Saturday, September 29, 2012

Turning 25

That's me...and a jinormous butterfly. (We'll get there...) Much like this butterfly, I had transformed on this day. My outward transformation did not resemble that of a caterpillar's cocoon-emerging glory, but it was still noticeable. I'd imagined a more drastic change in myself at 25 years old.

When I was a child, one who was 25 was to be revered. I'd believed that anyone over the age of 12 was old...seventh graders knew absolutely everything back then. They had boyfriends and complicated lives that my 5-year-old self envied. They seemed so wise! Surely, I would know everything by the time I went to middle school.

When middle school lacked the wisdom I'd sought, I assured myself that high school must be the true tree of knowledge...Long story short, it wasn't. In fact, high school was one of the most confusing times in my life! I suppose it is for everyone, but perhaps that's just my need for reassurance. Nevertheless, I hadn't gained wisdom in neither middle nor high school. At least there was still college...that's where enlightenment MUST be, I thought. In retrospect, college did result in more maturity than any prior stage of my life. It didn't happen easily, though, as I had imagined it would.

Life sort of interrupted my fulfillment of wisdom-related expectations- and their correlations with specific ages. To skip all of the personal details that often derive from uncertainty of one's early twenties, I'll keep this brief. I met a boy. We got married. I rediscovered my capability to do whatever the hell it is that I want to do. I worked my ass off when I decided to quit college before finishing a degree in a field for which I had no passion. I regretted that decision for a while. I allowed myself to listen to people who exuded condescending remarks and unwelcome, inapplicable advice about what I should do (or should not have done) with my life.

 I chose to ignore them.

I was 24 when I decided to stop allowing my past to inhibit my opportunities. I was 24 when I regained confidence, self-reliance, and satisfaction with myself...who I was, who I am, who I will be...

Had I finally become the woman that I'd expected to transform into by middle school?

Well, sort of...that woman is still in progress.

I turned 25 yesterday. It's still...just, weird. I was supposed to be this all-knowing super girl by now!

I'm not.

It's okay that I'm not as awesome as I'd hoped to become....YET. I have big girl bills now- nobody told my kindergarten self about that part. I have a husband who adores me, despite my numerous flaws. My family loves me. Working in foster care has taught me how special that really is. So, friends- although I didn't become the wise hero of my childhood dreams,

I have...


At 25, I've realized that I'm going to make one awesome butterfly...and nobody cares if a butterfly is wise...

It only matters that they FLY!

My mother (a.k.a. The Bashful Blogger) has photographically documented my transformational stages for the past twenty-five years. I am certain that there have been times during my life that troubled her- kept her up at night, worrying about whether or not I would eventually come to my senses. I took her for granted during my childhood, adolescent, and teenage years. 

Luckily, I've gained appreciation for all that this woman has done for me! I suppose this thankfulness began when I left home at 17 years old. I'd been defiant enough to choose a college based largely upon its distance from my small hometown, just to get away from everything 'boring' and familiar. I remember sitting in my dorm room, eating easy-mac for the fourth night in a row. I hadn't studied for a psychology exam and I hadn't even had the decency to shower that day. Curled up in my top bunk bed, I gobbled those noodles like they were the last thing I'd eat before a triathlon.  I wondered what my parents had cooked for dinner. 

I'd known about an upcoming class presentation for some time, though I hadn't deciphered exactly when that huge project would take place. My roommate was studying diligently, across our tiny room that had reminded me of a prison cell from day one. "You wanna run downstairs and grab some food?", she said abruptly.

"Nah, I'm good...thanks, though," I replied with pretended indifference. 

"Well, okay- I just dunno how you can eat that easy mac every night."

"It's good. I love it."

When she walked out of our dorm, I threw my head into my pillow with more needless drama than Lifetime. 

I was SICK of easy mac. I called Mom. Mom had made beef stew that very same night- 

GAAAAWWWWWD, how I loved/love her beef stew!

I couldn't tell her that then. Her voice slightly quivered, as though she missed me as much as I missed her...and that freakin' delicious beef stew!

So in my magnificent college years...
I missed home. I missed my parents. I missed EVERYTHING-

even beef stew.  

Now, at 25-years old (Because I have to remind myself), I appreciate my sister. She's a teacher and I couldn't be more proud of her!  We still argue. We still fight. I've realized that's normal. We still love each other and have a bond that can only be shared and understood between sisters. Tracie and I are very different from one another, but our similarities (and total domination of Disney trivia and movie-quote memorization capacity) unite us to remind us that we're family.

As teenagers, we fought all the time. I was the mean big sister and she, the kinder of our parents' daughters. Tracie had, and still has, this keen ability of finding things that is unsurpassed by anyone I've ever met. I manipulated her talent for locating miscellaneous belongings I had carelessly misplaced and threatened that if she did not find them in a promptly fashion, she would be late for school. My threats for school tardiness would not have been such powerful motivators if I had not been the only one with a driver's license. Yes, I was the mean one back then...probably still am to some degree. 

I don't get to see Tracie as much as I'd like, nowadays. We're both so busy with work and grown-up stuff. I suppose that the 'stuff' I'm referring to entails all things we didn't have to deal with when we lived at our parents' house together. We're big kids now and we've learned to appreciate the time we have together now more than ever. 

Tracie isn't too big on taking pictures- or even having hers taken, for that matter. That said, only my birthday could persuade my little sister to go to Cheekwood to watch Mama and me take a trillion pictures...and make her pose for them, on the birthday girl's command. Conversations leading up to this photo went as follows:

"You're coming with us, right?"
"Uh...yeah, I guess. It really doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun though, walking around with you and mom while you two take pictures of flowers and all that other stuff."
"I don't care. It's MY freakin' birthday and you're going to have to just get over it." 
"Shut up, yeah I'll be there."
"Fabulous...You know you'd me a much more contented, pleasant person if you'd find ways to occupy your time."
"Ok, Clairee. I said I'm going."
"I just want to expose us to a little more culture."
"I get it, Regina...Steel Magnolias."
"Yep...and you'd better pretend like you love everything I do on my birthday."
"I'm pleasant, damn it."
"That's better...see you then."

So Ouiser spent my birthday with me. She's always made them special. Her talent for finding things came in handy-

She helped me find myself.

Growing older is inevitable, and so is a change in how one sees the world as years silently expire. This photo was taken by Bashful Blogger, who still refuses to start her own blog- despite my persuasiveness...C'mon, B.B.!

At first glance, I didn't even see myself in this picture. My arms sort of blended into the background- either that, or my vision has faltered with age. I only saw a man observing a toy train. 

I soon realized that I'd been captured on film by my paparazzi mother, who often takes pictures of me, taking pictures. 

I laughed when I noticed that I appear to be holding a pencil that appears ready to bop this train-observer on the back of his head-  

 Many of my expectations in life have been just like this picture-  Nothing turns out quite like you expected...Life has unexpected twists and turns, obvious events that you miss- moments that are retrospectively, more...clear.

At 25, I can relate to the feeling I experienced when I discovered that my expectations and interpretation of this photo were initially false. 

In summary,


B.B. strikes again! Another great photo taken by our guest blogger, whose photos are quietly contributed to my postings.
As years have come and gone, I've gained a new perspective on how I view everything. 
This clarity didn't happen all at once during one particular birthday, but was gained slowly over time. 
Actually, my outlook is probably still more foggy than I realize. 
In time, how I see things now may seem ignorant or  naive when I someday think back on my life 
while sitting in a rocking chair as a retired, mimosa-sipping old but wise lady. 

I've become more confident about things I like, things I don't like, 
what I believe, and what I'd only thought I believed. 
I remember feeling uncertain about myself when I was young and especially 
when I became a teenager. That uncertainty thrived like a cancer 
during my early adult years. I worried what everyone thought about me- 
I questioned all things me-related. What if they don't like me? 
What if they think I'm weird? Am I weird? 

Thankfully, those doubtful, self-diminishing thoughts have subsided.

 When I got my first professional job, I was referred to by several as a 'people-pleaser'. 
Those words cut through me to provoke memories 
of being referred to by some as a 'follower' during my high school days. 
I have been called many things over the course of my life. 

What's different now is that I don't believe all of the labels I'm given by others. 
I'm seeing things differently now- I'm more focused on who I am and what I want
 than I have ever been. 

