During my early 20’s while I was struggling to balance school, work and a social life–my friend who was in his 30’s said that he would give ANYTHING to repeat his 20’s. Fast forward to the future, here I am–quickly approaching my 30th birthday. And as I reflect back on my yesteryears, I can’t help but think about my friend and what he said to me. But then I realized something extremely important during my moment of introspection.
“I would NEVER repeat my 20’s”
Okay, so maybe it’s different for you. Maybe your 20’s were filled with positive experiences combined with some of the best moments of your young life. Or maybe you’re like me–who has a billion things scribbled down on some giant list buried beneath the surface never to be talked about or thought of ever again. If I could write a memoir about my 20’s it would be titled;
‘Why the FUCK did I do that?’
On a more serious note–and to be completely transparent–my 20’s were filled with some painful moments. Sure, I may have had the face of a nineteen-year-old (as many would claim) and my metabolism was a tad bit faster but in terms of life experiences–my 20’s were a complete shit show.
I was 21 when I graduated junior college. To some that sounds normal, but not for me. It had taken me four years to graduate from a community college when it should have taken two. To my credit–I just didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But I did know that I wanted to be a writer. That’s what I truly wanted. That’s what I’ve always wanted. That part of my life made sense. But as per usual, my parents took a shit all over it. Instead of getting some type of inspirational yet motivating pep talk, I was slapped with a cold response–Megan, writing will get you nowhere. You will be poor and you’ll never make any money. It was absolutely soul-crushing. It’s like having a puppy for five minutes and then having someone come over, take the puppy and tell you that you don’t deserve to have a dog. Sad shit, am I right?
I sat there feeling even more unsure of myself. Was my writing not good enough? How come I couldn’t do what I wanted? People were going to school to ‘master’ a skill. Writing is a skill that I wanted to excel in and use as the base of my career. But my parents didn’t believe in me and because of that, I abandoned my dream that I had since I was a child. Completely disregarding how writing made me feel, I set forth on this path that I thought was the right decision–the only decision. I took the easy route because I was told that I just wouldn’t be able to chase my own dream.
I ended up cruising through junior college for four years because I lacked motivation. And I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life which is absolutely ridiculous since–how the hell does someone have that all figured out in their early twenties? (Well–technically–I wanted to be a writer but that got shit on so here I was staring at an empty whiteboard.) The most frustrating part about this is that most of my peers had moved out when they reached eighteen and they were enrolling in universities. Some were pursuing fields in medicine. Others were pursuing a career in law. Don’t mind me guys–I’m just here staring at my dream that’s dead and buried while trying to craft a fake one to please my folks. I’m fine. Everything is cool.
Through all the college courses I had taken during my time in a ‘two-year college’ I had developed a liking for Anthropology. Was it something that I wanted to do since I was a kid? No. But I was definitely interested in learning about various cultures and human societies. And I guess I could see myself working in a museum as a Collections Manager. All of these seemed much more plausible in my parent’s eyes even though on my end it was a complete front. In an effort to try and make my parents proud, I applied for a university. And with my ‘newfound career’–I would just have to go to school and live in textbooks until I reached my 50’s. I could do that right?
One would like to believe at this point that my twenties were a time where college was my only ‘hurdle’ and if you thought that–bless your heart. Because the universe is super forgiving and amazing during your 20’s, I experienced a messy as fuck break-up at the start of the semester at the university. Gee–thank’s universe.
Just to provide some backstory here, I had been juggling this two-year relationship while going to school and work full-time (and if you don’t know what that’s like–well, let’s just say that I’d rather light myself on fire). Our relationship had hit a snag–a fork in the road. I was working and going to school full-time, we were coming up on two years. Was it really all that bad that I wanted to know where this was going? Are we gonna shit or get off the pot? This resulted in many arguments which resulted in one giant fight. After a long night of drinking at a dive bar due to that ridiculous fight, I woke up to a text-message breakup. Yeah. A text-message breakup.
This wasn’t like my previous break-ups where I’d cry a little and then get over it later with a box of pizza. Two years–gone. This was two years of my life. Two year’s that I’d never get back. But as I look back on it now, I’m glad it happened–truly. It needed to. On a positive note–it was one less thing I had to juggle. But did I deserve that type of treatment? No. At this point in my horrible story, I wish I could tell you at this moment that I had met someone amazing who took away all that pain (but he doesn’t show up for a few more years.) I wish I had some positive story to give you here. But this is the part where shit takes a turn for the worst…
What I’m about to tell you is not an easy thing for me to admit. And for a while I denied it. I chalked it up to post-breakup blues…
I had an alcohol problem.
To preface this–I had never been an insane drinker. Sure–I had attended a few parties and had a few drinks here and there but I was never to the point of blacking out. I had never allowed myself to reach that point. I’d order maybe two cocktails and then I’d be done. I just wasn’t the kind of person that got smashed with their head winding up in the toilet. Friday nights usually consisted of me laying in bed and–writing. Megan? An insane drinker? Hardly.
I went out every night to a bar. And it feels absolutely strange and extreme now that I think back on it. I know it seems like I’m exaggerating here but I’m not. Frequenting dive bars became something of a normal occurrence for me. It didn’t matter if I had work, school or some giant exam the next day–alcohol was the center of it all. I’d pound glass upon glass of liquor until I lost track. I couldn’t believe how careless I was. I was the problem. I was my own worst enemy.
I was always drunk in some way or another. After I went to work in the morning, I would hop in my car, drive to school, get a drink and then attend my night classes. This was my first semester as a freshman in a university and I was loaded almost all the time. Not just some of the time–literally, almost, ALL the time. When I was in class, I always had a light/medium buzz going on. And to mask the alcohol on my breath, I would chew gum. Looking back on it now–I missed so many opportunities of going out with my new-found friends I had made. I could have gone out and had fun with them but instead, I’d drive home and continue right where I left off with some booze I had picked up from the liquor store. I just stopped caring.
Binge drinking is definitely unhealthy, but drinking alone to the point where you pass out is equally as bad. I’d sneak a bottle into my room, study, and get plastered all by myself until I fell asleep. And then I’d wake up with a throbbing hangover with last night’s mascara smeared all over my eyes. My logic at the time was this–if I drank–I would forget how vulnerable and sad I felt. I would also forget the fact that this entire break-up had happened and how painful it was. I would also forget the fact that I felt so incredibly lost in my academic career. I just couldn’t bring myself to deal with everything all at once. Anxiety? Depression? Stress? It all became this swirling vortex of hell with hornets thrown inside of it. As a result, I decided to numb all of it with alcohol. Refusing to get over it like an emotionally healthy person, I was practically destroying my liver. If it wasn’t happening already, I was well on my way to having a full-blown drinking problem (of which, unfortunately, runs in my family). My mother was so terrified of my constant drinking that she almost flew me out of state just so I could recover. That’s how extreme shit got.
To further illustrate this problem, I had attended a house party one evening with a group of friends. And it was a shit show, to say the least. If I wasn’t pounding shots of Sailor Jerry, I was downing Mojitos. And if I wasn’t drinking Mojitos, I was finishing up cups of beer after consistently losing at beer pong. I was mixing. That night I dry heaved for three hours until I passed out on the couch. Looking back on it now, I’m relieved that I was surrounded by people who cared about my well-being that night. If I was in the midst of malicious people–who knows what could have happened to me. I’m forever grateful.
I know that you’re sitting there bathing in judgment. Fine. Go ahead. I know that most of you are reading this and saying to yourself–‘Meg it was just a horrible break-up and you drank to numb the pain’. But here’s the thing–I had no limits. And when you think you have no limits–you’re just asking for a disaster. And sure, the break-up was painful but there were other contributing factors that played a role in my time with substance abuse. The break-up was the tipping point–the last straw–the gasoline to the growing flame.
I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. Was I really this girl who drank habitually? Was I really an alcoholic? And that’s when it happened–and I know it seems hard to believe, but one morning–I woke up and stopped. I had stopped drinking. The need to hop in my car and drive out to some dive bar to get hammered became pointless. The liquor bottles that I shoved under my bed were gone. My mom had stopped worrying about my well-being. And I was no longer this pile of hot mess that stumbled out of bed with last night’s regrets plastered all over my face. I was drunk on this insane amount of willpower and somehow I managed to claw my way out of the dark hole I jumped in. I was finally sober.
