This last decade for those of us in our early twenties was pivotal. We went from being absolute children who thought we knew everything to being young adults who know we don’t know anything. We matured from braces and grade school to living on our own and joining the work force. We have lived without our parents, traveled to places wholly unlike the ones we’re from, and met people completely different from us or anyone we’ve ever known. We’re all better for it. Sure, some of it was terrifying. Sometimes, we weren’t sure how we would go on. But we did. And we will keep doing so. Getting stuck in the comfort of familiarity is toxic. You must get uncomfortable to grow.

Flash back ten years ago. I had braces. They were clear but often appeared yellow because the bands changed colors whenever I ate mustard (which was frequently back then). I went to a school with a uniform and less than 60 kids in my class. I rode my bike or skateboard to friend’s houses because everyone I wanted to see lived within running distance. My dad was drinking. A lot. My mom’s depression kept her in bed 7 days a week. My siblings were off at university and we weren’t close enough to really talk. I was still the family brat. I thought I was cool for being rebellious. I judged those who had people to make them rules. I didn’t know where’d I’d go to high school. I was on social media because I had nowhere else to be. I knew Texas wasn’t made for me forever. I had no idea how to change anything in my life.

The girl I was ten years ago was scared. She felt alone and without guidance or proper supervision. While most kids had their friend-groups determined by who their parents knew, she hoped that people didn’t know her parents and judged her off of her alone. She relied on herself for most things like finishing her homework, making it to practices on time, or trying to handle the drama of being a teenager with hormones pulling her mind in a million different directions. She wanted people to like her not because she had a big house or straightened her hair but because of what she brought to the table. She wanted people to rely on. She wanted to know that people would show up for her without begging them to.

I like to think that girl would be proud of me today. I’m tearing up thinking about her now. That girl would be proud at the work I did to get to where I am. That girl would be glad I let some people and habits exit my life even though she couldn’t imagine a life without them. That girl would jump for joy knowing the long nights spent in her mom’s closet learning the history of fashion via clothing labels and google payed off and I was hired to do wardrobe on a movie. That girl would absolutely love the places I’ve been, the people I surround myself with, the clothes I wear, and the independence I’ve kept up.

13-year-old me would be devastated Ike is gone. If you told her he was going to die much sooner than she thought, she would lock herself in her hot pink bedroom and sob an ocean to Third Eye Blind or whatever band her perpetual angst guided her to in the moment. Maybe The Fray. Maybe Relient K. Always the Beatles. She would break things at the thought of life without her hero. (She broke a lot of things out of anger. Broken door count: 18 by high school graduation.) She’d scream out at her parents, finding some way to blame them. She’d pity herself. She wouldn’t let anyone know what was going on in her mind and would act out aggressively. Like the time she threw a pillow then a glass of water at a therapist who, surprisingly, didn’t want to meet with her again.

Thank god I am leaving pieces of that girl in this decade. I’m leaving the resentment she carried in her heart, the anger that rested in her cheeks, and the self-pity that bubbled in her stomach at the door to 2020. If only I could pull her out of one of her many temper tantrums and promise her life gets better.

Thanks to the changes life threw our way this decade, a lot of us figured out who we are. I mean who we truly are: What we value, what we do not like, and who we want to be in the bigger picture. Of course, there’s still infinite amounts of figuring out to do but having a general understanding of self is absolutely essential for self-love. And self-love is absolutely essential to happiness. And happiness is absolutely essential.

People I underage drank with have or are getting married. **the emotionally unavailable me winces at the thought of “for better or worse, I do” ** My parents are grayer and slower than they’ve ever been, yet they’re them again. I’m glad I never gave up on them because, even with their personal demons and flaws, they’re the only parents I’ll ever have. My childhood dogs are all in Heaven, along with a few people I thought would always be around. OH GOD, WHY DID YOU HAVE TO TAKE LEONARD COHEN? My parents were legally divorced. I have two stepsisters I got for Christmas 2016. The home I grew up in was ripped apart and a cold, modern mansion replaced my red brick home (middle finger to the new owners). My life looks nothing like it did at the beginning of the decade.

Where will the next decade take us? Will I be alive in ten years? Divorced? Married to a girl? Will I have a happy life in the Suburbs? (Ha.) The point is I have no fucking clue. No one does. The only way to find out what great experiences or opportunities are in store is to keep going and take each day as it comes. Meet each day with gratefulness and a will to go on. By the time you know it, you’ll be a different person in a new time.

Almost a year ago, I was completely and utterly broken. I had just lost my lifelong rock and couldn’t bare the thought of people celebrating a new year. To me, the new year meant I was in the first year without the love of my life- my brother. I woke up on January 1st and was numb until I had the privacy to scream and cry and yell at God for taking Ike so close to the new year. “Why couldn’t he have died after the new year? Why do these numbers keep changing and making the time he was alive seem so far away?”

Looking back, I am glad Ike passed in 2018. I took 2019 as a time to let myself feel down. I took the first full year without him in my life as a period of destruction: of anger, of sorrow, of absolute confusion, and of all the nicotine my body could handle. And more. I knew this dark time couldn’t last forever. The year 2019 marked the time I would allow myself to behave in a way I knew wasn’t sustainable but, to me, was absolutely essential to grief. These down times were essential to my healing.

I hope to everyone reading this that you start the new year with a clean slate. It’s not just a new year, it’s a new god damn decade. Issues of the past are irrelevant. Work it out while you still have time, whatever it is. An issue with an ex of sorts, with your family, or with yourself shouldn’t come with you. Figure out what you want from the situation and do whatever it takes to make peace. You should never leave kind words unsaid, forgiveness ungiven, or doors open that lead nowhere yet keep letting a draft in.

Alright alright, settle down. Here are some more clichés that’ll make me sound like a hallmark card: We make our own future. If you want something, the only person standing in your way is yourself. In the words of high school cross country coach, Coach Sutterfield, “motivated people find a way.”

The individual is the only one in charge of how they behave. We choose who we want to be in response to others. The habits we pick up, the people we surround ourselves with, and the words that come out of our mouths become us- choose them wisely. Holding onto anger and resentment may seem inevitable. They’re not. They’re a long-term choice and they’re only going to hurt YOU in the long run. Like some of my favorite socks say: let that shit go.

The little things we do each day matter. If you want to change your behavior, or dare I say your LIFE, it’s not going to just happen without effort. You have to figure out what it is you want and act accordingly. No one knows how to “do” life but that doesn’t matter because eventually you’ll look back and be glad things happened as they did. It’s almost like they had some greater purpose!

I hope in the next ten I’m smoke free. How will I let the pain of missing my brother rip through me without the flow of tobacco to calm it down? No clue. But I guess I’ll figure it out. I hope to cement the relationships that matter. I hope to be the kind of friend and family member others look forward to seeing yet are often in touch with, no matter the distance. I hope to continue learning what I want in life through trial and error and a never-ending game of realizing what I don’t. I hope I have moments of hardship that make me a better person. I hope to have nights that go horribly wrong that make for great stories. I hope to be able to look back on this next decade as I do this one- with appreciation, with no real regret, and with excitement for the next one to come. I hope I and the people I truly love all make it to the next one. I hope “the people I truly love” includes some I have yet to meet.

Pour a drink, hit a joint. Or don’t but debate whether you want to or not and why. Tea for me. Tell your family and friends you love them whenever it’s genuine. Remember time is infinite until it’s gone. Here’s to the next ten.

It’s a new decade, y’all. Act like it.

Lots of love,