Birthdays turn her to mush (she’s a memory hoarder). Today, she reflects on her twenties, saying goodbye to the decade her old soul has spent too many late flipping-and-flopping nights wishing away.
Did her circumference widen with each new ring of growth? Did she learn to number her days? Sometimes she remembers, other times she forgets. Her chronology’s likely off-balance, but she’ll carry on just the same.
For you. For her, but mostly for her.
At 20, she devours Virginia Woolf, lost in thoughts about following winding streams and how memories change over time, how we discover who we are (and aren’t) when the ink wets the page.
If you find this diary, please return it back home. Unpublished words are meant to be just that, unpublished scribbles that can’t stand on their own two feet.
At 21, she wears a cheetah print dress, fit like a shrunken glove. She invites herself on stage to dance with the band, collects 21 one-dollar bills from strangers. (One man, when asked to contribute, says, “I’m married.” She tells the man all she needs is a dollar.)
(This night not pictured here.)
She has her own office, no window, but she feels the power of the red pen. She decides to start a blog.
At 22, she needs a handyman. It’s the leaky this, creaky that, breaky this and that in the tiny townhouse she tells her best friend she’s buying over bagels at the coffee shop, leaving behind concocted dreams of RV living. With popcorn ceilings and rooms for hatching chicks, they call it The Nest. It sticks.
She collects her first stamp in her passport, tasting the dust and dirt at Auschwitz. She will never forget the mounds of hair and tiny shoes.
At 23, she buys a new black pencil skirt, hers split at the seam one day at the office. (Is this growth?) Her coworker gives her a sweater to wrap around her waist for the rest of the day. She feeds her hungry neighbors by stitching words together, insistent her coworkers calculate the meals they could provide for an innocent child with the price tag of that cashmere sweater.
At 24, she holds her front door open for more (and more) birdies at The Nest. They make her oatmeal and watch countless episodes of The Bachelor, planning finale viewing parties with cheese and Cabernet and cupcakes galore.
She leaves her car running in the work parking lot, keys in the ignition, distracted, plotting for change. I think your car’s still running, he says as she walks away looking at the sky, and she looks back and wonders, how many times will I lock myself out of cars and houses before enough is enough. Her dad tells her she’s his smartest daughter, but that sometimes he wonders.
At 25, she itches for more, adventure, depth, or passion (or all). She packs her bags, loads the Toyota Camry and hits the road, off to Texas to find that lost spirit.
She crumbles on the steering wheel when her mom’s plane flies back home. She has no idea where to go or how to get back.
They all send her flowers, lots and lots of flowers.
At 26, she prays for nice friends in a new city. They come. They eat popsicles and fried everything at the Texas State Fair, swim laps, reserve the movie room for Gilmore marathons, meet up in the clubroom for another round of pool. They laugh and they cry and they love her with words.
At 27, she carries a journal, swollen ankles, and a wandering heart through the cobblestone streets of Venice. She writes of beautiful beggars draped in silky scarves, the bumpy roads, that time they ate baby food, the laundry that the Italians hang out to dry. The flower boxes lining the windows. The young girl’s birthday party, singing foreign words in a melody she knows by heart. The nun who, every day, waters her garden.
She gets a new smile.
At 28, she lives alone at The Nest, back home where she watches the sun rise. She journals while the coffee drips. She goes to bed by 9, learns to follow instructions on meal kit boxes, still carries a purse in a purse with contact solution and Motrin and socks (one never knows), still wanders in late, for the last time, she insists.
She meets the man she knows will be her husband. They hold hands while they hike mountains.
At 29, she plans a wedding in three months. She is a business owner, a cat mom, and a wife with a new name. One day, on the phone with her mom mid-day, she yawns and can’t stop yawning. She blames the snoring husband and the hair-eating, crying fur babies. Remember, her mom says, how lonely you were last year.
She spends too much time catching up with Hoda and Al and Kelly and Ryan (her friends), yet aches for all the stories left untold, all the words not yet written.
And this is 30.
At 30, she loses socks in the laundry, for the first time. She packs her husband a lunch, waves goodbye through the clear storm door, inching one finger (their thing), kittens underneath her feet begging for food (always). They are house hunting for a home with a yard maybe in the suburbs, maybe out in the country; he dreams of cathedral ceilings and mudrooms, while she dreams of jacuzzi tubs and pantries for snacks. Her husband makes a shared note called “Life To Do List” and she watches the list grow and grow and grow.
They all told her that 30 would come, soon enough, that so much could change in a year. Slow down, she tells the young old souls. Please. For me. For you, but mostly for you.