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my twenty-sixth year.

Celebrating my birthday three weeks and two days into a new year means that I spend most of January in a state of self-reflection.

This year of my twenties was very different than many that have come before or will come after for one simple reason: I stayed in one city, lived in one apartment, and spent most of my days being a graduate student. Compared to the change and movement of the last six years, it was kind of weird.

A brief rundown of my 20’s thus far: 20: spent a semester in Rome; 22: graduated from college, moved to Boston, started JVC; 23: finished JVC, moved home, moved to St. Louis, started a new job; 24: applied to grad school; 25: quit my job, moved to DC, started grad school; (and looking forward!) 27: graduating from grad school, then… job/moving/all the question marks?

“Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.” -Sister Corita Kent

Twenty-six was a brief moment of stability in the hectic time of my twenties when so much has changed so quickly. It was the only full year I will ever spend in graduate school. It was possibly (but hopefully not!) the only full year I will live in DC. This made it special, but I’m realizing now that everything that comes after makes it meaningful.

I went back and forth to Missouri and zigzagged across the country and up and down the East coast. I welcomed friends to DC.

I was invited to a record-setting seven weddings and was able to dance and celebrate with so many people and relationships worth celebrating. I caught up with old friends, had phone calls with best friends, and reunited with some of those that are most dear to me. I made new friends and invested into new relationships.

I took a class that changed my life. I finally came to terms with my innate need to create and make things. I wrote a lot (although obviously not here, which I’d like to change).

I went on a bad date with a stranger from the internet, then a lot of dates I didn’t realize were dates. The not real dates were much better, but when we finally realized they were real dates, those were the best of all.

I cried on an airplane and on the bus and walking down the street. I scanned my metro card, walked a lot of miles, and became even more of a pro at flying Southwest.

I started listening to podcasts. I went to some overpriced exercise classes before I remembered that I was a poor grad student. I continued to play 1989 on repeat.

I fell in love. And didn’t even realize it. It was (and is) terrifying and wonderful.

I read The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up and got rid of half my wardrobe. I looked forward to Hannah Brencher’s Monday Email Club every week and devoured books by Shauna Niequest. I finally became a person who underlines the important parts of books.

I said brave, hard things to people I love.

I saw the cherry blossoms bloom and went on picnics. I collapsed in my bed exhausted at 9pm. I spent (arguably) too many 12 hours days in the Car Barn.

I tried to like mushrooms. I ate a lot of pizza and a lot of kale. I ate ice cream until I remembered that I was lactose intolerant. I took pictures of a lot of food and put them on the internet.

I don’t even want to know how many to do list’s I wrote.

I followed politics more than ever before. It was a little terrifying.

I prayed: sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes with tears. I spent an hour almost every Sunday at mass at Holy Trinity. For the first time in my life, I officially joined a parish. It felt like adulthood.

I was reminded again and again that the mess and chaos and pain is where the good part of this life starts. I let people into my mess and my hurt and my junk–and they showed up for me in ways I am eternally grateful for.

I said yes. And then I practiced saying no.

And perhaps the most important part of my 26th year was this: I finally began to see the value of staying in one place. It took me long enough to get here, but I’m grateful for every meandering step along the way.

Bring it on, 27.