The last part of this series comes late, because my friend and I went to Seattle for my 30th birthday. So now that I’m 30, it’s kind of amusing to write this post after the fact.

Let’s get to it.

Relationships

I had yet to meet my husband’s family until I was 26 years old. His parents live in South Dakota, and his siblings are dispersed in Denver, Seattle and Dallas. It was overwhelming to meet everyone at once, but I’m glad we did it this way. Kinda like two birds with one stone, but more like 11.

Keegan and I decided to get married and move to Denver on our flight back from South Dakota. He realized it was time to move closer to his family, and I was dying for a fresh start. Our engagement wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I loved it nonetheless. We got engaged the day before my birthday and suddenly, our lives were bound for a completely new direction.

Tika hosted our engagement party in the same fashion she hosted my graduation party. But I also hosted her second baby shower, so we go back and forth on these things 🙂 My engagement party was sentimental, and I cherish the evening Keegan and I spent with close friends and family involved in the wedding.

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We planned our wedding in 5 months. From the engagement party to my bachelorette party, bridal shower and wedding rehearsal, it all went by so fast.

Our wedding was the best; I’m sure everyone that gets married feels similarly, but truly, it was the best day of my life. I can’t elaborate without going off on an endless tangent, so I’ll keep it simple: There will never be another day like our wedding day, surrounded by our family, friends and loved ones. The ceremony, the music, the food, I loved everything about our special day.

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Once we got married and moved, I kept in touch with several friends. I also made new friends in Colorado, including Christine, Regina, Fatima, Kelly, Cynthia, John, Josi, and Holly. Also, there’s Ashley, Kayla, and Jason, but sadly Jason moved away. Keegan drew some newcomers to our flock, such as his friend Matt from Rapid and his girlfriend, Claire. In addition, I recently reconnected with my cousin, and Keegan’s sister lives in Denver. Not to mention, Brittany and Justin introduced us to all sorts of people out here.

Making new friends in Colorado was challenging initially. You don’t realize the innate mannerisms you possess until you move across the country. I’ve since adjusted, but the first 6 months or so were really hard for me. I initially resisted assimilation but ultimately caved. I haven’t been the same since.

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By contrary, my 30th birthday party was awesome! Party Like a Pineapple meets It’s My Flocking Birthday (think flamingos) was the perfect mash-up, and I loved putting my first photo booth together from scratch.

In moving forward, I expect to make new friends through the Weld County Master Gardening Program and other venues I’ll pursue this summer.

Living Arrangements

Keegan and I moved three times in my late 20’s: From Murfreesboro to Nashville, Tennessee to Colorado (specifically Nashville to Fort Collins), and then Fort Collins to Greeley.

Fort Collins seemed ideal, but it turned out to be a pretentious experience for us. Our neighbors in Greeley are so much more down to earth, generous and accommodating. That’s not to say that everyone we met in Fort Collins sucked. But when someone marches for equality and simultaneously turns their nose up at Greeley, their privilege remains unchecked, and I refuse to hang with hypocrites.

I love where we wound up with our very first mortgage. We might relocate to Loveland one day, but for now I love our house. With 1600 square feet, there’s plenty of space to stretch out. We’re in a good location, and everything is close when it snows. I expect this part of town to be gentrified soon. We’ll see what happens. I just hope that the people that made this place great to begin with can afford to live here in the long-run.

And last but not least, we introduced Buddy to the fam in May of 2014. So that makes me, Keegan, Junip, Gnar Gnar and Buddy. Kellogg household, party of five. We went into this knowing we were adopting an older dog, unsure of how long he’d be with us. But Buddy continues to thrive at his older, sluggish pace. I love taking him to work with me and daily walks around the block.

School

I interned 700 hours in a year and graduated in December just before I turned 29. I reached my goal of obtaining my Master’s Degree before I turned 30. I thought I might lose my mind interning on top of working full-time, but I did it, and I’m so glad it’s done. I can’t imagine doing all that and having kids on top of everything else. Kudos to all the moms out there going back to school.

I learned a lot that year. For one, I really enjoyed the half-way house. I felt like I could get real with these people, and I empathized the most with them. The inpatient facility, on the other hand, wasn’t for me. I was grateful for the opportunity, but it stressed me the fuck out. And when you only have clients for a few days, facilitating long-term change just isn’t possible, and it isn’t the point. A major part of the therapeutic process for me is developing rapport, building relationships and providing long-term solutions. The ATU doesn’t offer any of that, but on the plus, side, my clinical skills improved tremendously.