Unfortunately, my grades began to suffer as a result of my run-in with substance abuse. My lack of appearance in classes and my shitty effort towards my classwork had eaten away at my GPA. This was no fault but my own. I made a mistake. And now I was paying for it. Because I had attended a junior college for four years instead of two, my dad told me that I only had two years to complete my degree at a university. For the record–there’s a reason why they call it a four-year university. If you were planning to graduate in two years, you had to seriously bust your ass…
And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse–they did. During my sloppy, drunken days in college, I fell privy to online dating which I never should have started (read more about it here). As a result of my promiscuous nature, I had managed to wind up in a particular situation called–a pregnancy scare. At first, I thought it may have been stress–due to the fact that one’s lady issues are often delayed by stressful situations. But I had never been this late before. And to make matters worse–I had missed a day when taking the pill–which I had never done in the history of my time with an oral contraceptive. Needless to say–my anxiety was real as fuck.
Awaiting for results to see if there was an actual bun in my oven was quite the ‘thrill’ ride. This was unbelievably terrifying. I sat there thinking about how much of an idiot I was for winding up in this particular situation. Sitting there alone and scared seemed to make the clock tick even slower than normal. But I had to know. And I wasn’t about to take this test on my own only to freak out and not have someone walk me through my options. I began to ask myself a set of questions. What if I had been pregnant? What was I going to do? Was I ready to be a parent? God, no. I had fooled around with someone I wasn’t even in a relationship with. It was a one night stand. It happened one time. But alas–all it takes is one time. But then I began to think of school and how hard I had worked to make sure I could graduate on time. I had finally put my substance abuse to rest and now I had entered something I wasn’t even prepared to deal with. The whole thing made it impossible for me to grasp the shit storm I had created. But then I began to wonder what my parents would think of me. They would be disappointed. And disappointment is far worse than anger.
I’m happy to say that the results of the test were negative.
Towards the end of my time with the university, I managed to turn things around. My grades were improving and I was making a solid effort to actually graduate. I took part in a lot of make-up work. I actually contributed to discussions. I stayed late to study with actual study groups. This was the home stretch–I had to give it my all. But the last semester was proving to be the most difficult one yet. I couldn’t sit back and hit cruise control. This wasn’t the time to slack off. I had to graduate. I had to finish my classes with passing grades. I was running out of time. So–what did I do? Like an idiot-moron, I decided to cram all the remaining classes that I could have spread out over summer–into one final semester…
I’m happy to say that this is the part where things finally turned out for the better. My degree was still up for grabs as long as I re-took the class and passed it with an acceptable grade. Returning back to my glorious ‘two-year’ community college, I enrolled in the college course over the summer. This time I wouldn’t be stressed out with five other classes. This time I would approach things differently. I could focus on this course and pass it with flying colors. And I wouldn’t be so intoxicated either. I had started looking at this chance as a shot at redemption–a whole other perspective.
Once I finally graduated with a degree, I thought I would have opportunities to work in the museum field. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was as if there was a drought. I’d put my resume out there with my Bachelor’s Degree labeled at the top and–nothing. No calls. No emails. Nothing. Wasn’t this supposed to help my career? What the hell was happening? I had the educational background. I had gone to school for something that I thought would give me a career in the subject I had studied in. But then I realized that I was in the same boat with rest of my peers who had gone to school and busted their ass. We were too qualified and yet underqualified at the same time. Going to school for your Bachelors Degree had become the equivalent of a High School Diploma. It just wasn’t enough anymore. If you wanted to make money (in whatever field you were in) you would have to go to school for a Masters or a PH.D. So in other words–you’d have to be extremely wealthy to pay your way through school OR bury yourself in debt. I couldn’t afford to further my academic career and I wasn’t about to put myself through debt. My Bachelors Degree had become just another piece of paper.
