I said, “Why are you always right and perfect and know me better than myself and I am so not paying you enough to be my friend!” Once I figured that out, everything else felt pretty easy. As if I don’t bang my head against the keyboard constantly hoping a sentence I don’t hate will magically appear.
To that note, I finally gained the confidence to ask for my worth, negotiate pay rates, and do all that terrifying financial stuff that no one prepares you for. At one job interview, I spent 15 minutes outside of the office telling my dad, “I’m going to ask for XX amount (a significant amount more than I was aiming for), I’m going to do it, yes I am. I’m going to look them in the eye and say, I want XX.” I was so nervous, you’d think I was about to commit a bank robbery! 45 minutes later I called my dad, “I CAVED. He looked at me, into my soul, and he knew! I couldn’t do it! I only asked for XX.”
I found that I was more upset for talking myself out of my ask than I was had I asked for a certain amount only to be shot down. So next time I gave my dream number, plus some. & the next time after that, I did it again. AND AGAIN! & then I even started negotiating benefits! Just last week I told my dad what I was asking for in a new job and he said, “Megan, it’s a negotiation, you can’t push it too far.” and this time I got to call him and say “It worked! They agreed! I am a GODDESS!” This was over the phone so I couldn’t see, but I’m sure he was rolling his eyes.
and that’s the story of how I will eventually become a trillionaire who is also the supreme ruler of this world and the neighboring galaxy.
After some calculations about how much time I spent on the ground from panic attacks, I realized the world is dying from climate-change deniers at way too fast of a rate for me to spend my remaining years on the ground. With that, I found myself a therapist and it has changed everything. I will occasionally have moments where I think I’m handling life well enough and maybe I don’t need it anymore – then I have my biggest breakthrough and want to sit in her office for three more hours. Sometimes she hits me with such perfect no-bullshit advice that I don’t think I’m paying her nearly enough. That’s a joke, therapy is outrageously expensive.
To that note, I think we’d all benefit from more transparency about certain so-called taboo topics: finances, mental health, politics. Taboo is defined as, “prohibited or restricted by social custom” and somehow, in our social custom, a taboo is any topic that affects us on a daily basis, yet we are expected to keep any mention of that topic to ourselves. It’s bullshit.
I’m proud of myself, which is a weird thing to say but I’m already writing a vain post about my year so let’s just keep this theme going. Most of my close friends know how emotionally draining and painful parts of this last year were for me. 26 was a lot about learning lessons and taking the person who I knew I wanted to be and really forcing her out into the world. I feel much more me as I’m entering another trip around the sun – a me I knew was deep down my entire life but took her sweet time coming up to the surface. It’s been fun to learn about this version of myself, to learn how to fill in her cracks, to embrace all the weird things that I spent a long time hiding away. Now don’t be fooled, I still have plenty of flaws to call my own – I get frazzled when it takes me too long to find parking, I like to drown in the sea of “what if” on the regular, I’m convinced I’ll have my 30-year-old crisis three years early, forget to put sunscreen on the back of my legs, and I still manage to over-water my succulents, but that’s definitely better than the time I fed my fish frog food and killed it.
It can sometimes be painful or embarrassing to look at past versions of yourself, but I’m learning to embrace all of those past versions because they led me to this version. Sure, I wish it wouldn’t have taken 27 years, but when do we ever get what we want exactly when we want it? (Note to Bilbo: I’m still waiting on my Barbie Dreamhouse).
More than anything, I’m proud of the people in my life – in San Diego and beyond. They are empowering, inspiring, supportive, and incredibly loving. If I would have dreamt up my dream group of friends, they would be nowhere close to how amazing these people are. They lift me up, listen to my political, feminist rants, read all the things I write, know I’m the person to ask when a weird question at trivia night comes up, and keep me laughing at all hours. They love the things I love about myself. They make me a better human and every single one of them amazes me each day. I spend a lot of time baffled at how amazing they are. That somehow the planets aligned and I am now surrounded by the most amazing humans this planet has to offer, but then I remember the time I got caught picking my nose in first grade and remember this is my karmic reward.
A year ago, I was still very new to San Diego and I had one or two good friends, now I have a whole community of humans who live inside the most treasured part of my heart. I have last-minute dinners, early morning breakfast and beach sessions, mozzarella dates, long Saturday hikes, sunset heart-to-hearts, coworkers who make me excited to go into work, friends who message me when I’ve been gone for a day to say they miss me. San Diego has been the best decision I have ever made, even if I’m not in love with it all the time, it’s given me so much to love.
Trips I took
San Diego is a prime spot for road trips, and I took a lot. There were quite a few solo day trips and one six hour drive out to Sedona, Arizona, where I spent a weekend exploring the best parts of Arizona with my dearest friend, Mikaela – seriously Northern Arizona is Arizona’s only redeeming quality.
Sarah and I embarked on an ambitious road trip to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We ate our weight in chocolate coconut almonds and drank all the Coconut Lacroix – the best flavor Lacroix and this is absolutely a hill I will die on. We also did all the park things, like hike up a waterfall, try to climb trees as tall as mountains, and marvel at how big the world is – and how small we are.
I found a $500 ticket to Europe so guess where I went?! If you guessed Canada, you are wrong. I spent two weeks in December galavanting across Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland with my sister-wife, Sarah. I wrote about it here, here, and here. She lives on the other side of the country and I was so spoiled in getting to take two big trips with her this year.
I even managed to squeeze in a trip to Chicago – the city from which I emerged into this world. My best friend from high school turned NYC neighbor, Caitlin, met me and we spent a few days wandering and marveling at how perfect the weather was. Despite living in the city of eternal sunshine and 70 degrees, somehow I appreciate spring weather infinitely more in a new city. As life should have it, Chicago allowed me a chance to reconnect with someone near and dear, making the trip even more wonderful than it already was.
I’d like to say I learned a lot of lessons at 26, just like we do every year we continue to walk this earth. Some lessons are as small as learning that I can keep my basil plant alive much longer if I repot it. Some lessons are big and life-changing, shaping who you are for the better. Some lessons are just knowing that if I need to sit and cry in a grocery store, I’m going to need to be okay with laughing about it later.
The biggest lesson, however, is how drastically a life can change in 365 days. It gets better. It keeps getting better. If I could, I would go back in time and tell all the past versions of myself this lesson. Those versions wouldn’t believe me because I am stubborn as the Taurean bull that I am, but I would say it anyways.