My mom has a tradition, each and every year, of telling each of her children on the day before their birthday, “This is the very last day you will ever be __.” Today, in true Mama Joy fashion, she did it via Facebook status update.
It made me smile. (It also made me a little homesick. This is my first birthday away from my friends and family in Illinois. And while I have some amazing friends and “family” here in Kansas City, it’s still bittersweet.)
As I sit here enjoying my last hours as a 22-year-old, I’m in shock of what a big year this has been for me. I mean, let’s look at 22 in review:
- I turned 22 on May 31, 2012.
- I graduated college in June 9th, 2012. The days in between those two dates were a surreal blend of sadness, drunkeness, stress, and busyness. Mostly drunkeness, though.
- On July 6th, I left Illinois and began the journey to a new life in Kansas City. Within a month and a half of turning 22, life as we know it had completely changed.
- On July 9th, I started my full-time post-college job as a big kid. There was no “intern” anywhere in my job title. I had benefits, a regular paycheck, and new bills to pay.
- Later that summer, I went on my first horseback ride. A new addiction formed, one that I’m itching to get back into now that it’s warmed up.
- In August, I hosted friends during the AgChat Conference in Kansas City. I think it was the first time I referred to Kansas City as being “my city” and “home.”
- In September, I began going to church. Not just any church, but the church I eventually ended up joining as a committed member. I haven’t attended church regularly since I was a pre-teen.
- In November, I went home for the first time. “Home,” being, Illinois. I surprised my best friend, Kourtney, and my Mama, with help from Kourtney’s husband and my brothers. It was a great trip home, but it was then that I realized that “home” has multiple meanings. While rural Illinois and Chicagoland will always be where my roots are, “home” itself wasn’t really there anymore. I was learning that my life was elsewhere.
- In December, I went to back home again. I had fun. I laughed, I cried, I celebrated holidays and birthdays with some of the people most important to me. I chose to come home, to Kansas City, two days early. I would miss out on New Years plans with my “back home” friends, and that made me sad. But, it was time to come home. It felt like it was time to leave. I ended up ringing in the new year with folks who truly have become part of my Kansas City family.
- In February, I met Nightwolf. I wasn’t sure about this nice, clean-cut “suburban” boy. But, good ol’ Jodi gave me a talkin’ to about how if I like him, I should go for it…even if he didn’t have an ag background. And I did. And I thank God on a regular basis that she yelled at me. Nightwolf is pretty dang amazing, and he “gets” my brand of crazy.
- In April, my parents came to visit. It was the first time Mama had been back to Kansas City since she and my brother helped me move here, and my step-dad’s first time. I took them to my favorite corners of Kansas City; Harry’s Country Club in Rivermarket, a walk around Crossroads, a trip down to the Plaza. Before they left, they both told me how happy and capable and stable I seemed here. While I’d always kind of knew Kansas City was good for me, hearing someone else say it was mind-blowing.
- In April, Nightwolf and I also became “Facebook official.” Now, those who know me best know that for how outgoing I am, I’m trigger-shy about real emotional commitment. But, this was a wonderful decision.
- And here we are, in May.
These are just the biggest of the big events I can think of. There have been other smaller milestones; my first business trips as a full-time professional, having friends come visit, getting Missouri plates on my car, my first ventures into the vast network of the Missouri agriculture community. My career is growing and developing into something I really like. My life is something I’m really happy with. And I am someone I’m pretty proud to be.
21 was a good year, yeah. 21 was the year of the Great Pilgrimage, where an emotionally-battered college student went and “found herself” in California…then came back to Illinois and took full advantage of the college lifestyle. I was 21 when I was offered my job, I was 21 when I first experienced Kansas City, and I was 21 when I signed my employment paperwork and my lease. 21 was also the year that I met or REALLY got to know most of my really good undergrad friends.
So, 21 was pretty great. But, 22? That’s the year when all the big magic happened. Here’s hoping 23 is as full of adventure, growth, fulfillment, fascination, love, and discovery.
And, thank you to everyone who made my 22nd year the biggest, best, most breath-taking one yet. I love you all.
And, because I wanted to: