When I was 20 I was a gypsy. It was my second stint of homelessness, actually, though this time around it was much more fabulous. My beau and I had devised a plan: sex in all contiguous 48 states. We roved America in a soccer-mom mini van, customized with a raised bed built in the back. We stored clothing, food, and a camping stove underneath. Up top we slept in a pile of cheap pillows, my vintage hat boxes, and an old guitar. Five months in and we were nearing our amorous aim, but alas a torn timing belt in Massachusetts bankrupted us. We high-tailed it back home and had to skip the southwest; we made 39/48.
No longer a nomad, I turned 21 and enrolled in school. See, I’d had this epiphany while gazing into a vernal pool somewhere in New England. Biology! I parted ways with my travel companion and got a gig pulling shots at a grungy art house/coffee shop. That’s where I met the man who would steal my heart for the next half a decade – though our actual courtship would only last until Christmas. He was older, much older, and a rock star through and through. But his heart was gold and he crooned to me Nat King Cole love songs, and we both became lost in the fire that flared white hot between us. Some flames just burn too bright.
The start of an amazing project that never came to be. Photo/art by Matt Jordan.
My 22nd year was a lesson in tragedy and consequence. My heart had been utterly decimated; each morning in the shower I cried until I dry-heaved. A close family friend died, and then my young dog Killer died too. I had a one night stand and became pregnant. I became un-pregnant. I crashed the van. I took a lot of baths and listened to a lot of Tom Waits. That was the year that I began drinking.
Amidst the misery, life kept moving. A collection of misfits became my comrades – a motley crew of scientists and artists. Our poison was Patrón Silver and our pleasure was Trivial Pursuit. We gathered for games each weekend in my living room, simultaneously flexing our brains and drinking ourselves to oblivion. I paired off with a partner who wouldn’t require too much of me; my heart wasn’t part of the bargain.
At the end of the year, Harley the Happy Dragon joined my life. Read his story here.
At 23 I was stabilizing. I fell deeply in love – with academia. School consumed me. I had a tumultuous affair with calculus, then a lusty fling with physics. I ran mathematical marathons all day each day, and I still sipped myself into a stupor every night. I favored gin those days. I ended another relationship. I was awarded a number of scholarships, worked within the bio department, and set my sights on my dream school. That fall some friends and I managed to score Tom Waits tickets – his one and only American show of the tour. It was a dream come true and helped ease the pain when the next month, the American people re-elected George W. Bush as president.
The day after the 2004 elections, photo taken for www.sorryeverybody.com
My 24th birthday was spent in Washington DC. I was there to protest the Bush inauguration . . . and also to visit a new flame. He was an Air Force officer I’d met online, and so began a year-long cross country romance. We were an odd pairing, but he taught me a lot about loving, the verb. I was still too broken to meet him in that place, but I gave to him as much of myself as I could. That year I was accepted to the College Of Creative Studies at UCSB. I spent the summer working in a parasitology lab and began University that fall. By winter I had taken on a research project. I destroyed my relationship, again. Near the end of that year I decided to do two transformative things: I vowed to stay single for a full year, and I got my ass into therapy.
My 25th year was electric ambition. I was single and self determined. I dated for fun without any intensity. I learned how to take care of myself. I learned how to *take care of myself*. I was a scholastic machine, dead-set on maintaining a perfect 4.0. This was a year of incredible growth, of hard work and hard play. In summer I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, where my research partner and I presented our results at the International Congress of Parasitology. In November, on my one-year anniversary of being single, I gave myself a wedding ring. I married myself in a solo ceremony that took place in my beloved bath tub. There was chocolate, and bubbles, and champagne. There was whispered commitment to truth and openness; a chisel to finally crack that armor.
The next day, I kissed Damian.
Parasites! This picture ran in a number of newspapers. Photo by Kevin Lafferty.
At 26 my life was a whirlwind of forward motion. Damian clicked into my heart so completely that I gasped once and then never looked back. When he proposed 6 months later, I wondered aloud what took him so long. Some love is just immutable truth. Sublime simpatico.
By early June I was graduating college; by late June we had bought a house in Portland; by August I was settling into p-town and by September Damian had joined me there. In late October we began [the gut-wrenching, incredibly long process of] quitting smoking. We were in a whole new city with no friends, no jobs, nothing but opportunity. I was breathless.
My 27th year was terrible bitter and blissful sweet. I got lost in the depths of a quarter-life crisis, battling real depression for the first time in my life. I was working a meaningless job and had lost my sense of direction. Also, I was quitting smoking – a seriously emotional experience.
In contrast to that, the year also the held greatest highs I’d known! I married my one true love on 060708, a day so filled with joy that it still overwhelms me. Following that was 10 delirious days in Cancún: all twitterpation, paradise, and glee. At the end of our honeymoon we flew to Phoenix, got matching tattoos, and saw Tom Waits. It was the perfect end to our perfect adventure.
Turning 28 was the beginning of my turnaround. I was actively hacking a path towards happiness; living my truth was changing my life. I’d quit my day job. I’d gone vegan. I’d bought a bike. I’d launched Bonzai. And then, on our 1-year wedding anniversary Damian and I made a baby. But I need to give credit where credit is due – there’s no way I would have quit my job, become a writer, built a web space, or been able to find my Bliss if it weren’t for Damian. His support is unwavering and I just don’t know how I got so goddamned lucky.
In my 29th year I became a mother. I could sit and stare at this cursor all day long but I’ll never be able to summarize my feelings regarding that matter, simultaneously the most effortless and most excruciating experience I’ve known. Wee Mr. Waits is the light of my life – I didn’t know there was love like this! But having a child has also been hard, in ways I hadn’t expected. I’ve had to learn to slow down, and I’ve had to fight (fight!) to keep myself in a positive space. And by slow down I mean, somewhere in all this motherhood madness I’ve managed to take on my next big project (which I’m so tired of not being able to talk about, seriously). Okay, so I guess I’m still learning about how to slow down . . .
Emerging from 29 I feel like my life is just beginning. I look towards my left and I see so much to be thankful for. I look towards my right and I see endless possibility. I wiggle my toes, kiss my family, and look out towards my future.