I've been called a leader, follower, people-pleaser, and a heartless bitch. 
Believing that all of those titles identify me would be insane- 
but that's what I used to do. I wanted people to like me so badly and maybe 
I didn't like myself enough then to prevent outside pressures from convincing me 
I was something that I, in fact, was not. 

I like myself now...and I really like that about myself. 

I like this picture.

 I don't care if anyone else does. It's different and so am I. 

Finally, in my mid-twenties...

I'm okay with that.

I enjoy sitting...sitting and doing nothing is AWESOME. I think it's because I don't get to sit down and do nothing anymore. In Kindergarten, I HATED nap time. 

Nap time meant I had to lay down on an uncomfortable tiny roll-out, plastic mat and remain silent for a full thirty minutes. The kid whose mat lay near mine was drooled upon daily, by a mean kid in my class who snored. I always wondered how he could fall asleep so quickly on those stupid mats! 

Now, I would gladly accept a nap time mat to lay on for 30 minutes. I'd be that kid from Kindergarten...snoring through peaceful dreams of playgrounds and play-doh.

 I WISH I had my mat now...but a bench will suffice. For now I am older and more tuckered out by the daily tasks of living. I wonder what that kid in my class was up to that prompted such a sound slumber. 

Perhaps he had been tuckered out from romping so gallantly on the playground during recess. Fulfilling responsibilities is tolling, even for 5-year-olds!

I definitely don't have the energy that I enjoyed during childhood. However, I do have a more dedicated commitment to resting and I have mastered the art of nappy-time. 

One thing that has remained the same for me, year after year, is my favoritism for FALL! 

I'm not sure why we are forced to pledge undying loyalty to one specific season when we are just kids- At least, I was asked this question at the beginning of all classes in elementary school. 

'What's your favorite season and why?' 

This conversation starter was a favorite for my teachers and we kids would scribble away in our creative journals about why we thought our favorite season was the best of them all. 

I think that, subconsciously, all those journal entries prompted my extreme favoritism for all things Autumn. I answer the 'why' portion of this chalkboard question in much the same way I did when I was 7...

I like fall because it's not too hot, not too cold, and I like jumping in piles of crunchy leaves.

 All that has changed about my affinity for autumn-y awesomeness is that said affinity has fluctuated tremendously with the adulthood actualization that I can carve pumpkins now!

See that backpack? You have no idea how many people I've told about it. 

My backpack story is one well-rehearsed, bore-your-audience-to-tears-sort-of-story. I guess my story would bore me, had I not been in the starring role of its occurrences. 

You see, I was at Kroger...a few months ago. It was a bright and sunny day- the kind of day when you realize you are completely out of groceries and have to spend extensive time inside a florescent-lighted grocery store. 

I had a cart full of easy-to-make meals and I was finally on my way to the check-out line. 

I'd turned down the aisle of seasonal deals when I noticed a backpack that I knew I HAD to have. Oh, how purple-y, pinky circle-y things entice me for unknown reasons! Midway through my checkout line race, I stopped suddenly and grabbed its price tag. 


Que total FREAKOUT of embarrassingly ridiculous saving money dance in middle of Kroger aisle...yeah, it went about like that. My only regret was that I had no company to participate in the exhilaration of my bargain hunting (stumble upon) find.

The point of backpack story?


Sometimes, they even make you tell a stupid story about your ridiculous three-dollar backpack find, regardless if anyone cares to listen or share your enthusiasm.

The Mad Hatter has always been a favorite! Though he specializes in throwing 'unbirthday' parties, he made an appearance on my real birthday. No matter how old I get, I'll always love Disney movies. I'll also love Johnny Depp (not as much as Mr. Hodge, of course)! After all, how could you ever forget the songs that made your childhood delightful?...On this day, I got to be Alice...
Let's all congratulate us with another cup of tea
A very merry unbirthday to you!


Now, statistics prove, prove that you've one birthday


Imagine, just one birthday every year


Ah, but there are three hundred and sixty four unbirthdays!


Precisely why we're gathered here to cheer


A very merry unbirthday to you, to you


To me?


To you!

I like this picture quite a bit. Most of my photos are taken of other people, places, and things. I'm more comfortable with taking those types of pictures, rather than starring 'smack-dab' in the middle. 

I have a tendency to be overly critical of how I look in pictures- don't we all? I mean, unless you're one of the five human beings who have no imperfections whatsoever, chances are that you critique yourself when it comes to viewing photos taken of you. 

We've all been there, whether we're un-tagging photos on Facebook or refusing to pose for pictures at all. What is it about a camera being two feet away from one's face that makes us all so nervous, anyway? I've noticed that my photo-shyness increased from youth to adulthood- but I'm working on becoming more confident with being the subject of a photo-op.

 I want to be more like the little girl I used to be, when it comes to photo-subject comfort levels. That girl wore brightly colored, mis-matched outfits, tons of bold accessories, and the most confident smile in nearly every picture taken of her! She had attitude, individuality, and style. Moreover, she was self-assured...confident that she was perfect just the way she was.

When we are little, most of us haven't yet learned to conform to society's pressures about how we should look. We blissfully lack the tendency to succumb to such false media projections that cause us to harshly criticize ourselves in pictures...then, 

We grow up. We worry...

We lose some of our individuality.

Our confident little-kid-self would be so ashamed!

 I've found that I like pictures more when I wasn't feeling worried about how they'd turn out when I posed for them. When I'm really ignoring my nagging need to look perfect and I'm solely focusing on how much I'm enjoying my life in a particular moment, I have successfully channeled the pink tutu-wearing, camouflage-shirted kid who was meant to have her picture taken. 

Being 25 is confusing, at want to accomplish so much, but you bear a burden of uncertainty that you'd never previously known. You doubt yourself more and feel uncertain, at times, about who you are and whether or not you'll succeed in life- all those things had once come so naturally for you.  They still can.   Listen to your little kid self and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. Remembering this makes growing older much more fun! 

Wear cool-aid on your face, eat the last cookie, go to the park, play in the leaves, roll down a hill, pop bubble-wrap,  and...

DON'T apologize for those things so much! Little kids are good at saying what needs to be said, doing what must be done, and laughing at life when it throws an unexpected curve ball. In my late twenties, I hope to do the same.

When I first entered the unknown, scary world of adulthood, I HATED being by myself! (I'll admit, I'm still partial for being surrounded by people.) 

I had moved from a small town where the construction of a new Walmart Supercenter put us all in a frenzy of excitement. In a new city, miles away from home, I eventually got lonely. I indulged in college life while I bore a burden of loneliness I'd never known. I had no idea what I wanted and eventually decided to stop taking out school loans until I figured it out. 

Now, years later, I thoroughly enjoy a few moments spent alone in a quiet, peaceful place like the one in this picture. Alone time is essential now that I'm a big kid. Big kids have lots of thoughts that they need to sit with and ponder in peaceful solitude, every now and again.

Still, I much prefer spending time with loved ones than attempting to enjoy extended periods of alone time. To me, being alone can feel too much like time-out. If something funny happens when you're alone, who's there to laugh with you? 

For example, let's re-visit a time when you were alone and were walking somewhere when, all of the sudden- you tripped over your own feet. You nervously looked around while you giggled at your clumsiness, but nobody was there beside you to laugh and simultaneously offer some reassurance that you were not awkward at all. 

Yeah...I know I'm not the only one who's been there. 

One of the hardest things about being 25 for me is balancing my me-time with my work obligations, family time, and friend time. One of those responsibilities will be neglected if the other three have been allotted their requirements. I always feel guilty when I leave something or someone out. In my own defense, I'm still learning how to do it all when I am, in fact, just one person.

 Maybe time management skill comes with turning 30. For now, I know no tricks, tips, or tidbits for balancing responsibilities in a day that only has 24 hours!

Three's Company. 

Oh, great....I don't know why I started this caption off with those two words that are seemingly irrelevant to my other ramblings. Now I'm to figure out how to tie that in with the rest of this post. I don't really have a plan when I write/type...whatever happens, just happens. Sometimes, I work myself into a complete mess! Then, I debate whether or not I should just delete and start over again. 

Normally, I just keep going- without regard to what confusion I leave behind me...I think maybe now that I'm all elderly 'n such, I blurt out whatever I'm thinking without fully processing my thoughts. I've noticed that I've gotten more vocal when I have an opinion. 

Some of my co-workers don't know that I've ever been any different than I am now. They've said I say what I think. Sometimes they like it and sometimes I could swear they hate it...or even, me. I remember the first time I heard somebody say, "Regina's a strong woman. She's going to tell you what she thinks or what needs to be said." I felt so strange since I'd previously been described as quiet and reserved! Now sometimes, I'm not so sure everything I say shouldn't be crammed back into my loud mouth.

 I'm known as shy, outgoing, strong, weak, loud, confident, insecure... That all just depends on how old I was when you knew me and what I was thinking at that time. 

Luckily, a few select people know that I can be just about every adjective ever defined in the English language. 

The feet you see here belong to three of, my mom, and my sister. These three sets of feet have walked together through life in rhythm only known to the truest companions. Without the company of these three shoe-wearing souls, joined in company of one another,  life would be very different for all of us. 

In summary, Three's Company is a thought I blurted out before fully comprehending what it meant or why I even thought it in the first place.

 I doubted I could make any sense of it- much like I doubted that the company of three would be essential to my securing of the life that I'd always wanted to live. Perhaps it is just fine, after all, that I sometimes speak before I think. :)

I used to be afraid of the dark. As a child, shadows were once my enemy and my imagination often took me to places where monsters could be lurking in any corner of my room... 

Thankfully, I have overcome these fears and mysterious silhouettes have become my friends- especially when they play a role in pictures I take of myself. 

This photo is a favorite and it brings to mind a song that should be shared...Click below to hear Josh Ritter's 'Long Shadows'-

I am certain that my photography has improved over years of experience in picture-taking, though I am a self-proclaimed photographer rather than a renowned and sought after specialist.

 I've never taken a photography class, but it is definitely one of my life to-do's! In my twenties, I decided that the words 'professional photographer' are vague and debatable in their meaning. I don't have a fancy camera or a bag full of varied lenses that cost me a small fortune. I think most people expect that of a professional. 

On this day, I had an iPhone and an iPad. I still got a few pictures that I feel are noteworthy. On my 25th birthday, I decided to stop worrying about whether or not any shots I've taken will ever be deemed by society as 'professional'. After all, who decided what requirements are mandatory for photographers, anyway? 

Pictures are- and always have been- a huge part of my life. I love taking them and I gain fulfillment by visually documenting memories that I can later look back upon with satisfaction. Pictures are a way of defining myself and all that I see. Defining oneself is important as one grows older- identity becomes more real when we believe it- even if no one else does. 

After all, Webster defines the word photographer as:
: one who practices photography; especially : one who makes a business of taking photographs
Professional is defined as:
following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.
Since my twenties have brought about a more keen ability to analyze and interpret information, I affirm that I am one who practices photography, as well as one who follows the occupation of practicing photography as a means of livelihood- for the purpose of gaining a more fulfilling life. Therefore, I'm a professional photographer, right? 
Permit me this assumption that has been based from a dictionary. 
 The point of all this is that what matters most is what we believe of ourselves and our capabilities. 
Now a wise, old 25-year old, I'm able to logically reason my self-proclaimed titles- in hopes that they reach actualization, if only to myself. :)

Turning 25 with Peter Pan! Peter never wanted to grow up and neither do I!

This one was taken by my mom- Bashful Blogger has said she "isn't a professional photographer". I beg to differ. See previously listed definitions, B.B. We are all what we believe we are and those beliefs help us become who it is that we want to be. 

I'm 25 and one week old today. I have seen and done more than many, while still far less than many. 

There's a LOT that I want to do over the remainder of my life. 

Much has changed from my first birthday's introduction to the world. Much more will change over the course of my time left. 

I'll make more stupid mistakes, I'm sure. 
I'll accomplish more than I expect, which will counteract those irritating screw-ups.

 I will get older and I won't like the wrinkles that deepen with age. However, I will make an effort to have a face with more smile lines than frown indentions. 

I will accept the fact that I'll have much to learn, regardless of what birthdays I am celebrating. 

I will also believe that what I have learned from years passed is only the beginning...

You can bet that as I age, I'll end up looking more and more like 
that five-year-old kid who enjoyed life without making apologies for being herself. 
That girl spent her birthday as she saw fit. 

When she turned 25 this year, she walked down life's road 
with a cool backpack strapped around her brightly-colored clothes, 
feeling happy and confident in the grown-up she had become.

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