We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems, long before I ever walked into my twenties, or felt the gut-wrenching heartache of failure, or tasted even a real glimpse of life-affirming success, or cried over the loss of a good friend, or watched love fade away, I spent most of my time with my head in the clouds, ruminating on what my future would be like. Would I be successful? Would I keep all of my childhood friends? Would I get married? The vision I had was built on bits and pieces of what the future looked like through the scope of books, movies, and TV shows. I relied on fictional things to formulate a reality in my mind. I clung to the story lines, the friendships, the love. I was the girl who, every Thursday night at 8 pm, tuned into NBC to watch her Friends navigate through life together, and planned her future vicariously through their present.

When you’re young and naive and unhealthily obsessed with whether or not Ross and Rachel were going to end up together, you have a certain image of how your life is going to turn out. The pretty picture you paint looks like the inside of a 90s sitcom. You imagine stumbling into a new city with all of your childhood friends and growing up with them. Growing old with them. Making mistakes, falling over, and picking yourselves back up with them. You imagine that life after college isn’t all that hard. That even during the most difficult of times, it’ll never be that bad. You’ll have the support and the love of the people who’ve known you since before you knew yourself. And how could life ever be painful, or dark, or lonely, with that kind of love?

But then we get there. We graduate high school, some of us go off to college, and some of us don’t; and somehow, we cannonball into our next adventures. We’re thrown into the middle of nowhere and are forced to come to terms with the reality of our lives. We’re forced to come to terms with the fact that perhaps the vision we had when we were younger was a distortion of what reality really is. We realize that life in our twenties doesn’t consist of hanging out at Central Perk, listening to your slightly erratic friend singing a jingle dedicated to a cat, or coming up with a New Year’s Eve dance routine to be aired on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with your brother, or getting a Thanksgiving turkey stuck on your head, or building a giant poking device to see if the man in the apartment across the alley is alive.

And that’s what they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that life in your twenties is often sticky and messy and heavy and confusing and wonderful. That you will, in fact, be happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. 

They don’t tell you this, but I will.

You’ll wake up one day and feel like you’re falling down a rabbit hole. You’ll look at yourself, you’ll look at your friends, you’ll look at acquaintances, you’ll look at enemies even. You’ll find that you’re barely getting by in graduate school, or being a stay-at-home mom, or starting up a small business, or pounding the pavement at a job you’re sure you’ll never advance at, all the while wondering if this life belongs to you. You’ll wonder if this is where your story ends or where it begins. You’ll feel stuck inside someone else’s story. You’ll beat yourself up over not having done it differently. What would be different if I went left instead of right? If I followed my heart instead of my head? If I took that job when it was offered to me? And on the days when you feel a little too defeated by the what ifs, you’ll look at what you have and wonder if it’s enough. You’ll ask yourself if you’ll be okay and content and full for the rest of your life if you don’t ever achieve anything else. You’ll try to be okay with it. You’ll try to quiet the incessant voice that says, ‘no, I need more. I cannot settle.’ But the voice will still be there, and it’ll rattle your bones until you do something to silence it.

You’ll start fresh and you’ll start new, and it can come in waves; the change can be welcome, or it can be sudden and uninvited. You’ll bounce from different careers. You’ll decide that you really don’t love what you have a degree in. You’ll leave a job that you never had any intention in leaving and you’ll wonder what the hell you can do differently. You’ll walk away from financial security and open doors to possibilities, only to find that the door you walked through wasn’t the one with the winning lottery ticket, but you’ll still try. You’ll still fight, despite the sinking feeling of walking into the office every single morning. You’ll make an effort and establish a routine. You’ll talk yourself out of bitterness and resentment. You’ll wonder if you have the strength and the courage to start over just one more time, and you’ll forget how brave you are for starting over in the first place.

One day, you’ll scroll through your Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram feeds and realize that your friends somehow figured it out and you’ll ask yourself how you missed it. You’ll go back to the summer nights spent on the beach, Wawa milkshake in hand, coming up with a list of goals and dreams for the future, and wonder where the hell it all went. You’ll wonder what happened to the plans you made together. To the dream of getting your first apartment with your childhood friends and dating twin brothers and having kids at the same time and raising them together. You’ll go in different directions. They’ll move on, and part of you will feel like you’re sinking in quick sand, while the other half of you is elated. You’ll be happy for them. You’ll celebrate their engagements. You’ll organize a cocktail hour when they get their first promotion. You’ll be the first one at their housewarming party. And in the midst of all this growing up stuff, you’ll feel selfish for feeling anything other than ecstatic. You’ll wonder when it’ll be your turn. When you’ll settle into a career and relationship and new apartment. You’ll stop yourself and wonder how on earth you can be so happy for their gains and successes, yet so heartbroken at not quite being there, all at the same time.

Sometimes, while you’re sitting next to the people who know you the best, you’ll feel at a loss for words. You’ll feel small next to them. You’ll feel like the conversation you bring to the table is nothing like the success they bring. And you’ll kick yourself afterwards for being so selfish. For wallowing in self-pity. For letting your feelings win.

You’ll get a taste of what love is, only to have it walk away from you. You’ll see the love of your life fall in love with someone else. You’ll watch in envy at how easily it is for them to move on. You’ll pray, every night, that you will never get the notification on Facebook telling you they got engaged. You’ll date people who are bad for you, and you’ll be bad for other people. You’ll wonder what’s stopping you from your own happy-ever-after. You’ll make a mental list of the reasons you’re alone. You’ll guard your heart with everything you have and you’ll wonder when someone will come and permanently knock your walls down. You’ll decide for yourself that it’s okay to be single, but you’ll grow frustrated at hearing your friends and family ask ‘when are you getting married, when are you having kids, you know your time is slowly running out.’  

They don’t tell you about the isolation. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and if you don’t grab onto your dreams, someone else will take them right out of your hands. So, you put in the work. You stay later at the office to finish a project. You take on overtime hours at the hospital. You choose to go for your Master’s. You start building a family. You’ll feel comforted by your friends when they embark on the journey to reaching their goals, too. You’ll have the same ideals for the future, but different paths to walk to get there. You’ll sacrifice sleep, you’ll sacrifice a social life, you’ll dedicate your all into what you want, and it will be lonely as hell. You won’t be the person who runs to her best friend crying about an argument you had with your parents. You won’t be the person who calls someone up in the middle of the night to go grab half price appetizers at Applebees.  You’ll ask your friends to hang out only to hear that they’re all busy. And then you’ll be busy when they want to hang out. You’ll spend nights going through old pictures of drunken college nights out and reminisce over the simplicity of life back then. You’ll cling onto your youth and life before the transition into this in-between stage of adulthood. You’ll bargain with whatever higher power you believe in just to feel forever young with your friends one more time. 

They don’t tell you that despite your best efforts to keep your emotions stifled, hidden under layers of bravery and strength, and a shield of armor, you will cry. You will cry when you realize that your planner is overflowing with due dates and test dates. You will cry when you scroll through Instagram and see your group of friends hanging out without you. You will cry when you clock out after your 17th day working in a row without so much as a consecutive 8 hours of sleep in one night. You will cry when you realize that you can’t split yourself apart and be in two places at once. You’ll cry on your way to school because you don’t know how much more you can take. You will cry because you’ll feel misunderstood. Because you are a master’s student, an employee, an intern, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and you will be made to feel like what you’re doing is not enough. You. Will. Cry. You will cry when your friends confront you for drifting from them. You’ll cry when they call you a stranger. You will cry because they don’t get it. You will cry because you feel all alone in a world that shouldn’t be this cruel. You’ll cry because you are so profoundly happy that there are still people in your life who decided to stick around. You’ll cry when you share in their successes. You’ll cry because you can’t imagine what life would be like without the friends that turn into family. You’ll cry and you won’t know why or how to stop the tears from falling.

They don’t tell you that sometimes, you will feel everything and nothing all at once. You’ll feel your heart exploding from happiness and your brain drowning in misery. They don’t talk about the influx of emotions and the roller coaster we ride just to fight through them. They don’t talk about the brokenness and the bitterness. They don’t talk about how confusing it is to be in your twenties. How life can be incredible and heartbreaking at the same time, and how it makes perfect sense to feel like you’re unraveling from time to time.

They won’t tell you it’s okay. They won’t tell you that it’s normal. That despite the broken pieces, your twenties are a time to feel everything. To get a taste of both highs and lows. To fight for what you want. To really learn what it’s like to love and to lose. They don’t ever tell you that. But today, I did. 

“You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling [unsure] and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.” -Louis C.K

XO, J.

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘22‘ by Taylor Swift

Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place.

The juxtaposition of summer and fall in New Jersey is my favorite time of year. I’m a sucker for the transition, because that’s what Fall has always been, right? The subtle transition between piercing heat and long nights spent outside with friends, to crisp air, warm cozy sweaters, and a change in coffee orders from frappucinos to warm maple latte’s. There’s something beautiful about how summer quietly washes away the blues of the sky and greens of the leaves, giving birth to a new, even more vibrant season. The change happens slowly, then all at once. The temperature drops, leaving the air crisper, cooler. Few things are more magical than waking up to a world that seems to explode into an array of colors overnight.

The quiet moments between summer and fall mark the beginning of the season of rebirth. There’s something so motivating about the way the world around us seems to change so drastically, suddenly, and beautifully. Even the world outside our window is inspiring; the leaves change color day after day, and eventually, the trees shed their leaves. I’m a fall baby. Every fall marks another calendar year in my life – another chance to, like the trees who shed their leaves, shed my skin and transition into a new year and new version of myself.

Two weeks ago, I turned 26. I spent my last weekend as a 25-year-old with the most important people in my life. I saw one of the last beach bonfires of the season, enjoyed Oktoberfest on the boardwalk, had beers at local bars, and ended my 26th birthday at a spa with my best friend, followed by dinner with my family. I ended what was one of the most challenging years of my life thus far happy, and full, and whole.

I don’t have the same pearls of wisdom as I did last year, when I boldly compiled a list of 25 things I learned before I hit a quarter of a century. But of all the years of my life, the last has been the most defining. 25 challenged me, 25 pushed me, 25 destroyed me, 25 made me; most importantly, 25 was a year of growth, of learning, always learning. I am who I am today because of the events, the lessons, and the obstacles that were presented to me in my 25th year.

And here I am today, with what 25 taught me.

25 was the year of embracing change.

It was a year of learning not to tip-toe around life and be paralyzed by insidious fear that inevitably comes from sudden change. Familiarity brings a sense of contentment and peace. Walking away from what we know produces fear. And sometimes, it’s gut-wrenching. I walked away from a job that I never knew meant so much to me this year. I watched as all of the people I grew to love as family bravely and gracefully transitioned into new careers and a new life outside of our old job, while I floundered and succumbed, only briefly, to a darkness that nearly swallowed me whole. I never knew how agonizing change can be. Slowly, I learned to embrace it all. I dug myself out, dusted off the dirt, and took a leap head-first into that transition. I learned to let go of the picture-perfect image I had of my life and to be accepting of change. To be open to the idea that change is beautiful. That change is magical. That change is the only constant we will ever have. Things change, people change, circumstances change, life changes. I learned to be okay with that. I learned that in order to ultimately get what you want, you have to change. You have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to do what you’ve never done before. And that’s exactly what I did.

25 was the year of giving myself permission to be me.

I learned that being confident doesn’t mean they’ll like me. Being confident means if they don’t like me, I’ll be okay. It was a year I learned to let my hair down, to knock down my walls, and to be completely myself and be unapologetic about it. It was the year I stopped saying sorry for who I am. Someone I look up to recently told me that it’s endearing how I don’t shy from who I am; that it’s admirable seeing me be myself. That I’m okay with letting others see me for who I am. It took 25 years to get here. It took 25 years for me stop assuming the role that everyone else wants me to fill. It took 25 years for me to own up to the person I am. I learned to stop being timid. I learned to stand up and say so what? So what if I snort when I laugh a little too hard? So what if my attention span is short-lived, my stories are fragmented, and I jump from one thought to the next without so much as a transition or warning? So what if I am quirky and weird? I learned that people only know who you let them know. And how the hell can anyone ever know me if I don’t show the world who I really am?

25 was the year of friendships.

I realized this year that not all friendships are meant to be saved. That some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a certain period of time, and that it’s okay to let them go when their presence no longer serves you. It was the year of cutting out the extra fat in my life and really focusing on what was important. Who was important. I took a step back and looked at my life and at the people I call my friends. I realized this year how much time has changed us. How much life has changed us. We’ve all grown up, grown wiser, grown stronger. We’ve all evolved into better versions of who we used to be. Somewhere along the way, we said goodbye to late nights spent gossiping under the stars about our latest guy conquests, to crying on each others’ shoulders about our parents who just didn’t get us, to lying on each others’ floors trying to make sense of our lives. We traded all those memories in for girls nights filled with too much sushi, wine, and laughter. To sharing in each others’ successes and learning how to be friends as adults – learning what being a friend really means. It means showing up. The most important part of friendship as an adult is simply showing up. We’re no longer the people who hang out every day, who call or text 24/7, who go shopping on a whim or get half-price appetizers late on a Tuesday night. We have to make an effort. We have to show up. Jobs and school and internships and family commitments change us. We’re all busy doing what we need to do to continue to advance in life. But we still show up. We show up for the big things – for graduations, new job opportunities, engagements, pregnancies, birthdays, house-warmings. But we also show up for the not-so-big things. We show up when it matters. When the tears won’t stop falling because of a ridiculous fight with a parent. When boyfriends or fiances or husbands threaten to break up over something minor. When a job abandons you. When life seems to kick your ass. When you feel stuck. No matter how busy we find ourselves, we still show up.

25 was one hell of a fight.

It was the year of digging out and dusting off an old pair of red boxing gloves, only to realize they were there all along. They fit all along. I came in swinging this year. Always swinging. It was the year of fighting for balance, fighting for structure, fighting for peace of mind. It was the year of fighting the isolation that comes with being in graduate school. With being in your 20s. With being at an in-between stage of adulthood. No longer a college student looking for the next Thursday night out, but not yet quite settled into adulthood. And no one tells you that. There’s no one standing at the entrance of your 20s with neon lights and blow up signs that scream, ‘slow down, take it easy, enjoy the ride, enjoy the company, because it gets lonely.’ It gets lonely as hell. And it happens in a heartbeat. Suddenly, and all at once, you go from being seemingly on the same path as everyone around you. Young, naive, and floundering in an unforgiving world, to the girl surrounded by friends who somehow figured it out. Somehow became real adults, with real jobs, with fiances and husbands and wives and children. And somewhere in the midst of all the real adult stuff, there you are. Lost in the middle, immersed in the isolation, and learning to fight through it. To be comfortable in it. To embrace it. But the fight was over when I realized that despite the isolation, despite the loneliness, I was, never have been, and never will be, alone. And I am so thankful for that.

26 will be one hell of a year.

The next year will be one to relish in the strength that 25 gifted me – to live with the lessons that 25 taught me. It will be the year I graduate with my masters, get licensed as Mental Health professional, and work towards employment in the field. Each birthday brings with it endless possibilities. Maybe 26 is the year I witness a miracle. Maybe 26 is the year I realize that maybe I wasn’t so sure of myself as a 25 year old. Maybe it’s the year I settle down, or maybe it’s the year I don’t. All I know is I’ve lived a lot of life in the last year, but I’ve got plenty more in front of me. So here’s to me walking away from 25 and embracing all that the next year has to offer. I intend on making 26 one hell of a year. Just you wait.

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

xo, J.

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘All Too Well‘ by Taylor Swift

I’m running down the road, trying to loosen my load.

If you had a magical power, what would it be?

If you asked me when I was younger, when I was tangled up in a love that swallowed me up like quicksand, I would’ve answered differently. When I was wrapped up in a boy who was never good for me, a boy who kept his heart buried under layers of cement, a boy who let me in only far enough to kick me back out, a boy whose cold, hard love left me frigid, and broken, and alone, I would’ve asked for the ability to read minds. If it were a different time, I would wish to have the ability to jump off a diving board head-first into his head and crawl into his thoughts and light them up in the night sky. If you asked me on the days when I misjudge just how many times I can hit the snooze button, on the days I’m running late for work and hit every single red light, or in the beginning of May when summer starts making her sweet way onto the Jersey shore and I’m stuck in unforgiving traffic miles away from where I’m supposed to be, I would ask for the ability to teleport. I would ask to close my eyes, choose my destination, and be there immediately. But today, I want neither. Today, I’m untangled from that messy love and today, I wasn’t running late; today, I wasn’t stuck in traffic.

Today, I would ask for the ability to cut myself into pieces and be present, truly present, in every part of my life. I wish I could be here, a writer’s cliche, in the corner of my local Starbucks looking out at the busy highway and cars passing by, getting my words out. I wish I could be at the library, pounding out a paper I waited a little too long to get started on. I wish I could be at school, at work, at the gym, catching up with my friends; I wish I could do it all, and do it well.

But, I’m no magician. I’m only one girl, wearing eight different hats, and somehow, that has to be enough.

Shonda Rhimes said something in her commencement speech to the Dartmouth College graduating class of 2014 that’s been rattling my bones for months. She said, “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade-off.”

I’ve spent the last nine months struggling with balance. I’ve struggled with putting all of my energy into certain parts of my life, but not in others. I’ve struggled with the realization that even though I made time for everything, I couldn’t make time to do everything well. The perfectionist in me was pissed off. The perfectionist in me shut down. The perfectionist in me has always prided on the fact that I could juggle so much - that all eight of my legs were always working. When I realized that I couldn’t put my heart and soul into all of my responsibilities, I walked away from the weight that I couldn’t carry. I walked away from responsibilities that I thought I had to cut – little things that made the weight too difficult to juggle. I made room for the heavier things. I made more room for work and for school, but left little room for myself.

What I’ve found in the absence of the extra weight was how much Shonda’s words resonated with me. Just like Shonda, if I am succeeding at one aspect of my life, I am failing at another. But, in spite of that, that’s why I’m back. I’m still learning how to be a student, an employee, an intern, a daughter, a friend – and do it all well, but I’m learning also that it’s okay to fall short sometimes. It’s okay to fail, so long as you try. I’m learning how to make time for myself, for the things that fill my heart – for the things that make me whole. And I’m learning how to do the best I can at everything without driving myself crazy when it doesn’t turn out perfect. I’m learning to relinquish the perfectionist in me and accept that I can only do so much – to accept that, like John Green said in The Fault in Our Stars, “the world is not a wish-granting factory.” I’m learning that I don’t get wishes. I don’t get magical powers. I am one person, wearing eight different hats, and I will make sure that’s enough. I will make sure that I am enough.

So, with that, I’m back. A lot’s changed since the last time I was on here, and a lot more will be changing in the near future. If you noticed, all of my previous posts are currently private; for personal and professional reasons, I decided I needed to do that temporarily. Eventually, I’d like for them to be back up and running, and if not, I want them to at least be password protected for anyone who wants access to them. Additionally, there’s an all new About Me page, and a 30 before 30 in replace of my old bucket list. Make sure to check ‘em out!

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices, and enjoying those choices.” -Anonymous

Thanks for stickin’ around.
xo, J.

The title of this post comes from lyrics of the song ‘Take it Easy‘ by The Eagles