Guys. I turned 28 this week! And since I’m kind of a birthday diva, I’m going to try to squeeze every bit of excitement I can out of having a reason to celebrate.
Side note: It’s on the same day as George Washington’s birthday, so, it’s kind of a big deal.
As I was savoring my annual birthday-eve bourbon, I started to take note of the highlights of my 27th year on this planet. Here is what I came up with:
1. Summiting Mt. Washington in winter
A winter ascent of Mt. Washington tops my ‘best-of’ moments not just because it was badass to climb the highest peak in the Northeast during the heart of winter, but because it was a feat of persistence. The first time, we were foiled by a man in our group. We shall refer to him as John. John came unprepared to the guided trek, and brought our hopes of sweet, sweet success and glory at the mountaintop crashing down when we were barely halfway up. He couldn’t continue, our guide told us, so we would have to turn back.
We drowned our sorrows in burgers and hoppy beers at a crowded pub. With Leah, the other hiker in our group who was just as eager to summit, we batted around the idea of making another attempt. But by the time we returned to Boston and a few weeks had passed, I was ready to shelf the whole thing and move on to another challenge.
That was until Leah followed up. She contacted us to ask if we were interested in making an appointment for a private ascent – just the three of us and a guide – with no bozos to foil us. Chris didn’t hesitate. I was uncertain.
Maybe I was afraid. With no John to hold us back, I would have to face the possibility of my own limitations. Maybe this felt like a follow-up, a re-do, an attempt to prove ourselves rather than a new adventure. Nonetheless, I agreed.
So in March, we re-packed all of our gear and met up with Leah to make the three-hour drive back to New Hampshire. We strapped on our mountaineering boots, clipped back into our crampons and tracked back up the same route. It wasn’t easier, the second time around, but it was worth it. We summited the mountain in whiteout conditions. And it felt like an amazing accomplishment.
2. Visiting Dogfish Head brewery
Mid-April last year, I made a pilgrimage down to Milton, Delaware to visit what I consider to be the holy grail of microbrews and hoppy beers – Dogfish Head. It was too early in the season to really enjoy the Rehoboth Beach, but it was the perfect time to linger at the brewery bar, sampling the full spectrum of ales and lagers alongside scruffily bearded veterans of the beverage industry.
3. Vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard (for a weekend, in a tent)
I have a habit of taking fancy things and turning them into the basic. So when I planned a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, I browsed cute bed and breakfasts, but settled instead for the only campground on the entire island.
Because it was off-season, it was way more affordable than I thought it would be. And we did indeed make the most of it by renting bikes and pedaling across the island to visit towns to visit beaches. We sipped microbrews under a pergola listening to live music in the afternoon heat, munched sushi next to the seashore and sampled finely crafted old fashioneds at a whiskey bar.
It was a great, if off-beat way, to enjoy something that felt so New England before we left the region.
4. Receiving our assignments for Spain
Obviously, moving to Spain has been the biggest event that’s happened this year. That’s why I’m writing this blog. It’s meant a change in career. A change in location. A change in language and in culture.
The placement emails we received last summer were dominos that started the whole chain reaction. I can hardly capture in words the excitement I felt to have confirmation that my life was going to shift in ways I couldn’t really imagine. And those differences have really dominated my 27th year.
Some days, I have enough perspective to know that living in Europe is an amazing. Other days, I get buried by fears and anxieties. But overall I know it’s something I am going to look back on and remember as an event that shaped my perspective for the rest of my life.
5. My grandfather’s celebration of life
This makes my ‘best’ list with a bit of a caveat. I debated whether it belonged because it looked like I was lumping it in with a bunch of other highlights, successes, good times, fond memories. So after deleting it and adding it back in a few times, I decided to keep it. It was one of the most important events of my 27th year, and it was an experience I value highly.
My grandfather passed away September 2014, and my grandmother arranged to have his celebration of life over the 4th of July last year. It was a generous move on her part, because it gave us all time to plan travel and an opportunity to gather. My family assembles annually for an Independence Day celebration. We call it the family campout and spend the weekend/week at my grandparents’ property on Mudhen Lake in Northern Wisconsin. This year, we didn’t keep up with our usual traditions, but we still got to be together.
In its own way, spending the weekend in a cabin and remembering my grandfather with my family was one of the best moments of the near. It was certainly one of the most special.
6. November Project on Long Wharf
This is sort of a way for me to sneak November Project onto this list because I loved coming home from every single workout I went to (even if I didn’t love getting up for them). It’s also a way for me to talk about how much I miss showing up to Harvard Stadium, running across Boston to find Monday morning workouts and generally feeling like I could push myself harder, faster, further than ever before. OK. I’ll stop.
However, this one morning did sort of feel like an extra special gift for two reasons:
- It was in my favorite spot in Boston
- It was SUPER close to my apartment in the North End – which meant not running my ass off to get there in time
Yeah, a bum who was rudely awakened yelled at me as Chris was wheelbarrowing me across the wharf. Yeah, maybe I got some glass pressed into my palms in the process, but it was still awesome.
7. Making it out of Boston alive
Even though it’s the seventh on the list, this might actually be the event of which I’m most proud. It was definitely the hardest.
The morning we were due to leave Boston for good, I awoke at 6:30 a.m. (A feat in itself given that we had our going away party the night before.) I looked around our apartment and was frightened to see just how much stuff we still had to fit in the back of Chris’ Jeep Wrangler – which was already packed floor to ceiling with our belongings.
There I was on the side of a busy road with morning rush-hour traffic zooming past me. Trucks nearly clipping the doors as I attempted to shove picture frames and pillows into the nooks and crannies of the trunk. It wasn’t working. There was no room. I was sweating. The minutes were ticking by. We were supposed to already be gone.
So I did what any other sane person would do during the middle of a cross-country move with a 12-hour road trip ahead of them: I started pulling things out of the car and piling them onto the sidewalk. Some of it couldn’t come. What didn’t make the cut, I juggled in my arms over to the trash can at the end of the sidewalk and jammed them into the door. People in business casual were strolling past. It was a Monday morning, now past 8 A.M. Kerplunk, goodbye. Kerplunk, goodbye. They were staring at me.
By the time I managed to slam the hatch shut and climb into the front seat, I was so relieved that I could hardly be sad about leaving Boston behind. It was a disaster and I am seriously thankful I made it out alive (and without killing Chris. Love you, Chris).
8. Roadtrip from Boston to Indianapolis to Boulder to Dallas
This is more or less a part deux to the above, but it feels like a separate feat worth recognizing. Chris and I love road trips. We dig them independently, and we’ve found we enjoy them together. And somehow, this mutual fondness prompts us to make UNREASONABLE journeys across the country (like a 24-hour straight haul from Buffalo to Boulder). I guess you could say we get a little too big for our britches.
Our departure from Boston was no different. The same morning we heaved and shouldered our final belongings into the Jeep, we were due by night in Indianapolis. There were plenty of times I didn’t think we were going to make it, like when:
- We got such a late start
- We got stuck in traffic for an hour in New York
- We weren’t even in Indiana yet and it was past midnight
But we did make it eventually. And then we pushed on another 9 hours north towards Siren, Wisconsin. And after a day of rest, back 15 hours southwest to Colorado. And at the end of it all, Chris drove an solo 11-hour stretch to finish in Dallas. I think we should have said a little prayer for the fact that his car didn’t break down and we didn’t have personal items spilling out the windows the entire route.
9. Successfully getting everything packed for Spain
It’s not easy to pack up everything you’re going to want to need into one carry-on bag and one hiking backpack. It’s actually kind of miserable. If you want to know more about what it’s like, you can even check out this entire blog post I dedicated to it.
I cried a couple of times. I sat on the floor defeated surrounded by clothes. I thought about missing the plane to buy more time. But finally, by some miracle, I cinched those bags shut and hid the rest of my discarded belongings in a closet at Chris’ parents’ house. And in that moment, I couldn’t have felt like more of an accomplished human being.
10. Skiing the Alps
As one of the last things I did in my 27th year (we were there just a week before my bday), this was definitely among the coolest. Perhaps it’s just because I like the mountains, or maybe it’s because it was so unexpected. Chris’ sister invited us to come along with her and her husband on a ski trip to Innsbruck, Austria, over President’s Day weekend.
At first, I was pretty skeptical about it. On a 700 euro a month budget, we’re not exactly in the best financial position to take once-in-a-lifetime vacations. But then I looked into it, and discovered that it was totally do-able between cheap airfare from Madrid to Munich and lift tickets that were very reasonably priced. It might have taken 12 hours of travel each way, but there we were, riding in a gondola to the top of a glacier in-between craggy black mountains of the Austrian Alps.
It would have been even cooler if I was a better skier. As it was, I carved down the mediocre slopes and nervously made my way to the bottom of steeper runs – careful not to get in the way of faster, more confident skiers who were sashaying across the mountain with ease.
But once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are just that for a reason. You can’t wait around for better conditions. Sometimes, you just gotta go for it 🙂
Cheers to 28!
You might think that turning 28 would make me feel old, like my 20s are slipping away from me. But that’s not the case at all. I’m glad with each passing year to be more aware and comfortable with myself.
As great as the last year was, I’m looking forward to making the next year even more memorable and meaningful. And I wanted to say a special thanks to everyone who helped me make 27 as wonderful and successful as it was. I couldn’t have done it on my own.