This is weird. I never thought I’d be saying this. I never thought I’d have to write this. But here I am.
Because being a twenty-something has been a part of me and my identity for so long. I swear it feels like I’m saying goodbye to an old friend I’ll never see again.
I can’t help but be a little sad. Way too nostalgic. And definitely grateful for all of my experiences. Because I’m a totally different person at 29 than I was at 20.
I guess you could say, “That’s growing up.” Because I’m more me than I’ve ever been. I like to think of myself as vulnerable, open and real. I think I’ve accepted most of my imperfections.
Because today, I wear that shit with pride. I used to try to hide it —making it seem like I was this happy girl all the fucking time. And let me tell you, it was exhausting. So yeah, because of that and everything I went through, I’m free. But it’s still weird. Because it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. In a way, it’s like another me (even though it’s not). I bet for most that’s probably true.
For me, I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to figure out —not only what I like and what I don’t like, but also, who I really am as a person and what life means to me. It was hard. It still is. I had some pretty dark and shitty days —most I’d like to forget. It’s just, I can’t deny that I learned a lot. Because all that is somehow apart of the puzzle that has created who I am today. And the girl I am isn’t who I thought I’d be. Because back then, 30 seemed old. I think most of us as kids envision what our lives will be like in the future.
As little girls, we play house or plan out our wedding day.
We set these internal deadlines and time frames of when big life things are supposed to happen. And that’s just not how it works. I think society plays a big role in that, too but that’s a story for another day. My point here is, life isn’t about figuring every little thing out. It’s not even about figuring out the big things. Because it’s about living. It’s about learning. And the most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s all about the ride. The process. Because there really is no destination.
In this case, I find it extraordinarily challenging to welcome my 30’s —partly because I look like I’m 22. And yeah, that’s awesome (don’t get me wrong), but it comes at a price of never quite believing I am the age I am. Because I’m usually treated like I’m so much younger. That said, it’s hard to accept that I’m leaving a particular decade —when the majority of people I encounter, think of me as just entering the age I was 10 years ago. Damn. That hurts to say out loud. So as I think back to how things used to be, I can’t help but reminisce about twenty-something me.
And this is 20.
Who remembers that initial feeling of turning 20-years-old? There is so much excitement for the oncoming sense of independence that comes with the idea of no longer being a teen. That infamous yearn to grow up and take on adult responsibilities will never make sense to me, now that I know what all that means. I got a lot more than I bargained for over the past decade. Because when this whole thing started, I was your typical Jersey party girl. A sorority one too.
At 20, I had a fake ID, some really good friends, and a new life at West Virginia University. I lived in a state of eternal bliss. I’d stay up all night, sleep all day —like my biggest worry was making plans for the weekend. Not that it had to be a weekend to party. To all my 1989ers, we had some great times, didn’t we? All the sunsets, and sunrises. The nights that turned into mornings. The walks of shame, drunk dancing —high on boys and life.
Because I had to have at least one guy on the roster in order to feel good about myself. Because being social —cool (popular), was more important than anything else. More was always better. And at the time, that was OK. Because at that point, it was innocent drunken fun. From dance party raves to greek life, I thought I was finally beginning to find myself. And maybe I was. But that shit comes crashing down real fast. Because fun turns catastrophic right before my freaking eyes.
It was no longer about the party but rather feeling good. Or, in this case, not feeling at all. Somewhere between heartbreak, undiagnosed depression and not being able to drink like I did freshman year, I found prescription painkillers. Maybe, they found me. I’m not really sure. What I am sure of, however, is that the day I did my first oxy was the day I lost myself. Because before I even knew what I was getting myself into, I needed more. What I’m getting at is the start of my addiction.
Truthfully, I never thought that would be me.
I never pictured a Jewish American Princess selling pills to support her habit. But there I was. I started using in college. As a type one diabetic and recovering addict, I see now that my once innocent fun becomes too fast, too furious for me to even realize what was happening. Parties and frat boys turn into painkillers and larceny. Because I didn’t know anything about those things but I was already addicted —it didn’t really matter anymore. Long story short, it was the summer of 2010. I was supposed to take a few classes over break.
I end up meeting this guy, we’ll call him Brad. Brad wasn’t a newbie to the drug game —he sold weed. He wasn’t a high-class dealer by any means but he did it to smoke for free. And that’s how we started dealing pills. Because at the time, they were everywhere. I remember thinking how normal it all felt. It seemed like my friends did too. We’d sit outside for hours —chain-smoking cigarettes, just talking about life. Eventually, though, I start using alone.
I even start paying for them myself —when Brad wasn’t around.
It wasn’t until a bunch of local dealers got busted that we realized shit wasn’t fun anymore. And that’s the problem with these things. You only realize how fucked you really are when you run out of pills. It’s just, I told myself they were the answer to all of my problems. But after that, shit got even more twisted. Because two years later, and I’m more addicted than ever. I somehow managed to make it to class and get decent enough grades to graduate. And just like that college was over.
Me, at 25.
You know the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are?” Yeah. Well, back then, I didn’t. Because I thought if I could simply leave, then I could get better. I was living my life through the precept of, “Out of sight, out of mind.” So I pack my bags, give my apartment key back to my landlord, and try to start over, again. Destination —sunny Florida. Except, my idea of beginning again just brings me further to my knees. But not yet. I managed to fake it for another two years.
From pharmacy hopping and black market buying, I spiral more and more out of control. Because when I was in college, I always had Brad. But now, I was flying solo —left to my own devices. Looking back, I think it was the isolation that led me astray. Because those pills became my best friend (and worst enemy). They made me feel like I didn’t need anyone or anything. And that right there is how I end up at an intervention I never thought would be for me. After that, it was detox and rehab for the very first time.
I was freaked out, fucked up and alone.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. Because for some reason, it just didn’t stick. I don’t think I was ready to let that part of me go —even though I knew it wasn’t right. Because I knew it wasn’t right nearly the entire time. And still, I did it anyway. That’s addiction for you. Because for me, I think my life can be summed up into three separate boxes. The life before pills, life during pills and now, life after. The former, a slow progression through a tolerable life —with a severe longing for something more and a clear sense of never being enough.
Whatever benefits those things seemed to provide are trite in comparison to the possibilities of the life that stands beyond. Saying goodbye to that junk was saying goodbye to the life I had accepted as enough and hello to a life that continues to unfold in magical, reality-defying ways. It’s just, it took some time to get there. To get to the place I am today. Because when I left rehab, I ended up doing it all over again. Three times the charm. And for me, it was. Because I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired.
But I also wanted to be accepted —so I couldn’t tell anyone that I really felt this way. The addict, the thrill seeker, the perfectionist. In reality, those personality traits were screaming for a purpose. Because that’s all I’ve ever wanted. It’s just, at the time, my story said that I was a volatile, unstable, insecure, gossipy drama queen who’d never be okay. Eventually, that’s who I became —who I thought I had to be (might as well get high). What’s the point anyway?
But there was. There always is. I see that now.
At that point though, I was barely getting by. I was putting all of my eggs in one dirty basket. Because back then, I was either single and alone or in the grips of a toxic tumultuous relationship. In fact, that’s how I spent most of my early (to mid) twenties. I guess, I thought those guys would fix the lull I felt inside. Maybe their skumbag attitude, in some weird way, made me feel better about myself. Or, was it because I didn’t think I deserved better? I’m not really sure why I picked such losers.
What I do know is that most of the guys I dated were also addicts. So we were addicts together. And it was because of that shit, that I’d never follow through on anything. I could talk a big game. But that’s all it was. And all I was, at that moment in time was an anorexic, cigarette smoking, drug abusing junkie bitch. That was my story. That’s what ran through my head day after day, sometimes minute by minute. I’m inherently fucked and I always will be. But then, I changed one line of that story.
Because when I got some much-needed therapy, I started seeing myself for who I really was. Because no matter what (or who) we think we are, we are always changing, always evolving —minute by minute, second by second. But before I evolved, like when I was nearing the end of active addiction, the moments I enjoyed life were few and far between. I, for the most part, lost my joy. I couldn’t quite grasp exactly what the point of life was. The present moment constantly evaded me, and the simple things were never enough.
My mind —stuck in patterns of fear, consumed by the past —afraid of what was, hateful of what could never be. So after it all came to a head, I remember asking myself, “What the fuck do I want. What do I need in this life that I thought I couldn’t have?” That’s when I realized it was some type of purpose. I see now that I could have had anything (everything) I wanted the entire fucking time. Because we are all capable of greatness. We are all capable of doing anything we dream of.
Otherwise, we wouldn’t be capable of dreaming it.
Cheer’s to 30.
At the same time, I see now that it takes a certain type of willingness to abandon what we think is holding us back in order to step out of our comfort zone and grow. Mature. Better ourselves. Because sometimes, you have to sacrifice who you used to be for who you can become. So for me, I happily relinquished my party girl turned junkie status and became the woman I always dreamed of. That’s why I have the phrase, “I suffered. I learned. I changed,” tattooed on my left arm.
But that definitely doesn’t erase the fact that it’s still bittersweet leaving my twenties behind. Sweet because I feel like I’ve really come into my own these past few years. Bitter because it was not without some deep, hard struggles that I still don’t know how I managed to get in and out of. The point, however, is that I did. And I think because of all that, I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I’m confident too—at least most days.
Because I’d be lying if I said I don’t wince every time I look in the mirror and see these faint fine lines around my eyes. To the right of my lips too. Because it’s hard realizing my body isn’t as indestructible as it once was. But that’s growing up for you. Because besides that outward shit, my insides —like physically are not what they used to be. Knee pain, neck pain, back pain, leg pain. Yeah, that shit is alive and real. But somewhere else inside, I find pride because I know that shit is a trophy of my twenties.
Those lines are from feeling with all of my heart —crying, smiling, laughing.
Living. Because those aches in my joints are proof of my body’s sacrifice. The pain I feel is a reminder that I’m alive. And the more alive I get, the less I care what other people think, which is relatively new to me. Because I spent the majority of my life seeking everyone else’s approval. The thought of someone not liking me killed me inside. But today, that’s just not true. Because it’s all about self-care and self-love. Being your true authentic self and not caring what other people think.
I love spending time alone too. Because when it comes down it, you cannot love anyone or anything until you truly love yourself. Somewhere along the way that’s exactly what happened. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. Because I do. I think we all do. But I finally know what it means to love myself exactly as I am —messy parts and all. And all of that started with one subversive choice —choosing me. Being me —the real me, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
And that feels like the greatest gift age can give. Perspective.