This morning I thought I would wake up in Barcelona with a butterfly tattoo. At least that’s what I imagined 6 months ago.
“I want to be a butterfly.” I don’t know how many times I voiced this to my poor officemate who I was certain had to be severely weirded out. (“Yeah, you want to be a winged insect. Got it.”)
When I opened my 27th birthday card from him, I was pleasantly surprised. Beautiful butterfly appliquès graced the front of the Papyrus card with a note inside hoping that I had a wonderful butterfly year.
What did being a butterfly mean to me?
A new and improved version of myself. I would be temporarily living in Barcelona, European skinny from living off one plate of tapas a day and dancing all night, writing like a maniac and looking so hipster chic it hurts.
Yeah. I was going to be hot, edgy and cultured. I would wear cropped gray tanks, no bras, cut-off shorts and aviators and in every Instagram-worthy photo my thin butterfly silhouette tattoo would scream, “free spirit.” Oh and my blog would blow up as a result.
As 28 approached, I was still feeling very caterpillar-like. Maybe I was at least in a cocoon but so tightly snuggled in there that I wasn’t sure I was going anywhere. However, it was here that I learned a few life lessons along the way.
7 Things I Learned from 27
1. You never outgrow slumber parties.
And I don’t mean with the hot 22 year old you just met at the bar.
Currently I’m residing in my high school friend’s guest room in Ventura, CA. I sold my bed along with my other furniture. The first time I crawled in it, I recalled all of the times during 27 that friends have lent me a place to sleep.
Last year during an emotional breakdown, I stayed in “The Annie Room” at my friend and her fiancè’s. Another week I awoke in a guest room to the sound of my friend’s giggling baby who we pushed in a stroller to get coffee. Last week I stayed in Brittany’s condo, last night in Megan’s townhome and tonight I will stay on the right side of Bailey’s bed.
At one point in the past year, I stopped caring about personal space. I gave up the fear of asking or intruding. Instead I started being thankful for the kindness and asked myself, “Am I being the type of friend who would offer up my bed?”
2. It takes 100 takes.
In last year’s birthday blog post, I described how 26 was spent learning new things – from chess to piano to Spanish. While 27, I narrowed my focus (it’s okay to quit piano lessons) and concentrated on learning photography. Though I’m still struggling to understand the intricacies of aperture settings and appropriate lighting, there is one thing I’ve learned for sure.
No one looks perfect in the first shot. Or often even the 50th. No matter how gorgeous the girl has been or how hunky my male models might be, it takes 100 takes for a few good photos. It’s a lesson that extends to nearly everything in life – from blind dates to business ideas.
3. There’s such thing as too much bacon.
27 could be categorized as the great rise and fall of bacon.
The switch to real bacon – vs. turkey – was a turning point for me. The crispy edges but tender middle provided motivation to get through Crossfit each morning. Similar to guys I like, I wanted to enjoy it every day, and that’s what I did. For months. Cholesterol, shmolesterol.
… Until that one batch that was a little too thick. It’s okay, I’ll give it another try.
… And then the bag that was kind of stale-ish. No prob, I’ll hit up Whole Foods.
However, when I hit my third plate of I-might-get-salmonella bacon, I realized the Universe was telling me something: “I tried to say it nicely, but you wouldn’t listen… Back the fuck off.”
Most things – and people – are best enjoyed in moderation. And it makes you appreciate them that much more on brunch dates and holiday breakfast buffets. No need to go HAM.
4. Being a chameleon isn’t cool.
Remember being at summer camp and there’s that one hot counselor who everyone wants to get in the canoe with? But if you weren’t out in the middle of the woods, away from the rest of the male population, he might be “nerdy cute” at best?
That’s how it was when I met a young business owner at an entrepreneur meet up. He was showing me photos of mountain repelling. Oh cool, I want to try that. And camping out of the back of a VW. I love VW’s! And inviting me to weekly hiking meet ups. Yeah, that sounds fun! I’m a big hiker.
But then I abruptly stopped myself and said, “No, actually, I don’t really like hiking that much. I might go once a year. I whine. And scoot on my butt the whole way down. No thanks.”
I realized I needed to stop being a chameleon around every cute guy and be me: I’m not outdoorsy. I’ve outgrown most EDM. The ocean scares the crap out of me. I will never be a New Yorker. I don’t understand football. I like Crossfit. And I don’t care which Tinder matches that rules out.
Oh, and I actually hated summer camp.
5. Wear a thong swimsuit while you can.
Or do anything else that your 80 year old self would have wished they had done.
6. You’re probably seeking validation from someone.
“Why am I not fun around my family like I am with my friends? Or why does it take 7 beers to get there?” This was the question I asked myself, especially while they were seriously questioning my life choices this year. Playing over our conversations, I finally saw the problem: I desperately wanted their approval. And it was stressing me out.
In the same way that I lived off their praise while growing up, a huge chunk of my self-worth was still wrapped around them telling me, “Good job! You’re awesome.” I practiced letting go of approval when my mom came for Mother’s Day, and we had one of my favorite weekends together. Instead of talking about work or explaining my life choices, we enjoyed karaoke singing and dancing at dive bars.
Seek validation from yourself and fun memories from others.
7. The best part about butterflies…
This morning I received a Happy Birthday text from my friend and old roommate in Scottsdale that included: When you moved into my place nearly 3 years ago you said you wanted to move to LA or San Francisco, and look where you are now!
The best part about butterflies? They fucking fly.
It’s the use of their wings. Not how beautiful they are or how far they can span. It’s the fact that they go places the caterpillar never dreamed possible.
Today I’m 28. I’m traveling to Barcelona for two weeks in August. Sure, it’s not a few months like I imagined, and I don’t have a regretful butterfly forever printed on my wrist. But I feel very much like one nonetheless.
Because this morning as I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, windows open and music up, on my way to celebrate my birthday with friends down the coast in L.A., it kind of felt like flying.