25 Before 25
My name is Danielle and I’m 24 years old. I’m at a crossroad in my life and I know this because life sticks its tongue out at me all the time and I stick my tongue OUT right back. Sitting in this coffee shop takes me back to the glorious days of my adventures abroad. It’s feels like yesterday. I can still close my eyes and see it. I’m in the south of Spain sitting in a tiny café named Cupcakes & Go, sipping on a small glass of strong coffee, gazing out the window enamored by the rows of trees filled with oranges. I remember thinking, ‘this can’t be it.’ Although I was enjoying one of the most delicious pastries I’ve ever had, I couldn’t stomach the thought of losing my life abroad so soon. Only to return home and be forced to “join the real world.” I refused to accept graduating college, moving home, and getting a job; it would be like trading in paradise for imprisonment.
I always thought people did the things they love but I’ve often found this isn’t the case. I think it’s more common for people to get comfortable rather than work to build the life they’d dream of when they were young. If you had the option to go to college and did, and for those of us fortunate enough to study abroad, you’ve probably heard the old, (elbow, elbow) “Live it up. You won’t have these freedoms later in life.” “You’ll never have these opportunities again. Soak it up.” Fantastic, I’ll start prepping for the drab burns of the future you’ve mentioned now. I had a big problem with those ideas. I still do. Have you ever had a bad day? I mean a soul crushing, bad, disappointment of a day. It’s as if a cloud of doom is quite literally leering overhead. That’s what it was like for me living a life dictated by the idea of waiting. Waiting for Friday, waiting for summer, waiting for life. Why not now? What about recognizing we have the power to react to our situations and change the outcome? We can enjoy our journey too.
I didn’t always get it. I remember this cloud of doom moment from when I was a very little girl. My nose was bleeding and it wouldn’t stop. I was twirling in the bathroom crying. My parents were just outside with our neighbor, who also happened to be a nurse, but I wouldn’t dare go out. Even though I knew they would have helped me. Now, I dare to be vulnerable and delight in the little things. It’s the little luxuries, like snow globes of Florence, Italy from Florence, Italy, because I love Florence, Italy. (Shout out “Grazie” to my bff Emily). The little things might not seem like much until they’re gone. The little things lighten the mood and dull the sharp sting of this world matters. I want to enjoy Monday Morning. She must be crazy they say. Thanks for the support. So I stopped waiting. I stopped hiding. At this age, I wouldn’t be hiding in the bathroom anyway. I’d be hiding in the closet. Yes, surrounded by all of my gorgeous shoes because they’re gorgeous and we understand each other.
Traditionally society has worried about teenagers but people seem to forget the road of young adulthood into the rest of your life doesn’t come with a map. Much like when I climbed a volcano off the coast of Africa with only an iPhone flashlight and a prayer (TO NOT DIE), young adulthood requires getting your hands dirty and using your internal compass.
Our twenties are when some of the biggest decisions of our lives are made and it’s seriously down played. Some of us haven’t the foggiest idea on what we should do next. If you’ve ever said the phrase “I can’t adult today,” you’re my soulmate. Probably. I graduated two years ago this coming May. So I’ve been crying for almost two years now. I’m only joking. Being an adult is like having a coupon that affords you the luxury of a cool, free item, but only after you’ve spent $75 dollars and stood in a really long line. Are the predicaments true? Is everyone in the “real world” sprawling out of bed, hair all in disarray, with a half empty box of awful tasting, fat-free cookies chilling in the pantry, wishing to turn back time or speed it up? No, just me? like one time that happened though. My cookies were double stuffed. Anyway, I wouldn’t be half wrong about the rest of you. The truth is being in your 20s can feel less like a crossroad and more like you’ve somehow managed to fall in a well. “Help me. I’m poor. Help me. I’ve fallen down a well. Help me. Is this my good side?” I don’t have a good side. They’re both good. She’s cocky they say. Yes, but listen. I decided to go in search to find ‘it.’ It which can only be described as the thing that makes people whole. I must’ve been sitting at some extracurricular activity, feeling obliged to be there, racking my brain in search of what makes me tick. I actually wondered how in the world could I become one of the people living the life they desire because they had the courage and tenacity to build it. Must’ve been a clairvoyant’s idea, #25before25, dashing into my head like a 2 for 1 deal into a shopping cart. #25before25 is a challenge consisting of accomplishing twenty-five things before my 25th birthday, which is July 6th. FIREWORKS BABY! It sounds like an enormous, genius epiphany. Thank you, but let’s be real – it was a string of unfortunate events that led me to seek #25Before25. I realized I’d never spread my wings if I kept going down the same route and getting stuck in the mud.
The worst thing for me was thinking of happiness as conditional. I can’t think in terms of I’ll be happy when. I don’t want to spoil the moment. Incredible opportunities are all around and we all possess “the” greatness inside to achieve them.
