Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Oldest I've Been & the Youngest I'll Ever Be Again

I'm looking at the end of another decade, and this year I'm feeling pretty introspective. These days, I feel like I know who I am. I accept that I'm brassy, that I'm opinionated to a fault, that I set high expectations for myself and therefore expect others to meet those high expectations as well. In short, in the last couple years I've become a confident woman who knows my mind and speaks it unapologetically.

But I wasn't always that way.

My teens in three words: lost, anxious, lonely. I suffered from crippling social anxiety. Like most teens, I was self-conscious and insecure. I hated everything about myself, from my hair and skin to my awkward sense of humor.
Brittany helped get me through middle and high school and pretty much life in general. Here we are in DC in 2000. Check out my really cool white Baby G watch and disposable camera.
You'd never know it. My defense mechanism was to act confident and a little weird; I wore my weirdness like a badge of honor. I participated in class, went to parties, and played sports, but inside I was falling apart every day. In my teens, I learned that even the people who look shiny and perfect are struggling. I learned empathy because I was suffering myself. I learned that education, reading, and writing could help me escape the world when I was feeling particularly anxious or depressed.

Despite my struggles, I made some amazing friends who are still my touchstones today - they know me better than anyone and, because they've been there since the beginning, I know they'll always be there.

Three words to describe my 20s: adventure, self-realization, growth. It's funny how different your early twenties are from the later twenties. In my 20s, I finally began to see my value and embrace who I am. I discovered my love of and talent for teaching. I had never done anything before that made me feel so useful and valuable. Like I had a purpose. Through teaching, I developed real confidence. When you have such a heavy responsibility on your shoulders, you have to live up to it!
Notes from my students in my first or second year of teaching.
I got married. I bought a house. I traveled. I grew in my career. I made friends and let some go; I learned what real friendship is. I learned to balance my priorities and my budget. I learned to run. I learned to race. I learned what it was to test my boundaries and overcome obstacles that were entirely of my own making.
21 years old and enjoying Barcelona.
My first solo race at 25 years old.
My last leg of Ragnar, a defining moment for me...27 years old.
And now, 30. I'm looking forward to 30. When I see how much I've grown and how much better life has gotten as it goes on, I can only think that my 30s will bring that much more goodness! I'm hoping that this next decade brings more self-awareness, strength, and courage. I'm determined to nurture my friendships and drop those in my life who are detrimental or hold me back. I plan to be a powerhouse.

And I know capping off my 20s in the best way possible means doing something I discovered and learned to love during these last ten years...running a race. See you on the other side, friends!

How have you changed over the years?
ABK

23 comments:

Gulf Girl said...

You are wonderful!

Megan @ Meg Go Run said...

Happy Birthday and welcome to the 30s! Your 30s will rock because clearly you already spent time figuring out who your are, embracing it, and getting your shit together! I definitely changed a lot between my early 20s and early 30s. I really think I have to credit being married for a lot of that. Being married forces you to be the best person you can be each and every day. It forces you to be mature and responsible. Now I'm not saying you have to be married to grow up or that I wouldn't have matured if I hadn't gotten married. Clearly that is not needed! And of course I don't need a man to figure out who I am. But it is challenging living and sharing your life with someone and it certainly tests you! So I've been tested in ways during my late 20s.

I hope your birthday weekend and your race are awesome!!!! :) What a great way to ring in a new decade.

Montana Ross said...

I'm glad you're looking forward to 30- me too! I love to look back and see how much has changed over the years. I'm also glad you had a friend to get you through the rough years...that's very important to most teens self-identity. Hopefully we continue to get to know each other better! And Happy Early Birthday! :-)

Tales from the Back of the Pack said...

Happy Birthday! You're coming into the next phase of your life with an awesome foundation. You can only flourish! It'll be my privilege to follow your journey!

Girl Goes Running said...

Happy Birthday and congratulations on an amazing marathon today!!!!!

Kristina said...

I'm so glad I got to celebrate your birthday and your marathon PR with you this weekend!

You've been such an inspiration for me the last couple of years, but especially over the last couple of months. Seeing you finish the Cape Coral marathon with such determination and strength is something I'll never forget.

I'm so glad you got your PR today!!!!!

yogaontherun said...

Happy birthday!!! It was great seeing you this weekend! A PR is a fantastic birthday gift and I'm so glad that you nabbed it. Your 30s are going to be great! Have a good trip back home and have a great b-day!!

Helly B said...

Oh I've totally changed. I'm 31 and I must say, the time I've spent in the 30s have so far been the best in my life :)

Happy birthday!! xoxo

Tara Mallory said...

You are such an inspiration Ali! I love reading your blog and seeing you triumph at this thing called life. Enjoy the next chapter. Happy Birthday!!!!

Janelle @ Run With No Regrets said...

Happy birthday! I will be turning 30 this year too, and I applaud you on all of your growth and accomplishments over the years. It's been great getting to know you through your blog, I hope you had a wonderful day! <3

Annie Crow said...

Awesome. I wish I had had your self-knowledge and confidence at age 30. I admire you greatly and hope to see what you do in your next decade!

Ali K. said...

<3

Ali K. said...

I think marriage has helped change me, too. It's not a popular view to take, I think, especially as a feminist. But being married has taught me to appreciate the little things, to be careful with others, and to compromise. I also don't think I'd have the confidence without Matt at my side. He truly believes I can do ANYTHING.

Ali K. said...

30 is going to look good on us :)

Ali K. said...

Thank you!

Ali K. said...

Thank you!!

Ali K. said...

It meant so much to have you there!! Seriously, it made the day THAT much better!!

Ali K. said...

I'm so glad we got to meet in person!! I hope we get to run together again soon!

Ali K. said...

I'm glad your 30s have been great; I have high hopes for mine!

Ali K. said...

Thank you Tara!!

Ali K. said...

Thank you, Janelle!

Ali K. said...

Thanks Anne! I hope that at 35 I look back and think, "wow, I thought I had confidence THEN?! Look at me NOW!" haha

Megan Michael said...

Well I think the key is that we don't think women HAVE to be married to learn those things and feel confident. We are still awesome feminists!