I flew home for graduation; I wasn’t about to do all that work and not walk. That just wasn’t an option for me. On December 10th, 2016, I earned my degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis on student affairs. Jobs I would love to have one day include becoming a university counselor, running a women’s shelter, running a homeless advocacy network of sorts, getting involved in social justice (such as black lives matter, LGBTQ issues and women’s rights) and operating within a state-wide coalition, promoting and expediting change from the top down.

Career

When we moved to Colorado, I started with North Range as a case manager for nursing home clients. I won’t elaborate, but it wasn’t the best fit. I stuck it out and took on PASRRs a few months in, which is basically a position in and of itself. Overworked and underpaid, I beared it as long as I could. Luckily my degree opened the door to all sorts of new jobs.

I knew my Master’s would land me some pretty sweet offers, but I didn’t expect three in two weeks, two months after graduation. I didn’t look for a new job right away; I took a few weeks off to sleep and collect my thoughts. So for everything to pan out so quickly compared to receiving my bachelor’s degree, it was nuts. It took me 5 months to get a job after I graduated from MTSU. This time around, however, things panned out almost immediately. It was awesome.

I felt torn and undecided between the potential job offer from North Range and the job I took with Support. My North Range sentiments reminded me of Stockholm Syndrome; battered and badgered by the first agency to hire me in Colorado, I found myself defending them and entertaining the idea of helping create a new program from scratch. It had to be better than my position in the nursing homes.

I ultimately went with Support. The interviewing process, the person with which I interviewed, the job description and the pay were all too good to pass up. Ironically, I considered leaving the nonprofit realm in pursuit of positions that might not burn me out so quickly, as had happened in the past. I didn’t know Support was a private agency until after I accepted the position. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in fate, but it totally felt like fate. I also didn’t know about the three day weekends and other perks, such as working from home and bringing Buddy to the office. I took a leap of fate by moving from mental health to intellectual and developmental disabilities, and I’m so glad I did. I work for a great company, and my clients are even better.

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Hobbies and Interests

My hobbies and interests changed dramatically when we moved. I went from shows and festivals to hiking and gardening. I would hike and garden in Tennessee, but not to the extent that I do out here. My friends and I would catch shows nearly every weekend in Nashville, from Keegan playing with his band to EDM shows with lasers, costumes and glow sticks. There was never a dull moment.

Colorado introduced me to a slower pace of life. For one, I didn’t have nearly as many friends as I had back home. Starting over led me to appreciate my solitude, although I hated it at first.

I’ve hiked more trails out here than I ever have before in my life. We camp often, too. Rocky Mountain National Park is still my favorite, but we’ve only scratched the tip of the surface. I definitely plan on hiking more this summer.

I took to gardening thanks to Tika and signed up to become a Master Gardener last year. The classes were so fun and informative. I still need to complete my volunteer hours, but once that’s done, I’ll go from an apprentice to an official MG. I’ve learned quite a bit about gardening, but volunteering in the spring is where the rubber hits the road.

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Gardening led to canning, and my confidence in the process has grown tremendously. I give props to my Dad for helping me the first time; it must’ve been nerve-wracking for him that day, helping me ensure we didn’t burn the house down. Now I feel self-assured to the extent that I’m teaching friends how to can pepper jelly. I’ve canned about a dozen different foods by now, and I hope to make friends in the canning community soon.

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Besides hiking, gardening, canning and cooking, I’ve really enjoyed paddle boarding and snow showing–who knew? Colorado has so much to offer when it comes to the great outdoors; I miss the music scene back home, but the peace I feel out here is good for the soul.

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And lastly, I’ve enjoyed all the adventures with family and friends when they come to visit. From the Rockies to Denver, we’ve been all over the place!!

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Music/Festivals

I’ve had to find good music on my own out here. The local radio stations are hit and miss, but lately I enjoy 88.3 more than I did when we first moved to Colorado. Is the music they’re playing gradually improving, or is my taste in music growing worse? Who the fuck knows.

I listen to softer stuff these days: War on Drugs, Real Estate, and Yo La Tango. Less EDM and more punk, although I still enjoy the likes of TR/ST, Com Truise, Mode Skeletor and the entire Late Night Tales series.

