I’m turning 30 this week, wondering where the last decade disappeared to. In the blink of an eye, my 30’s have arrived. I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago or even last year. A lot has changed, but I still feel the same beneath it all.

So with that, let’s recap the last 10 years. The following marks part one of the series: My life at 19 years old and my early 20’s.

At 19, I began my second semester at MTSU and worked at the Home Depot. My friend Alisha cut her lease short to move in with her boyfriend (which is now her husband), so in January, I moved in with Kate and Katie. We lived in a three bedroom house off of Rutherford tucked away in your typical suburban neighborhood.

Kate moved to Alabama to pursue teaching with her newly wedded husband. Katie and I moved into our own apartment in May, if I remember correctly. (Note: You will hear me say “I believe” and “If I remember correctly” fairly often, because a lot of these details escape me as I grow older.)

I finally broke out of a mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship with my high school boyfriend of 4 years. Sadly, I jumped from one bad relationship to another but didn’t know it at the time. Josh seemed way nicer, cooler and college-y.

I attribute some of how I changed during this time to MTSU and Josh. If it wasn’t for MTSU, I wouldn’t have met my ex and likely would have continued down my narrow-minded path. Had I not switched English classes on a whim, my life would be way different. And as you’ll see in part two of this series, if I hadn’t met Josh I probably wouldn’t have met Keegan at Domino’s.

But please do not confuse these sentiments as me giving props to my ex. There’s more to me than my past, and the end of that relationship was the catalyst I needed to move my life in a more positive direction.

19 was a year of transitions for sure. I went from Jon to Josh, from Home Depot to Domino’s and from making bad grades to good ones. I also began to dabble in different types of music. In high school I listened to rap and some rock, such as Queens of the Stone Age, the Strokes and the White Stripes. Listening to 88.3 introduced me to all sorts of artists, beginning with the Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Klaxons, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and MGMT. These indie artists led me down a rabbit hole I still find myself lost in to this day.

19 was all about learning how to navigate my first adult relationship. I wasn’t used to partying on school nights, sleeping at my boyfriend’s house and meeting new people. 19 was filled with anxiety and depression; my life changed tremendously in such a short period of time. I probably should’ve seen a counselor that year but didn’t think I needed to. Between the transition from high school to college, a new relationship, new job and new pressures to succeed in school, 19 was exciting just as much as it was exhausting.

At 19, I tried marijuana for the first time with my friend Josh, not the boyfriend. We were drinking one night with some friends when I finally decided, “Why not?”. I really didn’t count this experience, though, because I could barely feel the effects. When boyfriend Josh broke out the bong a few weeks later, however, this forever changed the trajectory of my life.

I began to question everything I thought I knew: Politics, religion and social issues, such as the war on drugs, abortion, prostitution and end-of-life decisions. Seemingly overnight I adopted a “live and let live” attitude, and I’ve stayed this way throughout my 20’s. I’d like to believe I would’ve become more open-minded as a Social Worker regardless, but I started smoking before I enrolled in those classes, so there you have it.

And lastly, at 19 my best friend Candi moved to Washington state while Tika and I became much closer friends. I would hang at Tika’s house on Chamberlain a few days a week, waiting for Josh to clock out. But it was more than just waiting on Josh; Tika and I developed a deep connection from the get-go for which I’m very grateful.

My early 20’s represented some of my best partying years. I made a lot of friends, which gave way to bigger and better parties in my mid-20’s. In hindsight, the loss of my first adult relationship acted as a precursor to developing those solid friendships later on. But as you’ll see, everything pans out perfectly in the end.

Relationships

By the end of 19, I was rooming with Katie, dating Josh, becoming good friends with Tika and working at Domino’s after I left Home Depot. The best thing I got out of Home Depot was becoming friends with Justin. We would we catch up in the garden section when he was done grabbing carts from the parking lot. I’m proud to say we’re still good friends, and I love his wife Brittany so fucking much. It’s crazy how someone can have such a huge impact on your life, but when you first meet them you have no idea what the future holds.

Same goes for Keegan, without a doubt. When we first became friends,  I didn’t expect us to build a life together, to be introduced to a different Nashville scene and punk music, with it’s gritty sound and dirty hipsters. I was all about that shit for awhile. Meeting my husband made me a better person, and I wouldn’t be the same without him.

My high school friend, Josh Bradford, introduced me to someone that paved the way for so many more friendships. It went like this:

Bradford –> Marissa –> Kooch and Ponder –> Clint –> Casi, Amber, Matthew, etc.

Lastly, I reconnected with my friend Caitlin at MTSU when we coincidentally took the same Criminal Justice course. This marks another instance of “Had I not taken that class, I wouldn’t have connected with such and such”.

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Living Arrangements

From 19-21, I lived with Kate and Katie. Katie and I parted ways in 2009, I believe. It’s hard to remember when it feels like such a long time ago. I regret the way that friendship ended and would apologize if it meant anything after all this time. I was young, immature and childish back then. I’ve changed so much as a person, and I’m honestly embarrassed by the abrupt ending of our lease and our friendship.

I moved in with my Dad for a year or so to pay off debt. This worked to my benefit, as I paid off my car a year and half early and managed to pay off two semesters at MTSU before I graduated.

In 2011, at 23 years old, my friends had an opening at their house. I moved in with Brittany and Justin that summer, which turned out to be such a good fit. Our living styles were essentially the same, besides the fact that they were a tad bit more OCD than I was when it came to cleaning the house. This worked out well for two years before Keegan and I moved in together. Little did I know, this would mark my last long-term roommate experience.

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We got so crunk in that apartment lol
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Same goes for Brittany and Justin’s house

School

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2010. I began my Criminal Justice minor with a Republican mindset and ended with a new-found respect for mercy. At first I went into Criminal Justice thinking I wanted to “put the bad guys away”, but as it turns out, there’s two sides to every story. That goes for men and women. After exploring justice and mercy in a philosophical sort of class, I decided I lean more towards mercy than anything else. We all make mistakes. I understand justice to a certain degree, but our system in America is broken and could desperately use reform from the failed war on drugs to prostitution and non-violent offenses. Between learning about institutional racism in my social work courses and private/industrial security, terrorism and nationwide policing policies and procedures, my education made for an interesting mix of two somewhat conflicting ideologies.

I’ll never forget my Social Work professor reaming a student whom insinuated folks on food stamps didn’t deserve to eat steak; he acted like beans and rice were totally acceptable. Not knowing any better, I silently agreed at the time. Thank goodness I didn’t say anything out loud. Dr. Wade hollered out, “It’s not out place to dictate what people are and are not allowed to eat. We are not gatekeepers! Are you saying poor people don’t deserve to eat well? Or are you one of those people that thinks they aren’t allowed to have soda and candy, either? Which is it?” I felt bad for the guy. This conversation, among many others in our program, expanded my narrow-minded views.

I graduated from MTSU in December 2010. My best friend Tika hosted such an awesome party for me at her house. A few weeks later, Justin and his girlfriend Brittany were hosting a party at their house for New Years Eve. I’ve still never had a better NYE than this one, and it’s an absolute shame I don’t have any pics from this night. There was about 10 or 12 of us, mostly everyone from Domino’s, hanging at their house taking things I can’t say online. I’ll never have another NYE so perfect; it’s too bad I have no pics from this night.

Career

When I landed the job at Domino’s in November 2007, I promised myself to keep it till I graduate with my bachelor’s degree. And that’s how the cookie crumbled. My bosses’ were great, so I stayed with Domino’s for 3 1/2 years. I met some of my best friends at this job: Jessica, Dustin, Chris, Stephanie and several others I keep in touch with on Facebook. I also met my husband, Keegan, at Domino’s in August of 2010. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in South Dakota in May and moved to Nashville in June. We connected in August and hit it off from the get-go.

Dustin and Jessica ended up being two of my closest friends. I’m so grateful to have met them when I could’ve wound up at any old pizza place.

I went from Domino’s to The Guidance Center in 2011. This major career change led me down paths I didn’t know existed. As a case manager, I was responsible for linking clients to community resources. First, we assessed each case analyzing 12 different elements of one’s life. Then, we scored their needs and prioritized which issues to solve first. From housing to health, financial resources, relationships, mental health, social security benefits and more, we helped with just about any and every problem imaginable. General mental health centers do it all. I held a caseload of 40-70 people.

We earned bonuses if we worked ourselves to death. Unfortunately, I was completely unaware of this thing called burnout, which is exactly what happened to me towards the end of my second year with TGC. I don’t necessarily blame anyone for my ignorance, but it would’ve been nice to have worked in a supportive environment that informed it’s employees of such phenomena.

I took a break from working to get my head right. In January of 2014, I quit my job and focused on my first semester of grad school. More details to come in part two of this series.

Some clients you never forget. I wish I could elaborate, but I won’t due to HIPAA constraints.

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First day at the Guidance Center with a barely decorated desk

Hobbies and Interests

I treated myself to pottery classes when I graduated from MTSU. Twice a week for 10 weeks, I drove to Nashville and learned how to spin pottery. We also learned another method called hand building, which was much easier, but I really wanted to master the wheel. I learned it’s impossible to become a pottery pro in 10 weeks, and my heart’s not in spinning as much as I enjoyed painting pottery at the time. I don’t do much with pottery anymore, but it was a fun hobby while it lasted.

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Something else I tried, my most random hobby yet, was re-purposing windows. I can’t even remember where I got this idea from, but a few turned out to make great gifts.

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Window dressed with fabric with an integrated book shelf I made for Tika

Most importantly, I turned to gardening the summer I moved in with Brittany and Justin, although it was my dear friend Tika that convinced me to do so. I started with two tomato plants that summer, and before I knew it I was completely obsessed with gardening. This remains a favorite hobby of mine.

What motivated me to cook was my ex bragging about his ex-girlfriend’s food, knowing damn good and well I couldn’t cook a thing. I started with fried chicken, spaghetti and random recipes on Pinterest, such as buffalo chicken dip and fried sweet potato won tons. My cooking’s come a long ways, but for the first few years, you ran the risk of food poisoning trying anything I made from scratch.

I didn’t care much for hiking until I took a trip with Josh’s family to Fall Creek Falls. This marked the first time I distinctively remember appreciating the outdoors. His family reunion also introduced me to camping, although it took several more years until I invested in my own gear.

Music/Festivals

The first music festival I ever went to was technically the Nickelodeon Tour from 1998 featuring 98 degrees and Monica. My first concert was Crosby, Stills and Nash at three years old. As an adult, my first festival was the Buzz summer concert series at Starwood. My first “real” festival was Memphis in May with Tika. We went three years together, and another year I went with my friend Jessica and stayed with Brett in downtown Memphis. All 5 years were amazing and stand out for different reasons.

The first year Tika and I caught Three 6 Mafia, Snoop Dogg and 311. Tika wasn’t even 21 yet, but I was, so I would sneak drinks for her, and it was all good. You’ll never feel as cool as you do at a live Snoop show. And Three 6 was something else in Memphis.

The second year marked the Nashville flood, which was absolutely crazy. We drove against the rain as it headed towards Nashville, and we encountered tornadoes on Beale Street. The festival was cancelled, but we made the most of the weekend anyways. The third year, we scored free tickets due to inclement weather the previous year. The third year featured MGMT (!!!!!!), Flaming Lips, Sublime and Slightly Stoopid.

I skipped 2012 and went one last time in 2013 with Jessica for Smashing Pumpkins. That was definitely the best Cinco De Mayo I’ve ever had. We got all the way to the gate and turned around, because I thought I forgot my rum in the car. Turns out, I ended up sneaking in two bottle of rum, because I was so drunk already that I forgot the first bottle was tucked between my shoulder blades and my bra. We drank all the rum I had plus fruit punch slushies spiked with Jack. It was such a glorious weekend.

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2010 introduced me to Bonnaroo, one of those life-changing events that you don’t return the same from. There’s so much I could say about this magical festival, but I’ll try to keep it short: In a nutshell, it’s awesome.

I went to Bonnaroo in 2010, 11, 12, 13 and 15. The first three years were my favorite. The first year my friend Ponder and I had no clue what we were doing. We should’ve invested in better shade for our site, more water and more sunscreen. It got intense at times as we pushed our bodies and minds to the absolute limit, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That weekend was fucking wild. I lost my mind for Flaming Lips. They played for an hour and a half, took a 15 minute break and returned to cover Dark Side of the Moon from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, it was an insanely beautiful show.

Like I said, I’m trying to keep this short, but some of the best moments of my life were at Bonnaroo. My first “rave” (I hate that word) was Deadmau5 at Bonnaroo. His performance introduced me to live electronic music, and I’m forever indebted to the festival for leading me to such awesome performers. I also learned about Neon Indian at my first ‘roo, which led me down yet another rabbit hole known as chill wave, trip hop and shoe gaze. Neon Indian paved the way for one of my favorite genres of music, thanks to Bonnaroo.

The second year I tagged along with a friend I barely knew at the time named Clint. This marked another significant moment in which the decision I made gave way to more friends down the road.

I didn’t have anyone to go to Bonnaroo with the second year. I bought my ticket Black Friday Weekend, 7 months before Bonnaroo, because I had such a great time the summer before. But then it turned out the Eminem was opening which honestly disgusted me and with such a weak-ass lineup, I had no one to go with. I reached out to Clint about week before the festival and asked if I could join him and his friends. I didn’t expect him to say yes to someone he barely knew but he did and I am so, so grateful he wasn’t weirded out.

My friendship with Clint introduced me to so many people I consider my best friends to this day: Casi, Amber, Matthew, Alan and several others I’m not super close with but got along with pretty well. Beth, Amy, Emily and Maranda….the moment I met these ladies in the Walmart parking lot before we all took off to Bonnaroo, I froze up. I felt intimidated by their friendship and hoped they’d accept me as one of their own. Not only were they super friendly, I caught the sense that they were looking out for me, because I was so much younger than everyone in the group. We had about 15 people at our camp site that year, instead of just Ponder and I, and it really brought our partying to a whole nother level.

The icing on the cake was Jessica meeting me at Florence that Friday afternoon. Casi and Amber didn’t go to Bonnaroo, and our camp site was kind of a sausage fest, so it was nice to have Jessica as my sidekick. to I also met Peter, Doug and Paxson.

Shpongle and Bassnectar were my favorite performances the second year. I hated the headliners, but overall the festival worth it.

Hard to believe Jess and I were deep in that tent. Nowadays I’d be clastrophoic! That was hands-down the best electonic set I’ve ever seen.

The third year marked Radiohead and my friend Kooch’s first festival. It was fun to have him there with Chad while I cried my eyes out during Radiohead’s spectacular performance. That was literally the best performance of my life.

Empire of the Sun with all my friends the 4th year was definitely the highlight of that trip. We all somehow met up in the same spot at the same time; in a word, it was magical. And Tom Petty Sunday evening stuck with me, as well.

And last but not least, we have the 5th year I went with Keegan, Caitlin, Stephanie, Holly and Chris. My favorite moment was falling asleep in the field with Keegan to Courtney Barnett Thursday evening. This trip was the chillest of them all. I really began to feel my age when I attended Bonnaroo at 27 years old.

Bonnaroo gave way to live music, camping and connecting with strangers. Bonnaroo introduced me to so many artists I would’ve never heard of had I not attended, such as Neon Indian, Ariel’s Pink Haunted Graffiti, Flying Lotus, LCD Soundsystem, the Melvins, Miike Snow, STS9, Junip, SBTRKT, Major Lazer, Jungle, Phoenix and countless others. I attribute so much of what I know about music to Bonnaroo and Spotify. There’s no other experience on Earth like Bonnaroo, so to grow up 45 minutes away from such an awesome festival is truly amazing. From the live music to the camping and activities that are not music related, there’s something for everyone and there’s someone for everyone. The connections I developed at Bonnaroo remain unmatched.

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In 2010, my Mom and I traveled to Forecastle for She and Him, Spoon and the Flaming Lips. We only stayed for a day, but it was fun for sure.

When it comes to specific music artists outside the festival realm, I was all about Tool, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Kaskade and Passion Pit in my early 20’s Others include alternative rock such as STP, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Temple of a Dog. I went through a soft phase encompassing The Shins, Zero 7, Bonobo and Slightly Stoopid. And last but not least I went through a “hard core” phase including Fall of Troy (math rock), Every Time I Die, Norma Jean and the Chariot.

Birthdays

This song will forever remind me of my 21st birthday.

My 20th birthday included Alisha, Katie, Tika, Josh and maybe a few others. I really can’t remember; I just know we had it at our place and kept it low-key.

My 21st birthday was held at Brittany’s house, two buildings over from our apartment. It was nice of her to host, and even though we lost touch, I appreciate everything she did for me.

My 22nd birthday took place in Gatlinburg with a group of close friends. Candi’s sister’s husband’s aunt owned the cabin, so we were able to rent it for dirt cheap. And the following weekend, I had about 15 friends meet me at Toot’s followed by a party at my Dad’s house. Fun times indeed.

My 23rd birthday was held at Painting with a Twist in Murfreesboro. While most women bring wine, my friends and I brought vodka, gin and mixers, which was pretty funny to be honest. It’s amusing how several of us painted the same thing (two owls on a tree limb), and yet each painting had a life of its own.

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Travel

My early 20’s weren’t filled with too much travel. I remember a trip to Folly Beach in which my roommate Katie and I and her friends and family drank something different every night. In hindsight I’m glad we didn’t get alcohol poisoning. I literally took 7 shots of tequila in an hour the first night, which is crazy when you weigh less than 110 pounds.

My Mom and I visited my cousin in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Josh’s family took us to Florida once, and I would drive to Atlanta and back in a night for shows, if they were worth it. Same goes for Louisville, Knoxville and Memphis. I also went to Gulf Shores for Laura’s wedding and I’ll tell, ya, destination weddings are super fun! But otherwise, I mainly stayed in the south and partied on the weekends.

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Goals and Growth

My main goal in my early 20’s was to graduate from MTSU. I also aspired to sky dive, and I completed my first jump on 08.09.08. In addition, I managed to keep my position with Domino’s before I moved into Social Work.

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Other than that, I really didn’t have too many goals. My mid-20’s encompassed more goals while my early 20’s taught me several life lessons.

First, I read The Secret.

I went to get my hair done the day before my birthday, but A Flair for Hair was closed. I believe this happened on a Monday. I wound up at Super Cuts (gross), and the stylist told me about this “life-changing book” called The Secret. I shared this info with my friend Ponder, and he just so happened to have a copy. So, I started reading it the day before my 22nd birthday.

This book taught me the power of positive thinking and introduced me to many other “new age reads”, if you will. I read the 4 Agreements, The Power of Now and A New Earth that year.

I still refer to the night I started A New Earth at Liberty’s house as the night I woke up. When Eckhart Tolle described the voice inside his head and how he became the observer of his own thoughts, something clicked. I felt a fundamental shift in my gut, and my thinking has never been the same.

That book led me to accept that Josh and I could never stay together long-term. After three painful breakups, we separated for good in July 2011. The moment I accepted my circumstances was the moment I began to live freely. I began to live a nonreactive existence, as if anything that happened to me outside of my control was irrelevant. If I didn’t have the power to accept my circumstances, I focused on the things that were going well.

So many things changed that summer, and I didn’t understand why at first. I went to Bonnaroo, got in a car wreck on the way, didn’t worry about it, unknowingly met my new group of friends, got a new cat, started a new job, moved into Brittany and Justin’s house and became single, in that order, in about 5 weeks. By the time I reached August, my life was completely different. It was as if the universe was clearing way for new people and experiences and all I could do was say, “I’m open, and I’m ready”.

My rock through everything was my baby girl, Junip. She continues to be the light of my life and the highlight of my early 20’s.

And last but not least, Keegan and I started dating in November of 2011. You’ll hear more about our relationship in parts two and three of this series.

Overall, my early 20’s were interesting. I didn’t have the best social skills and through a process of trial and error, I learned how to act and how not to act. I made mistakes, I lost some friends, and I also made a lot of new friends. My social life felt like a crashing wave, and whatever was left was all I had, until I began to rebuild my circle.

Most importantly, I gained a higher sense of consciousness I had yet to experience. I learned to become the observer of my thoughts. I learned how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected. I feel the Secret is a bit hokey these days, but at the time it changed my life. A New Earth catapulted my life in a completely different direction by allowing me to accept the things I can’t change.

Had I clung to my relationship with Josh, I would’ve never dated Keegan and moved to Colorado. I don’t believe in Calvinism, but somehow I do believe that everything happens for a reason. It’s complicated. What I know for sure is that had I not gone with the flow in 2011, I’d probably be stuck in Tennessee wishing I had jumped when I had the chance. Thank goodness for taking risks; stepping outside of your comfort zone is critical in accepting change.

That’s all I have for now. Stay tuned for part two of Reflecting On My Twenties.