In a culture obsessed with celebrities, fame and fortune, a common misconception is unless you’re a big shot you’re not relevant and certainly not extraordinary. I believe if we get in the habit of telling ourselves we’re not attractive enough, smart enough, talented enough; we’re not enough… it is extremely harmful to our potential. I would know. Danielle (ME!) has acted on all of those thoughts before. I said it in Spain, and I’m saying it now, I’m not going to crumble to the pressures of the status quo. Or rather not being it. People always bug you about the something. Are you dating? Are you married? Then if you are, where are the babies? Nice promotion….what about the house, your car, your weight? Etc. Etc. We all have the right to say, “That’s nice but, this is my time.” So I’m not exploring enchanting castles, ancient ruins, or climbing around the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’s ship these days but I will find joy in simplicities. I make a point to not drown in the everyday mundane either. Mix it up. Do something that scares you and remind yourself daily of everything you have to be grateful for. This isn’t keeping up with the Joneses and it H-E-Double-L NO, is not Keeping Up with the Kardash-yeah-yeah-ians.
I’m excited to share all the crazy, silly, different things I’m doing. I’ve dared to dream. Perhaps I knew I wanted to be brave. This working girl has put her goals to work. I’m just somebody working on living my best life….my silly, tedious, maddening, marveling, love-encompassing, fun life. Come along with me as I push my comfort zone as far and as often as I can.
NOTE: The reasons I decided to do 25 things before I turn 25 are threefold:
I. I don’t want to forget what it’s like to live. I’ve started saying no to things that no longer serve me and yes to things that scare me. Neither is easy to do. Leaving my friends at Toastmasters and the decision to step down from my Secretary position of Zeta Tau Alpha’s Dallas Area Night Alumni Chapter was difficult and sad for me. Ultimately, I knew I had other things ahead. My goal is to live wholeheartedly. If you’re wondering what I mean, any decision resulting in me feeling like I’ve betrayed myself, I know is the wrong choice. Sometimes it means I eat both desserts, stay up late, and give zero fucks. (Sorry – the phrase has no word choice equivalent.)
II. To give myself permission to become the person I want to be. I know failure is part of it but no one who ever succeeded did so without being willing to fail. For the record, I am having truck loads of fun and become more assertive in important matters. That’s not to down play real life hardships. I’m not talking about the only facials your getting these days when your dump the hotdog water out to add to your mac and cheese “salad.” Tragic but not quite what I was going for. I want to take a second to pause. We travel through life and hope the good out weights the bad. Fortunately for me it has and I spend my energy focusing on gratitude every day. Part of being the person I want to become is acknowledging what I’ve been through, and as a compassionate person, what others have struggled with. The world isn’t fair; cruel even. Not everyone is kind. Some people are vindictive and malicious; reckless. I know we wrestle with things that break us or limit us: sickness, crime, poverty, self-harm, violence, self-esteem, and extremely unfortunate, highly devastating events. Someone degraded, violated, hurt, or left. I feel for you. I understand. The goal is to push the limits. It’s to share our stories, create a world we want to live in, make today and tomorrow a little bit easier. I owe it to myself and this world to be the best I can be. That’s the only way to leave a positive mark. I truly believe we have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others and in our own. My blog is written with the intent to not ignore the truth, but do awesome hard things despite of the obstacles.
III. Lastly, I wanted to challenge myself. I’m tired of being afraid. Sure, life will beat you down, probably more than once. To me that’s part of it. I see the will of strong spirited, hopeful, hardworking people is – IT’S UNSTOPABLE. I’ve seen their attitudes. These are the courageous, joyful individuals who are rays of light to everyone around them. I thought to myself THAT is who I want to be. All of my goals are smart. S – Specific; M- Measureable; A- Achievable; R – Relevant; T- Time-oriented.
Sharing my experiences with you all will be something between walking into a glass door, looking up to see you’re not the only one laughing at me. It’s also doing something awesome; looking out into the audience and seeing the people who’ve helped get me there.
It’s hard changing your life. If you’re reading this it’s because you believe, maybe not in me, maybe you believe in Vodka or no pants are the best pants. BUT THIS IS ABOUT ME. Back to my story. It’s true when you go after what you want life becomes more meaningful. Success stories hardly touch on the struggle but I will. I don’t always sleep well, or enough, but I sleep better knowing I’ve invested in myself. With this notion alone, I know I can do anything. Except watch “The Revenant” or any other movie with higher than PG violence. Or wear Crocs because I don’t want to.
If you remember anything from my blog I hope it’s this: Find out who you are, be genuine to your authentic self, and share your spark with the world. It will shine like no other because no one is you. Life will beat you down whether you truly live or not. So you might as well throw your best punches, wear you’re nicest clothes, and tell your most ridiculous stories. YAY, enough of the blooming jibber jabber. Stay tuned for more posts on my adventures. Coming soon! Besos xx,
Danielle T. M. S. Butler
In no particular order……
25 Things Before 25
- Run a half marathon
- Learn to do a cartwheel
- Go to bed early; wake up early.
- Read 10-20 new books
- Learn to Irish Dance
- Go somewhere I’ve never gone before
- Do something I’ve never done before
- WRITE! And Write some more!
- Sew my own dress
- Give back 😀
- Prepare a new recipe
- Learn to prepare a family recipe on my own
- See the movie “Finding Dory”
- Go on a nice date
- Perform something for an audience on stage
- Have something I write published
- Get a new car
- Strengthen myself on my career path
- Go to a film festival
- Play a new piece on my violin Vivian
- Keep up my Spanish
- Ride a mechanical bull
- TBD: Skydiving indoors; Paint ball
- TBD: Murder Mystery Dinner; TED Talk Live;
- TBD: Hike up a mountain; Scavenger Hunt