I listen to indie, punk, chill wave and trip hop. And I’m still a fan of rap and hip hop. A few artists I’ve come to love in recent years include Broncho, Bully, Dirty Beaches, Broadcast, Nice as Fuck, Shopping, Deerhoof, Natural Child, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Father John Misty, Mac Demarco, Connan Mockasin, Devendra Banhart, Thundercat, Kendrick, Madlib, the Internet, Pete Rock, J Dilla and MF Doom, to name a few. I could go on and on, but that’s enough.

We still go to shows occasionally, but I’m pretty much done with festivals. I’ve gotten “my fix”, and I can’t imagine having a better time than all the trips we took to Bonnaroo and Memphis in May, plus Counterpoint, Rites of Spring, Forecastle and Hangout. That phase of my life has come to pass, but with the perfect lineup, I might return to Bonnaroo one day.

Birthdays

My last few birthdays have been flipping awesome. I got engaged the day before my 27th birthday and grabbed dinner with friends at Omni Hut the evening before our engagement.

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My 28th birthday took place in Colorado. Keegan planned a surprise party and presented an amazing itinerary/extended day date leading up to it. I had breakfast in bed, went to my first cat cafe and tried zorbing, which was fun. The surprise party was so meaningful; I felt especially grateful to have a decent amount of friends show up, considering we had only lived in Colorado for 5 months.

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We spent my 29th birthday in New Mexico celebrating my birthday and graduation. Operation Most Relaxing Vacation Ever was such a success. Between the B&B, the massage, the wine tasting, the hot springs, the cave tour and Bandalier National Monument, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with my boo. It was truly unique and wonderful. I never anticipated so much to do in New Mexico; I would return to Santa Fe in a heartbeat.

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I spent my 30th birthday in Seattle, which is next on my to-blog list. But overall, I spent 5 birthdays on vacation in my 20’s; I think I ought to keep this up in my 30’s!!

Travel

My birthdays coincide with a lot of my travels, which we’ve already covered. Also, I’ve flown home to Nashville 5 times since we’ve moved. Furthermore, Keegan and I drive to South Dakota a few times a year. What else? How far must one be from home before it’s considered travel, versus a short day trip? I struggle with this when I’m categorizing my blog posts. I think if it’s further than an hour or two away, it’s travel. So, let’s go with that.

Before we moved to Colorado, my Mom and I took a trip to the beach to hang with our cousin, Susan. This was the last time I saw the beach until Tika and I flew to Seattle. Also, my bachlorette party marked my last trip to Atlanta.

Keegan and I met Wes, MB and their friends in Pigeon Forge for a weekend of drinking at the cabin. I don’t think we left the cabin once except to drive through the Smokies. Like the beach trip, this marked my last weekend in the Smokies for the unforeseeable future. I really miss those irreplicable views.

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Once we moved, I’d say our first travel adventure was backpacking with Katie and Ben. I don’t even know where we wound up to be honest. *edit* I went back and checked my post from two years ago. We backpacked Flat Tops Wilderness, west of the Rockies, north of Glenwood Springs. I was nowhere near prepared for such a physical feat, and I still blame this trip for breaking our dog. But we did it, and we somehow survived the weekend.

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Next, we drove to South Dakota for Christmas and Utah for New Years. We fell in love with Moab, which led us to a wilderness canoe trip for our first wedding anniversary. That’s a whole nother story in and of itself, but overall, it’s hard to choose a favorite between Utah and New Mexico.

Utah offers unparalled natural beauty, while New Mexico presents a historical feel with Dia De Los Muertos decor all over the place. The expanse of outdoor activities in Utah makes this state the most underrated gem on my list of favorites. Our canoe trip was unforgettable. Santa Fe, the oldest capitol in the country, appears unlike any other metropolitan city I’ve ever seen. The archaic adobe buildings downtown capture the essence of the old city; it’s a sight to be seen for history buffs.

Phoenix, Arizona, on the other hand, was just kinda “ehh”. It’s okay. Santa Fe delivered the quintessential South Western flair I craved, while Phoenix failed to live up to the hype. The two are nothing alike. The city seemed unusually quiet the night we went out, and I enjoyed the Sonoran Desert an hour and a half south of Phoenix much more than the city. We found a few bars that were awesome, but otherwise, the nightlife lacked excitement.

Other miscellaneous trips include the Badlands and travel within the state of Colorado. We once drove to Colorado Springs for a hot air balloon festival. We’ve traveled to the Rockies countless times and Grand Lake three times. We twice celebrated my sister-in-laws birthday in Fairplay/South Park and Florissant, Colorado. We once snow-tubed in Red Feather, and none of this includes all the hikes I can’t remember near Boulder and several state and national parks. They say you ought to build a life you don’t need a vacation from; I say I’m not leaving Colorado in the summer, because this place offers so much to do. Why go somewhere else? In true Coloroadoan fashion, I’m turning into a snow bird.

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Goals and Growth

My main goal before I turned 30 was to get my Master’s Degree. Keegan pushed for the mortgage, so we got that out of the way, as well. I’ve set so many New Years Resolutions in recent years, it’s hard to recount them all. But if you’re interested, go to my categories to the right of my page and select New Years Resolutions. As you’ll see, most of my goals center around reading, hiking and improving my cooking skills.

In 2016, I aimed to cook one new recipe per week, which turned into over 100 new things tried that year. I quit red meat for 6 months and wrote an article for the Greeley Tribune.

At one point, I made a list of things I planned to leave behind. This included speeding tickets, hangovers and undermining my professional abilities. 2017 went really well–no speeding tickets and only two hangovers. I met all of my goals besides meditating regularly and getting paid to write.

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That feeling when you hike a 14er

Another year, my Etsy shop came to fruition. This jaunt helped us collect several hundred dollars for our wedding before we moved to Colorado. So 2015 was a super successful year besides my unsuccessful attempts to meditate. As you can see, meditation just doesn’t seem to stick.

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All in all, I’ve met the majority of my goals in recent years. I really wanted to buy a paddle board last year, but they’re just too expensive. I’ll continue to rent at the hourly rate until I decide whether or not one’s worth the $1000+ for a decent board.

I’ve developed my own hashtag this year: #30goalsat30 which I totally agree is daunting. If I complete 2/3s of my goals this year, I’ll be happy. From yoga at red rocks to reading unfinished books and breaking my hiking record, there’s a lot to do and accomplish. But overall it’s all about becoming the best version of myself and focusing on habits this year.

The irony of creating 30 goals is my “Do less with more focus” mantra. Although these two conflicting ideologies are slightly in congruent, I think I’ve found a way to make it all work. I’ll keep you guys posted as I knock out my to-dos.

My semblance of growth in recent years doesn’t reflect how I feel. I’ve accomplished this and that, the measurable things you can see, such as the move and the attainment of my degree. But sometimes I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I aim to help more people and to be a better person, whatever that means. To live a less reactive life and one based more in reassurance, rather than fear.

15 things I learned in my 20’s 

As we near the end of this three-part series, I’ll close with the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. When you wake up, you know it. Something in me changed in 2011 as I was house-sitting at Liberty’s, reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. I remain the observer of my thoughts, but sometimes my mind gets the best of me. There’s no way to describe how it feels when you suddenly wake up, but when it happens to you, you’re never the same again.
  2. Burnout is the point in which you’re working harder than the client. This was single-handedly the best piece of advice I’ve received in my career. Self-care is of the up-most importance, and you can’t fill from an empty cup.
  3. Being vulnerable opens the doors of opportunity, as long as you’re vulnerable with the correct people. As Brene Brown so gracefully phrases it, vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence. You can turn away towards shame and embarrassment or embrace vulnerability towards a brighter, more honest future. Dr. Brown’s work regarding vulnerability marked one of the most influential, revealing truths of my 20’s. I cannot be successful without being vulnerable.
  4. Gardening is cathartic. What I imagined would be a boring hobby turned into a lifeline. I assumed I couldn’t possibly keep my tomatoes alive that first year, so when they thrived, I felt such a huge sense of accomplishment. There’s nothing like growing and canning your own food. I feel I’ve reached my higher potential thanks to Tika’s persuasion. Had she not encouraged me to pursue gardening, I wouldn’t currently be an apprentice in a Master Gardening Program, learning how to help others with their gardening woes.
  5. If I ever feel resentful or obligated to do something with someone, it’s not happening anymore. The last few years were all about boundaries and what I’m willing or not willing to tolerate from other people. And I’ve come to learn that the only people upset by my boundaries are the ones that never respected them in the first place. This year, I will only surround myself with people that have my best interests at heart, instead of those that are looking to get something out of me. I refuse to be used by energy vampires.
  6. “My problems are not as big as those mountains.” I developed this mantra one evening, as I made the 50 minute trek from my job to our rental in Fort Collins. It was a hard day, and I desperately needed something hopeful to cling to. As I listened to Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a voice from within whispered, “Your problems are not as big as those mountains”, the ones that lie ahead of me every day on my way to work. I still refer to this mantra during times of hardship. It provides comfort when I’m anxious and overwhelmed.
  7. The betrayal of disengagement is real. I’m so thankful I read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, which explained the importance of continuous engagement with your partner. This piece of advice has transcended my relationship with my husband.
  8. Happiness is (sometimes) a choice. I learned in my early 20’s how to think more positively and how to manifest what I want. The caveat is that depression can sometimes hinder our motivation. There’s a balance in striving to be happy and accepting your mood for what it is. The best way out is through, and sometimes you need to simmer in that depression before you can move along to a better phase in life. And that’s okay, too.
  9. When you’re called to move, you move. Oprah articulates this so well:

