The End of an Incredible Decade

December 26 is my birthday, and this year it marks the end of a decade for me: my twenties.

My twenties have been nothing short of incredible and I’m not sure I’ll ever have a decade again where its possible to accomplish or experience as much as I have – although I’ll certainly try!

Ten years ago, I was a student at George Mason University studying business management. After graduating at age 21, my early twenties consisted of me switching gears between being a fun, outgoing partier and a self-conscious but mostly responsible parent to my son. At 22, I saved up the bare minimum required for a down payment on a townhouse (3%) and bought at the max I could “afford”. I lived paycheck to paycheck, renting out my basement to help me get through. My first time having a party at my house only showed that I had a long way to go in my hostessing skills. In my early twenties, I lost four friends in less than two years – two to drug overdoses, one to cancer, and another to an act of violence. One of those deaths impacted me quite a bit, and I vowed to live life to the fullest because we aren’t guaranteed more time.

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I started thinking more about my career and my role as a woman in the workforce at age 23 when I took a role at Verizon and became part of a Women’s Leadership Group. Verizon paid for 75% of the master’s degree I decided to embark on and graduated from at age 26. The summer before I graduated, I studied abroad in Scandinavia for two weeks, meeting with large companies to understand their products and processes in manufacturing.

Studying abroad wasn’t enough for me, so after several years of already traveling abroad as much as I could, I decided it was time for a move. I managed to get a job based in London, England for a year and truly uprooted myself for the first time in my life. And of course, after unsuccessfully dating in the Washington, D.C. area for years previous to my move, one week after arriving in London, I met Mark.

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My year in England was wonderful and I got to experience so many new things and travel to a variety of European destinations. Mark and I’s relationship flourished. At the end of that year though, it was time to go back home. My dad later moved abroad and my parents separated, my grandma needed full time care for her dementia, and I needed to get back to being a full time parent (while I was in England, my son had stayed in the U.S. for school but was with me during his breaks). I certainly have always felt guilt that I chose to live abroad at such a precarious time, but I felt that if if I didn’t do it when I was able to, it might never happen. I have to think meeting my future fiancee a week after moving was a sign that someone up above understood what I needed to do to feel fulfilled.

Something had shifted in me right before I went to England and had turned 26. Suddenly, the days of going out regularly had become less appealing. Drinking at bars seemed wasteful when having a glass of wine at home was more budget friendly and calmer. Instead of spending my time with numerous party friends, I focused more on those who were my closest and realest ones. I’ll never regret all the fun I had in my early to mid twenties (and I’m so glad that’s the time of my life I did it), but since then I have become much more of a homebody.

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My late twenties were a time of true personal growth. It had only taken me seven years, but I figured out how to decorate my house and provide appropriate food and drink for a party. Doing laundry, cleaning, and general boring home tasks had become super routine (I believe this is called “adulting”). I figured out how to cook some decent meals. At age 28, I challenged myself to a reading challenge where I read 25 non-fiction books in one year. I pushed through tough days and situations at work where I gained valuable experience. I studied my ass off for six weeks in order to pass a critical professional exam to boost my career. I worked on my emotional intelligence skills in order to be a better parent and partner.

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This past year was the last year of my twenties: number twenty-nine. This past year, frankly, had some true ups and downs. In the span of two months in the spring, I lost my job and my grandma. Then, I started a new job that is great for me professionally, and makes me a lot less stressed than I felt in my last one. My son started middle school and has done nothing short of flourish in his academics and adapting to a new environment. I ramped up how much volunteer work I do, which is personally fulfilling for me. And, of course, I got engaged in October which was a huge highlight after three and a half years of dating.

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There’s not much about my thirties I’m sure about except that I’m getting married at age 31, but I think I like that it’s not all mapped out for me yet. I never would have anticipated my twenties being so full of incredible and worthwhile moments, and I feel like my life has thus far has turned out to be so much better than I could have ever imaged. So here’s to the next decade: may the love, growth, and happiness continue.

xx Noelle

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