I always thought my alcohol problem was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but I was wrong. Or maybe the fact that I almost didn’t graduate just to receive a useless degree. All those problems seem miniature to me now. A part of me didn’t realize it was a thing until someone (and by someone, I mean, my therapist) pointed it out to me. Towards the end of my 20’s, I developed a unique disorder that I’ve been coping with for the past three years…
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–a disorder in which a person experiences difficulty in recovering after experiencing and/or witnessing a traumatic event. To be honest, I thought the only people who had ever gotten PTSD were those who had served in the military. PTSD is triggered by many events whether it be sexual abuse, serious injury or death threats. Three years ago, I was living in a toxic environment that left me feeling traumatized. There was a moment where my life was threatened. I was told that if I went to sleep, my head would be shaved. And because of that, I was afraid to go to sleep, I was afraid to come home and I was constantly wondering if I was on borrowed time. Would I come home only to be greeted by the barrel of a shotgun? Would I come home to find a trail of blood on the floor leading up to a dead body? This is the shit that I thought about when I would drive home from work. I’d lay awake at night crying and wondering why this was happening. My anxiety would be so out of control that I’d experience full-body shakes. And there would be no way for me to control that–I’d have to lay there and wait for it to stop while hearing shouting from the other room that could be heard from down the street. Since life under that roof was like a battlefield–I was afraid to have an opinion because of what could transpire from it. My life under that roof was fueled by terror and it seemed as if I was constantly walking on eggshells. It would get so bad that I’d have to take refuge at a friends house which felt odd to me. I was 27 and I couldn’t even stay in my home. And to make matters worse–nobody in my immediate family (someone who I always thought would be there for me no matter what, no matter how ‘busy’ their life is) offered me sanctuary. That person didn’t even call me to see if I was okay.
To this day, I’m still working on this by visiting my therapist weekly. And to be honest–some days are harder than others. This disorder isn’t an easy thing to deal with and it brings me emotional and mental torment. But I’m working through it one day at a time and that’s all I can do.
My 20’s were a hot mess, to say the least. But I was lost. If I could sum up my 20’s–it was like I was wandering in pitch black darkness struggling to find a light switch while walking across a floor covered in sharp lego’s. I was forced to pick a different career that I wasn’t passionate about which caused a lot of stress and depression. I just kept thinking about my true passion and why I didn’t just go for it. I wasted so much time listening to those that didn’t believe in me. And since I listened and took their input to heart–I stopped putting stock in myself and what I could do with my passion. But when you’re young and you lack the support from your foundation–you become unsure of yourself. You become unsure that your passion can take you places.
When I started this blog a year ago (yay for my blogversary) I think back to those awful, soul-crushing conversations with my parents who drilled it into my brain that writing was a penniless art that would get me nowhere. And to be honest–they’re right about it being a penniless art. But they were wrong to believe that I wouldn’t receive some incredible opportunities from it. Since my blogging venture, I have connected with so many bloggers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives. I stopped being motivated by the dollar sign and just flung all the bullshit to the wind.
I was writing because it made me fucking happy.
Making money is important–we should all be paid for the shit we love to do. But money is obviously the root of all evil and sometimes that replaces the one thing that we forget to become motivated by—passion. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve guest appeared on a podcast called That Strange Show, contributed for a horror apparel store called Terror Threads and now I blog for Little Shop of Gore and Ghoulish Delights Bath Shop. I’ve been given these platforms to express myself creatively. I feel extremely honored and privileged to be a part of these two very incredible small businesses. I’m finally starting to put stock in myself and what I can do with my passion–and I’m sad that I didn’t do it sooner.
My 20’s were the decade of a lost soul. Someone that just couldn’t figure out what the fuck she wanted while being dictated by everyone else on what she should be doing with her life. I had battled extreme levels of anxiety and depression. I abused alcohol. I struggled to graduate with a Bachelors Degree–by the way, I have a job that has nothing to do with what I went to school for. Just sayin’. And I’m battling PTSD.
20’s are the age of growing–painfully. You fall, you make mistakes and lose your way. Mine were riddled with unbelievable hurdles that I would never, ever, repeat. They’ve taught me valuable lessons. And maybe all those horrible moments were preparing me for my 30’s. Maybe that’s why my 20’s were so shitty–to make way for the good times that are ahead.