    Everybody knows that there’s a time that comes in your life when where you are is no longer where you’re supposed to be. and that;’s how i felt about Baltimore. Because for me, life is about growth.

    That’s exactly how I felt about Colorado. Something in my gut and in my soul knew I would move here, as I returned to Nashville from my first trip to Denver. I still don’t understand my purpose in living here, but I suspect it will all make sense in the next few years.

  10. You don’t know what your parents, family and friends mean to you until you move. Encompassing a vague understanding of homesickness and going through it are two different things. I remember asking a friend what it was like to be homesick before we moved. I really had no idea until we relocated. I miss everyone back home, and that will never change.
  11. It’s okay to lose it. When my Granny passed away, I was heaping pile of nerves. Dandipani’s Energy Alchemist discussion on Youtube explains the differences between transient and inherent energy vampires. For a month I absorbed the energy of anyone that had something positive to contribute. I slept a lot, ate too much and let it all hang out. Quite frankly, I was not okay. But I learned I was a transient energy vampire, going through a phase. I still break down a few times a month at the thought of my Granny’s absence, especially when I dream of her. This experience taught me that as long as you’re not inherently negative, it’s okay to not be okay.
  12. Jealousy won’t get you anywhere. This is one of my worst qualities, and I own it to the fullest. Jealousy coupled with infidelity drove my ex and I apart in 2011. Jealousy continues to play a role in my life to this day, but not nearly to the extent that it did 8-10 years ago. I’ve learned to let go of some insecurities and to be sarcastic when all else fails. Sarcasm as a coping mechanism shows how far I’ve come in not caring what people think of me. There will always be someone else wanting my husband; but he’s a good guy, and I trust him not to fuck up. His coworkers can flirt all day long. It just goes to show how unhappy they are in their own marriages.
  13. On competition, Oprah taught me more than anyone else. Making Oprah, an NPR podcast, divulged this piece of advice:

We didn’t pay attention to what our competitors were doing. W made a very deliberate decision to ignore their competitors. We didn’t look at the listings of what other talk shows were doing. We just did our own thing. We put on our blinders. The greatest lesson of competitors? You can only run your own race. Stay in your lane. I  always called it a horse race. We’re in our own race. Don’t look sideways or backwards, or else you’ll fall off. You do you and move along.

This advice has done wonders for my confidence and self-control. You can obsess about what others are up to, or you can focus on yourself, water your own grass and nurture your lawn until it’s green and healthy.

14. Sometimes your resilience is dependent on your own self-talk. When my former supervisor sneered “I guess empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone” (as if to say I was born without empathy), I really had to up the positive self-talk. When the same woman acted like I would need to post-pone my graduation date to be successful, I’d had enough. It was miserable working with her for so long, but on the plus side, this led me to improving my self-talk and ultimately, my confidence.

15. Acceptance is the key to living your best life. One of the absolute most important things I’ve learned in my 20’s is to accept my circumstances as they are, especially when things are out of my control. The better I become at accepting uncomfortable situations, the easier it is for me to hold it together.

That’s a wrap on my 20’s. In the meantime, here’s this: