My 20th Year

I don’t measure years in the traditional sense. For me, a new year doesn’t start with fireworks and a New Year’s Day brunch. It starts January 11th – my birthday.

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I wanted to talk about what happened while I was 20. It’s been a year of lots of inner and outer change, and I think maybe it would be nice for me to re-cap it all and save it away for a memory. Maybe it will even inspire you to look at the good times and the bad and how they’ve influenced you. I’ll warn you, it sounds like a complete whine-fest for a while, but it gets better. That’s life, right?

Warning: this post is a little long. If you’re busy now, bookmark this and come back. If you’re ready to settle in for a good read, buckle up and have a snack.

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January 

My birthday is on the 11th and my family crowded into a table at the Grand Luxe Cafe. I love my birthday dinners because it means one, big family dinner, 3 appetizers, and yes, we’ll definitely have dessert. I knew a lot would change in the coming year, but I remember being really glad that having my family, laughing and being the loudest ones in the restaurant, would never change.

I already knew that Cam and I were planning to transfer, and my family did, too. I wasn’t worried about picking classes or an apartment yet, because I still had a while. I was just excited about the prospect of a new start. I jumped at any chance to drive downtown for dinner or errands because I thought of it as my new home.

I couldn’t wait.

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February

Cam and I started the exhaustive search for apartments. Let me tell you, looking for housing in a city is way harder than looking for housing in a college town. The highest rent in Fayetteville that I know of is actually cheaper that what I pay now. Plus, you’re options aren’t all in one area. You have to pick by neighborhood – this one has a good commute, this one is safe, this one is near a grocery store, etc. etc. Truthfully, it’s all one big headache.

Late February, there was good news and bad. The good news was that I was going to my first ever blog conference. The bad news was, Cameron’s grandfather got sick. I had a great time at Thrive and got to be roomies with Tiffani for the weekend. Later that same weekend, I went to brunch with Hannah and now we are super close! The weekend did end with me going to see Cam’s grandpa in the hospital, but I’m so thankful for that time I got to spend with him.

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March (Part 1) 

Cam flew back and forth between Fayetteville and Houston to visit his grandpa. It was incredibly hard to see someone I loved so much and their family so hurt, but sometimes something like that can really bring you together.

I spent a lot of time alone, and it was the first time I ever felt the lonely and depressive feelings that I’ve combatted this semester. There were a couple times where Cam was away for an entire week, and while I was glad he got to be with his family during that difficult time, I didn’t realize how much his absence would mean for me.

(Little did I know, God was preparing me for this entire year where I’d end up doing long distance with Cam and living by myself. It’s funny how things work out.)

It’s like when your best friend is sick for a few days and you have to eat lunch by yourself in the cafeteria – except worse. Cam is my best friend, and without him everything was quiet and lonely. I had fun hanging out and doing an outfit shoot with my bestie, Katrina, and grabbing coffee here and there with some friends, but it was like there was a huge hole in my world.

Eventually, Cam flew back up and then we both drove down in one car for his grandfather’s funeral. It was a very sad time, but we were also blessed to be in the presence of our family as we celebrated such an amazing life.

March (Part 2) 

A week after the funeral, we came back to Houston for Spring Break. Staying home instead of traveling would give us time to apartment hunt and explore our future city. We spent afternoons near downtown, exploring neighborhoods, finding new restaurants to try, and going to museums. I was like a kid in a candy shop – here I was in one of my favorite cities on the planet and Cam got to be there with me.

I wasn’t as ecstatic about the apartments we were finding. Some were way too expensive, and I didn’t have a potential roommate to split it with. Some were smack-dab in the middle of the city and there was traffic and car horns blaring and it was overwhelming. I was still hopeful though. I kept feeling this weird sense of calm amongst all that mess, like God was telling me everything would work itself out.

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April

Still no apartment and I was getting frantic. The roommate situation was shot because by then, everyone was paired up and situated for the coming semester. I knew a couple people that were going to my new school, but not well enough to be like, “Hey, need a roommate?!” I tried to get into an on-campus apartment with a friend of mine, but she got assigned a roommate before I could even get on the waiting list.  I was also in the middle of preparing for finals, packing, and saying goodbye to friends.

I didn’t realize how much I’d miss Fayetteville until about this time. We’d never found a cute sandwich shop in town like Loafin Joes and I wasn’t going to be able to go to my Zumba classes anymore. The anxiety was really setting in, and it was pretty uncomfortable.

Recently, I shared on the blog how I stopped taking medication for anxiety after my 19th birthday. I felt really good until this month. Sure, I’d get anxious here and there when school was stressful, but that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. At this point, I began to feel anxious for no good reason and for long stretches of time, and it was a scary, familiar feeling.

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May 

The first half of May was just pure summer fun. I started working for my dad as a Marketing Intern on the 16th and I spent every free moment pushing out great, summer content for the blog that I was really proud of. I was even excited to head to my new student conference on the 25th with Cam!

The morning of the new student conference, we had to wake up super early. So early that Cam spent the night upstairs in our media room, so we could both just get up, grab a snack, and make it downtown by 7. We had to sit through tons of lectures and presentations that morning in an auditorium full of new students, and after about 5 hours, we finally got to go to our advising blocks. Cam and I were separated into our different majors, and we said goodbye for the afternoon.

After several hours, I called Cam to figure out where to meet up with him so we could leave and I could hear the panic and simultaneous sadness in his voice as he told me how most of his classes wouldn’t transfer. (Mine were fine.) We sat in the car for over an hour and I just balled my eyes out. When we got home, I ran to my room and cried for another hour. We had no idea what we were going to do, but I was positive I couldn’t go to a brand new school and live in a big city without him.

When people say “their world came crashing down”, this is what they mean: imagine packing up your entire life for the past two years, moving it back home, researching your new school, your new apartment, and learning that it’s not going to go the way you planned. In fact, factor in the fact that you have major issues with your anxiety and the one person in your life who can spot a bad day, cheer you up, and basically put you back together again will be 500 miles away, you’ll probably have to live by yourself, and oh- the traffic SUCKS.

(And yeah, this is the whiney part of the post. Haha…sorry.)

I remember being crushed for a few days, walking around trying to figure out what I was going to do. I felt sadness like I hadn’t in a few years and I was kicking myself for letting myself get so down.

Cam and I talked a lot over the next couple days and since he could easily enroll for the classes he needed at Arkansas and finish on time, it just didn’t make any logical sense for him to go through the trouble of transferring. I told myself that I would be ok, and just hoped I was right.

June

The solo apartment search began and I actually felt excited about living by myself. I had always wanted to.

Work was going well, too. I was learning a lot being an intern at the start-up, and I was absolutely loving the effect it’s had on my own blog. One day, I decide I needed to go to Target to get some more face masks because I’d been working my butt off and needed a treat. I decided to ask Caroline to go with me for a fun sister outing, and we decided to take her car.

That’s when Caroline and I got into our accident. I remember right after, standing on the median and waiting for the tow truck and police to get there, and thinking, “Great, I probably be scared to drive now.”

#TRUE.

Driving has become a hardship for me daily now. I worry about wrecks, wet roads, and other drivers who may not be paying attention. I hate riding in the passenger seat because I feel out of control, like I can’t do anything if we were to get into a wreck. I worry that I’ll only ever get one second chance, but I know that’s just me being silly. I just have to remind myself every time I get in a car that God is good and cars are safe.

 

July 

I make myself a promise: I want to have an apartment by the fourth of July. While I don’t quite make the deadline, I sign a lease on July 8th. I’m over the moon to finally, finally have found a place! I start exploring near-by coffee shops and I spend time painting pieces for my room, living room, and kitchen. (I’ve never had all of them to myself before.) I’m excited, but I’m also sad knowing that Cam and I only have a little bit of time left in the same city.

We travel to Austin at the end of the month, and it’s one of the best trips we’ve taken. Cam is so fun to travel with because he’s easy going and doesn’t mind taking a break to come to the hotel to watch HGTV. We eat our favorite breakfast tacos, explore 6th street, and just enjoy being away from the stress for a bit.

On the way home, I cry again (poor Cameron…#IAmAMess) just thinking about how he won’t be with me the next year. I just can’t imagine getting myself up each day and going to class and fixing my own flat tire if I need to.

August

After a family beach trip, a wedding, and lots of boxes, it’s moving time. I get into my apartment on the 15th and enjoy setting things up the way I want them. Cam stayed with me for a couple days to help me unpack and go to seven different grocery stores for all the things I needed. (Have we caught on that Cam is a saint?)

It was hard to say goodbye, but I knew I was seeing him in a couple weeks for labor day. Plus, with everything so new, I was too preoccupied with being in a new area that I couldn’t notice any real feelings of nervousness or anxiety. Not till school started at least. It was tough to find my classes, figure out how to get into the parking garage (harder than it sounds), and textbooks were just a nightmare. I was rear-ended on my first day to class and Houston was in the middle of a storm system with flooding. So fun. I managed though, and slowly started easing into a routine.

September

I was loving my place, but school was a lot. I felt like my classes were more advanced than they’d ever been and I felt like all I did was read and write papers. I made a couple friends here and there and went on a few coffee dates, but primarily my days were a big question mark. Would I make it to school without a nervous breakdown? Would I finish all my work before bed? Would there be another cockroach in my sink in the morning? It was always a surprise.

I saw Cameron a lot, and long distance was better than I thought it was. Rather than feeling the absence of him, I think I felt his presence more. We called and Facetimed a lot and I realized how willing he was to be there for me, even miles away. Sure I wished he was still 15 steps away, but in an odd way, I felt thankful that I was getting an experience to become more independent.

 

October

My mental health was at like a 4 on a scale of 10. I decided I needed to talk to someone, and I turned to my blog. I shared with you guys, and better yet – I tried to share what had helped me rather than just what was plaguing me. I’d kept my anxiety under wraps for a while, but I realized letting it out was healthier. I think that was the happiest part of October – I got to influence and inspire through something that’s always been more of a burden to me. I felt hopeful at finding the light in what seemed to be a dense fog clouding my every day.

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November 

I’d say we kicked it up to about a 5 on the mental health scale. I tried to do everything in my power to make each day easier. I changed my diet, got more exercise, and scheduled more time with friends. I read, I listened to podcasts, I wrote, I painted, etc, etc.

Cam came over for Thanksgiving break, and I realized that I wasn’t where I want to be, emotionally. I was able to hide it from myself and others for a while, but Cam can read me with just a glance, so he noticed a shift. That’s when I knew I really needed to start figuring out how to make things better.

I went to Dallas for the holiday, ran my 8 miles I had been training for, and felt better than I had in a while. I decided to start pursuing joy, chasing it.

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December

*writing this part in December, hence the present tense*

The greatest challenge of joy is feeling joyful in situations that aren’t joyous. Does that make sense? The first week of the month, I learned that the house I was planning on moving in to wouldn’t be ready by January. I knew full well that I’d signed a short lease on my apartment since I was going to move into this house, and I couldn’t stay there any longer because they were tearing my building down for new construction.

I was worried about where I’d end up in limbo between my apartment and the new house, but luckily, in the short span of a week, we found an AirBnB I could stay in for most of January and February. I was relieved and felt extremely blessed that I had the means to stay somewhere in the area I had gotten so accustomed to.

Most of December, I was pretty upset in just realizing how hard the year had been on me. What started as an attempt to better myself, my job chances, and my overall well-being ended up bringing me anxiety, some depression, stress, and a dented license plate from that rear-ended episode. But, as I thought about it more and we inched closer to the New Year, I realized everything happens for a reason and that God doesn’t just place you somewhere on accident. If anything, I’d learned so much and had really grown, so I began to feel excited for 2017 and how I could grow even more.

January….so far 

I love the new year and the fresh start it brings. Even though I said I mark a new year by my birthday, there is still something so magical about the actual new year on January 1st. This New Year’s Eve was the first one I’d spent at home in three years. (Normally, my family is away on vacation at this time.) I got to go with Cam to our friend’s house and sit around playing board games until midnight. A few minutes before 2017, we all gathered in the kitchen with some drinks to toast at midnight. Right after the clock struck 12 and we toasted, hugged, and kissed, we each went around and said one word that summed up what we wanted for the New Year.

A good friend of mine (who hopefully will see this) said “better”. That brought instant tears to my eyes. We all strive to be better in the New Year and as we grow a year older, but I think this word can hold so much more than just a resolution to work out more or drink green juice. I do want to be better in 2017 and as I turn 21. I want to love more, forgive more, and fear less.

Cam went right before me and I was surprised when he said the word I was thinking of: “joy”. I shared on Instagram a month or so ago that “joy” was my one-word mantra for 2017. I can’t wait to choose joy in all that I do this year, and I’m so glad that I have the best people in my life to share in that with.

Whew. Long post, huh? 

Thanks for bearing with me. I needed to just get that all out to focus on what will be the best year yet – 21! I’m ready to finish up junior year, start an internship, move into a new place, and make great memories with my loved ones.

As always….

X,

Cristina

  • This was such an inspiring post. I’m glad your 20’s was spent with adventurous journeys and I hope there are more journeys to come! Not only has your year been a whirlwind but your whole blog has become such an inspiration and has grown immensely. I barely know you but I feel like I do because of how much personality you put in to your posts. I can’t wait to see where this New Year takes you.

    • cristina

      This might be the most touching comment ever. It’s been a crazy year, but blogging and creating a community of amazing girls has really been so rewarding and amazing. I absolutely am so glad you have enjoyed following along! Some days I feel really whiney haha, but I know that everyone goes through tough times, so it’s great to blog about it to put it into perspective. Thanks so much for your support and love!

  • Amy

    HOLY COW CRISTINA. So happy I that I got to follow your adventure via your blog and get to know you more over the past year. I loved getting a peak into your past year and hearing about all of your highs and lows. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that sooner or later we will find out those reasons. I wish you nothing but the best for 2017 and hope it’s the best year yet!
    xoxo,
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

    • cristina

      Thank you so much, Amy! You are so so sweet 🙂

  • Cristina! I literally saw you like three hours ago but this entire post brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye! I love your kind heart!

    • cristina

      Hannah I freaking miss you already please come back SOS I need someone to sing showtunes with and plan our future life traveling the world

  • Really enjoyed reading this! “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 🙂