26 things that I experienced when I was 26 years old

It’s January 26. Write a post in which the number 26 plays a role.

26 things that I experienced when I was 26 years old

1. Broken heart. My then-boyfriend Nic was cheating on me with a woman  whom he later married. I found them at a Bennigan’s and he formally dumped me on my 26th birthday at a Red Lobster. There are so many reasons to find pathos in that story, including our restaurant choices, but mostly I just remember that it hurt. A lot.

2. Shifting my consciousness to systemic thinking. I had spent a year doing social service ministry, growing increasingly frustrated that we couldn’t fix broken systems, just apply bandages to hurting people. I realized I needed to learn more so I decided to find a graduate program that would teach me how to think about systems. That was the beginning of my transition from a human services worker to a social worker.

3. The Corvette Museum. angka-26

4. My first Corvette ride and the official “corvette driver wave.”

5. Learning about radio. I worked in an AM Gospel Music station in a double wide trailer. I learned how to turn on the transmitter, how to switch to the emergency transmitter, how to speak into a microphone and a whole lot about gospel music.

6. Pet sitting was a viable career option.

7. Bowling Green, KY had several alternative and green product stores.

8. Traveling with kittens loose in your car is both cute and ridiculous.

9. The 11 hour trip from Pgh to my Kentucky home sucked whether I went through KY/WV or Ohio. One time I had to stop at a motel with a dog, 2 kittens and a bird.

10. Target. There was a Target in Clarksville, TN and I fell in love.

11. A deep and abiding sense of loneliness.

12. The information that I had been on the wrong medication for three solid years resulting in a very serious health crisis and my formal introduction to “community mental health” which was a step above “student intern provided mental health services” to be fair.

13. The stigma of mental health. My employer told me I was “deeply disturbed.” He was a priest with no access to my health records. That did irreparable damage to me faith in Christianity. Two other men have used that same phrase to me since then and there’s a lot they have in common.

14. The Unitarian-Universalist Church.

15. The stigma of asking about God and Jesus at the Unitarian-Universalist Church.

16. My first cell phone.

17. Broomstick skirts

I honestly can’t think of anything else. There are some years or periods of your life that are defined by sadness or loss or worse. This was not the worst year of my life, but it feels like a lost year – a year that I haven’t yet incorporated into a compassionate understanding of myself. I just feel sad for that young woman struggling to figure things out. Ironically, at the time I thought the end of my relationship with Nic was the worst thing ever – and really it was just not that at all. It hurt, but it ripped open this whole other series of things that probably doomed the relationship regardless. 26 year olds who are taught to go to college, get married, have kids, etc feel a breakup at age 26 quite keenly. I had no idea what was yet to come, just a growing restlessness with that general expectation. 

26 was a hard year for me. It was on my 27th birthday that I decided it all had to change – I moved back to Pittsburgh a few weeks later, I enrolled in the MSW program and found a job, I hibernated in my parent’s basement to heal and rejuvenate. I listened to the Indigo Girls a lot and reacquainted myself with my hometown as an adult who was permitted to drive on the Parkway 🙂   And so 26 led to 27. 26 was the year that trying to meet expectations caught up with me and I was forced to take a hard adult look – on my own – at what I expected from my life.

I don’t think I have a single photo of that year, not of me nor my life. And here at barely 4 weeks into 2014, I have over 500 photos on cell phone. Goes to show how things do get better.

Wait, I lied – I forgot that I had this photo of my two kitties, Patience and Prudence. When I moved back to Pgh, my brother took them away from me and put them in a shelter. Wow, that’s a sad memory. But they were sweet kitties.

Patience (l) and Prudence (r)
Patience (l) and Prudence (r)

Thanks for hanging in there during year 26, younger version of Sue. You did good with what you had.

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